In politics, friendship apparently lasts through only one political cycle. Just ask Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison. Many organizations that previously supported both her and Gov. Rick Perry have put their weight behind Perry's re-election bid instead of her challenge.
The Texas Farm Bureau sits as the sole trade group cheerleading for the Hutchison campaign — while Perry counts 50 organizations and associations supporting him, many that also used to back the senator.
Mark Lehman, spokesman for the Texas Association of Realtors, points to the “friendly incumbent philosophy.” TAR has been a vocal supporter of both candidates in the past but Lehman says they’re going with Perry this year since he’s already in the office.
“It would be an entirely different conversation if Gov. Perry was [challenging] her for the U.S. Senate,” Lehman explained.
Others agree. The endorsement of Perry "is no knock on Senator Hutchison," said George Christian, spokesman for the Texas Civil Justice League PAC.
But that “friendly incumbent” approach is awkward for groups like the Combined Law Enforcement Associations of Texas that now support Perry despite giving earlier awards and presentations to Hutchison. By way of explanation, Hutchison disciples argue that such groups are not motivated by friendliness but fear of Perry retaliation.
“People are afraid that their agenda might be jeopardized if they don’t sign up,” says Gene Hall, spokesman for the Farm Bureau. The Farm Bureau twice supported Perry for governor, only to find him a major adversary in the fight against eminent domain.
People don't necessarily disagree. "There’s risk/reward for every decision you make," shrugs David Reynolds, spokesman for Texas Medical Association. TMA cast its lot with Perry after years of supporting both candidates. Reynolds says that the friendly incumbent philosophy helps groups stay consistent, even if there is a loss if the favored candidates isn't the winning one.
But whatever the reason, it doesn’t seem like others are going to be joining the Team Hutchison.
The Texas Association of Business has yet to endorse, but its leader, Bill Hammond, said that all things being equal, a challenger will have trouble attracting endorsements.
“If you have a truly friendly incumbent, then it’s hard to develop reasons to change,” Hammond explained.
But not all endorsements mean the same thing. Hall argues that the 400,000-member Farm Bureau will be an electoral force in the campaign simply because it's so large.
And while Perry has many of the organizations backing him, like Texas Medical Association, Physicians for Kay offers pro-Hutchison doctors a place to go.
Hutchison spokesman Joe Pounder also points to the senator's 23 individual endorsements, from Republican heavy-hitters like Dick Cheney and Phil Gramm. There’s even the hard-throwing Nolan Ryan. Her lack of associations is "not a concern but actually a testament to Kay Bailey Hutchison's leaderhip," explains Pounder. "These are people who can vindicate [her success]."
On the other hand, Perry has Sarah Palin’s star-power, along with 25 other individuals whose influence is well known to Texas insiders.
“Rick Perry’s endorsements reflect a lifetime spent in Austin,” said Pounder. And that works — most of the time.
Hall explained that the Farm Bureau can afford to be boldly anti-Perry after repeatedly losing fights with the governor over eminent domain.
“What else is there for us to be afraid of?” Hall asked.