The Death Of The Kay-For-Governor Effort, In Five Telling Moments

The campaign of Governor Rick Perry has been gleefully sending out "pre-bituaries" -- in other words, stories analyzing what went wrong with Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison's gubernatorial race.

Barring an upset of Truman-like proportions, the only question remaining in tomorrow's primary will be whether Perry gets 50 percent now, or has to wait for a runoff to finish off KBH.

It's not too late, we've realized, to get on the pre-bituary bandwagon. Here are five lowlights from the lowlight that was Kay for Governor 2010.

1. The kick-off.
Hutchison returned to her hometown of La Marque to begin her campaign, which is a pretty standard thing to do. What isn't standard for one of these kick-off events is to have a small, unenthusiastic crowd -- and an emcee who doesn't know how to pronounce the name of the candidate's hometown.

It was a sign of things to come.

2. The dithering over whether she'd quit the Senate.
When she first announced for the Governor's seat, Hutchison confidently said she would quit her Senate post to concentrate on the race. As she slowly realized the buzzsaw she had walked into, that promise to quit soon drifted into a promise to quit relatively soon to "stop asking me about quitting" to "I have to stay in the Senate to stop health care."

Because we all know Rick Perry would have appointed someone who would have sprinted up to Washington to jump on Obama's health-care bandwagon. Hutchison's flip-flopping on all this was a distraction and helped paint her even more as one of them there Beltway insiders.

3. The endorsements by the living dead.

If there was a single tone-deaf moment in the campaign, it came over the space of a couple of days last month when Hutchison proudly announced the endorsements of both James Baker and the first President Bush. Both of these old-guard, country-club Republicans mean nothing to the Tea Partiers that Perry was successfully appealing to with things like secession talk and an endorsement by Sarah Palin.

If Hutchison had been worried that she hadn't done enough to cement herself as the D.C. incumbent from the hated world of Washington, she solved that problem pretty effectively with the deft Bush-Baker move.

4. The abortion question.
Again, Hutchison seemed to think she was running in a general election, needing to appeal to what are laughingly called "moderates" here in Texas. In a televised debate, she badly fumbled a question on abortion -- meaning she didn't simply say "Life begins at conception and if saying that hurts me [in a GOP] primary, then I will let the chips fall where may. Not that I endorse gambling by saying 'chips,' mind you."

Thus a candidate with a 94 percent voting record from National Right to Life found herself painted as a frothing baby-killer compared to Perry.

5. Throwing in the towel.
A few years back, when it looked like Ty Willingham would actually be a good coach for Notre Dame, the Irish beat a highly ranked Florida State team. FSU's elderly coach, Bobby Bowden, famously said how he'd been "bumfuzzled" by ND's schemes. (Schemes which were, to be honest, not that imaginative.)

That's what Hutchison sounded like in an Associated Press interview recently when she implied she was taken aback by Rick Perry's success in painting her as a Beltway insider.

"It definitely has made it more difficult for me. I didn't think that people would buy that because I've been so effective for Texas," she told the AP.

This is like a cast member from Jersey Shore saying "Yo, I can't believe people think I'm Italian."

With a single quote, Hutchison painted herself as clueless and, once again, as a creature of the hated Beltway. And she did this just at the time you're trying to rally troops for a last-minute push. Brava!!

Of course, maybe Hutchison will prove all us pre-bituary writers wrong. Maybe.

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Richard Connelly
Contact: Richard Connelly