Several weeks ago, my old pal and Texas Monthly colleague Robert Draper, now of GQ and the New York Times Sunday Magazine, showed at up the Tribune's offices out of the blue to say hi. He was in town, in turned out, to work on a long piece about the Republican primary for governor that will be published in this weekend's Times Mag. As we know, this isn't just any story -- it's the defiining narrative of the moment in Texas politics, and it's likely to remain so for the next year. And Robert isn't just any writer. He's the author of Dead Certain, the best-selling, access-abundant bio of George W. Bush, and he's a hell of a dogged reporter — one of the best magazine reporters I've ever met or worked with.
Robert's story, accompanied by portraits of Rick Perry and KBH shot by the great Dan Winters, is online as of a few minutes ago, and it's sure to be the talk of our little world. An excerpt:
The Texas Republican gubernatorial primary is thus shaping up to be a public airing of that national party’s internal discontents. The issues and cultural references in the race are unmistakably Texan. But the contest’s central question — whether a highly popular general-election Republican (Hutchison) can defeat a less-popular Republican (Perry) who nonetheless knows how to excite conservative primary voters — goes to the heart of the party’s overall vitality. In an effort to reclaim Reagan’s scepter, both campaigns are aggressively ignoring the Gipper’s 11th Commandment to not speak ill of fellow Republicans. The mounting ugliness between “Slick Rick” and “Kay Bailout” seems destined to turn off independent voters because, as the veteran political handicapper Charlie Cook observes: “in a primary, shrillness matters. It’s a race to the fringe.”