Experts: National attention can't overshadow state issues in gov.'s race



Posted on November 4, 2009 at 5:55 PM

Updated Wednesday, Nov 4 at 7:24 PM

AUSTIN -- The eyes of Texas, and many around the nation, are now turning to the Republican race for governor here.

Recent gubernatorial elections in New Jersey and Virginia and a congressional race in up-state New York became national battlegrounds, seen as indicators about the future of the Democratic and Republican parties and a mid-term endorsement of the Obama administration.

Many experts around the country expect the Republican governor's race in Texas to become a battleground as well, but political analysts in Austin say what happens around the country will have little impact on what happens in this race.

"Focusing on national issues isn't going to resonate with the people of Texas," said Brian Smith, a professor of political science at St. Edward's University in Austin.

With months until the party primary, Smith said it will be tempting for many to read too much into the Republican race for governor.

"Both candidates are going to have to look and see who's going to come out and vote and try to go after those voters," Smith said.

"The people who turn out tend to be more party loyalists, so they're going to have to do what's called micro-targeting."

That means Rick Perry and Kay Bailey Hutchison may choose to spend some time running on reliably Republican issues, like their opposition to federal healthcare reform legislation.

While national issues and national attention will likely characterize the race, many experts agree that national issues won't win over many voters.

"Are they going to go with the trends of the country or are they going to focus more on what Texas needs?" asked Erin Cram, who describes herself as an independent voter.

She said she's more interested in "education, environment, and better transportation" than where the candidates stand on national issues.

"We're the one's voting for them," said voter Greg Steinberg, "I would hope they're fairly focused on the citizens of the state."

Whoever wins in March, experts remain split on whether or not Perry and Hutchison's supporters will cross-over to support the eventual winner of the Republican primary.

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