Democrats shouldn’t feel too badly; they aren’t the only ones voters are less than enamored of these days. It seems that anyone from Washington running against anyone who isn’t is at a disadvantage. In the Texas Republican gubernatorial primary, longtime senator Kay Bailey Hutchison was thought to be a tough challenger for the incumbent governor, Rick Perry. After all, she’s a solid conservative, has served her state well, and is a practiced campaigner. But this year, that’s not enough:
Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison offered what appeared to be her first acknowledgment that Republican Texas Gov. Rick Perry has done some damage to her bid to unseat him by successfully casting her as a Washington 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,” Hutchison told the AP on her campaign bus. “I didn’t think that anyone could turn my success in producing results for Texas into a negative, but I think that he has attempted to do that and that is what I’ve been having to fight against.”
It turns out that all that fighting for dollars to send back home and a track record inside the Beltway are liabilities these days. “Perry seems to be riding a national wave of frustration directed at Washington politicians — the same anger that has fueled the ‘tea party’ movement and complicated Democrats’ plans to overhaul the nation’s health care system. The long-serving governor who has campaigned as populist has repeatedly criticized Hutchison for pushing earmarks and voting for the $700 billion Wall Street bailout.”
Now keep in mind that Perry isn’t a political novice. He’s the sitting governor, and he’s been there for 10 years. But he hasn’t been in Washington like Hutchison, which now seems to be the cause of much of voters’ anger. Perhaps this is a welcome rebalancing between the states and the federal government. Some healthy aversion to one-size-fits-all legislation and ill-conceived Washington pork-barrel projects is a good thing, most conservatives would argue.
But for those running for office at the national level, the message is clear. Unless a candidate can posit himself as an outsider and someone not inclined to go along with the status quo (think Charlie Crist), it’s a tough political environment. And for those whose record is one of down-the-line support for the Obama agenda (recall that poor Hutchison opposed most of Obamaism and still can’t catch a break), it may just be the right moment to “spend more time with the family.”