Dick Cheney to endorse Kay Bailey Hutchison for Texas governor
05:23 PM CDT on Wednesday, October 28, 2009
By WAYNE SLATER / The Dallas Morning News
AUSTIN — Kay Bailey Hutchison’s campaign hopes the endorsement of former Vice President Dick Cheney will help woo conservatives in the GOP base that will be key to winning the Republican nomination for governor.
Cheney will endorse Hutchison at a Houston fundraiser on Nov. 17, the Republican senator’s campaign confirmed Wednesday.
Gov. Rick Perry has targeted his party’s hard-right voters, including social conservatives who are expected to make up a big part of the GOP primary vote in March.
But Cheney’s high-profile support burnishes Hutchison’s bona fides among those voters and could help counter Perry’s endorsement by another GOP star, former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin.
“Kay Bailey Hutchison is pleased to have Vice President Cheney’s endorsement,” said Hutchison spokeswoman Jennifer Baker. “He knows she’s a conservative who walks the walk, not just talks the talk.”
A Perry campaign spokesman dismissed Cheney as part of the “Washington establishment” and touted the governor’s support among Texas conservatives.
“The Washington establishment likes to stick together,” said Mark Miner of the Perry campaign.
Political scientist Adam Schiffer of Texas Christian University said Cheney’s support should help Hutchison “chip off that core Republican primary constituency” that Perry has actively courted to help win re-election.
“Cheney is an extremely polarizing figure, overall very unpopular, but he’s very popular among this small subset that is the most likely to turn out in a normal gubernatorial primary,” Schiffer said.
Cheney has been among the GOP’s most vocal opponents of the Obama administration, denouncing the Democrat particularly on issues of security and, most recently, the war in Afghanistan.
Recent polls indicate that fewer than a third of Americans have a favorable opinion of Cheney, but his support is nearly twice as high among Republicans.
Schiffer said the numbers are probably even higher among those who consider themselves strong Republicans, those most likely to vote in a Texas GOP primary.
In seeking the governor’s job, Hutchison has promoted her conservative credentials. But she is seen by some as a moderate because she supports abortion rights.
Perry has portrayed himself as the more conservative candidate in the race and sought to link her with the unpopular policies of Washington where she has served as a U.S. senator for nearly 16 years.
Mark Miner, the governor’s campaign spokesman, said the Cheney endorsement reinforces a campaign theme — Perry’s experience in Texas and Hutchison’s ties to Washington.
“It’s not surprising, considering they have been together in Washington for so many years,” Miner said. “The governor is proud of his support form many conservative individuals and groups throughout the state.”
Former President George W. Bush has not endorsed in the race. Former Bush White advisers Karl Rove and Karen Hughes are supporting Hutchison, as is former Bush fundraiser Jim Francis of Dallas.
Republican strategist Royal Masset said that while the endorsement does help shore up the conservative base, there are limits to how effective endorsements can be.
“Cheney is probably not a bad one to have, but the only one that really made a difference was Ronald Reagan,” said Republican strategist Royal Masset.
“What’s clearly happening is that all the governors are backing Perry and all the people in Washington seem to be backing Kay,” said Masset, who is not involved in the governor’s race.
Cheney has known Hutchison and her husband, Ray, since the 1990s, when he lived in Dallas as the chief executive of Halliburton. He also has contributed to Hutchison’s Senate campaigns.
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