Texas Photo Finish: Why Bill White Will Lose on Tuesday

When Gov. Rick Perry (an Aggie) defeats Democratic nominee Bill White (who may have had questionable help from struggling UT) on Tuesday to win his third full term at the top of Texas’ government, postmortems on the Great White Hope campaign will begin.  The Democrats pinned their hopes on White as their best chance to win since the last time they won the slot, 20 years ago when Ann Richards defeated Clayton Williams. Big name Democrats have been coming to Texas for the past few years to meet with White and prime him to be their savior here, as the Perry camp lampooned in this web ad that hit the streets this week:

Those meetings and his policies show Bill White to be the liberal that he has claimed not to be, for the purposes of having a chance to win in Texas.  And that liberal record is a major part of why White will lose.  But when the deeper postmortems begin, they should begin with this photo, which appeared today in the El Paso Times.

Note the headline — the candidate is “jogging.”  Now take a good look at his footwear. Granted this is Texas, and granted we have interesting wildlife-like rattlesnakes and copperheads in these parts, but who in their right mind jogs in cowboy boots? Rick Perry is an agile campaigner, arguably the most talented campaigner Texas has ever produced (Texas’ Wiliest Politician Award will always belong to the crooked as a snake LBJ). Perry is also an avid jogger. You’re not going to catch up to Rick Perry by jogging in boots. And if you do, well, he’s packing heat.

Yes, I want one of those Coyote Specials, but that’s neither here nor there.

Also note the direction White is running in in that photo.He’s running to the left, and he’s running uphill. When you run to the left in Texas, you are always running uphill. Texas is a conservative state. It’s currently in better fiscal shape than any of the other large Democrat-run states, to the point that we’re endlessly favorably compared with California (leaving the Golden State green with envy, no doubt). To win anything statewide in Texas, the direction to run is to the right. Bill White tried to sound like he was running to the right on some things, but the reality was that he was always running to the left of Gov. Perry and of the state’s majority. That’s just not going to work.

Note also that he’s not looking at the camera, and therefore not connecting with the viewer. That’s pretty much how his campaign has gone. He spent his first major campaign ad salvo with a huge buy in … Houston. That’s his own backyard. The summer ad buy there indicated what the polls have since borne out, which is that he’s even struggling in the city that made him mayor. If he can’t dominate there, he won’t win elsewhere. He just never connected.

And finally, Bill White is alone in that photo. Where are the adoring Rocky crowds urging him on to fly, now? Where are his campaign advisers? Word out of the White camp has long been that he has micromanaged everything, to the point of personally approving every tweet, Facebook post, and scrap that’s gone out. While having strong authority at the top is generally good, it’s only good to the extent that the authority knows what’s it’s doing. If it micromanages as White apparently has, it ends up strangling good ideas from its top minds, and alienating them. And no one on the Texas political scene would even argue that White had top talent on board.

Democrats and the mainstream media — sorry to be repetitive there — have long trumpeted the Perry-White match-up as the most competitive governor’s race Texas has seen in 20 years. Before that, they all but wrote Perry’s political obit when Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison challenged him in the GOP primary. She was too popular, and he’s just Gov. Goodhair, was basically their story. Perry won that contest by 21 points. He’s poised to beat White by 10 on Tuesday. He beat Chris Bell in 2006 by 9, in a field so crowded it looked like a basketball game.

The 2010 race has been a head-to-head battle, pitting the Democratic mayor of Texas’ largest city against its longest serving governor. The main thing that has kept it competitive isn’t White at all, but Texans’ natural and healthy allergy to incumbency at the top: until George W. Bush, Texans just didn’t re-elect governors to consecutive terms. And if things stay on their current trajectory, the 2010 race won’t turn out to have been the most competitive race in 20 years. The photo above sums up why, very nicely: Bill White has just been doing it wrong.

Update: I talk about this photo plus the Democrats’ obviously racist ploy against Marco Rubio on today’s Members Only comments at PJTV.