Will Lutz, Managing Editor of the Lone Star Report, will be contributing to Beltway Confidential during the run-up to Texas' March 2 primary.
As early voting begins today (in most counties) for the Texas Republican gubernatorial primary, many outside Texas must be wondering how a popular U.S. Senator like Kay Bailey Hutchison, R, could be so far behind incumbent Republican Gov. Rick Perry in the polls.
Perhaps Hutchison’s strongest issue against Perry is the Trans-Texas Corridor –- an extremely unpopular toll road proposal that involved building a giant freeway from Laredo to the Oklahoma state line, to be tolled and operated under a 50-year lease to (probably) a foreign company. Opposition to the proposal was so strong, particularly in rural Texas, that Perry had to scrap it shortly into his campaign.
So Hutchison’s #1 attack on Perry is his toll roads, naturally. Just take a look at Hutchison’s attack ad here:
Most of Hutchison's attacks on Perry on this issue both resonate and are true. But there’s one problem: Hutchison's only transportation plan so far is to create a commission to study the problem further. All of the options for addressing transportation – including doing nothing – have their detractors or involve someone paying more. There are pros and cons to more tolling, more privatized tolling, higher gas taxes, and building fewer roads. Republicans of various stripes and locations differ on which of these options they prefer. So Hutchison decided to punt until after the election.
If her number-one attack issue is transportation, shouldn't Hutchison have her own plan -- either to pay for roads some other way, or to build fewer new roads? To take a position would cost her at least a few votes, so she hasn't taken one. That’s why she has a credibility problem in this race: No one knows what she would do if elected. They know what she’s against, but not what she’s for.