Josh Goodman is a former staff writer for GOVERNING..E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Sarah Palin sure knows how to make news, doesn't she? The Alaska governor created headlines again last week when she announced she's supporting Texas Gov. Rick Perry's reelection bid. Perry is headed into a clash of titans, as U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison challenges him for the Republican nomination in 2010.
Nate Silver makes some good points:
Texas is a big state and will have a lot of delegates up for grabs during the Republican primaries in 2012. Having the favor returned in the form of an endorsement from Perry would be valuable to Palin at that time.
The problem is that Rick Perry isn't especially likely to be Texas's governor in 2012. Rather, Hutchison is. A Texas Lyceum (.pdf) poll conducted in June showed Hutchison with a 36-22 lead over Perry among prospective Republican primary voters. Hutchison also polled the race herself, and -- the usual caveats about internal polls applying -- gave herself a 55-31 lead over Perry. And Perry's approval ratings are well below par, with 42 percent of Texans saying he's doing a good job as governor and 58 percent a poor one.
I happened to be watching Hutchison give an interview moments after Palin's name was announced as John McCain's VP pick in Septmeber, and she was -- shall we say -- rather nonplussed about the situation, scowling the whole time as she searched for ways to damn Palin with faint praise.
What really intrigues me about Palin's move is that it could set off a proxy war between possible contenders for the Republican presidential nomination in 2012. Is Palin going to involve herself in other contested primaries around the country? If so, will Tim Pawlenty or Bobby Jindal or Charlie Crist or Mitt Romney or Mike Huckabee pick out their own preferred candidates?
Besides Texas, the Republicans seem likely to have high-profile gubernatorial primaries in several other large states, including California, Georgia and Pennsylvania, and early primary/caucus states, such as Iowa, South Carolina and Nevada. Of course, there are also lots of U.S. Senate nominations up for grabs. Judging from Palin's endorsement of Perry, these primaries could be the first salvos in the 2012 presidential race.
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