I believe Kinky Friedman should not be elected because of his reactionary views on many issues from reproductive choice to immigration to eroding the separation of church and state. Most of this blog is dedicated to spreading information about Kinky's unsuitability for the office of Governor based on his position on substantive issues.
This post is not about why Kinky shouldn't win; instead, this post is about why Kinky can't win.
Perry has led every poll throughout this election (not including website polls where people from other states vote, people who are unregistered vote, and poll participants can vote as many times as they wish). This election is unquestionably Perry’s race to lose, but it seems that Perry is doing his best to lose it. Consider the election prospects for each of the three main alternatives to re-electing Perry.
Strayhorn presents a unique threat to Perry's re-election. When Perry and Strayhorn last ran for office, they appeared on the ballot together. Strayhorn, not Perry, was the top vote recipient among all Republicans (she also received the most votes of any candidate for any office regardless of party affiliation). Strayhorn captured 2,878,732 votes compared to Perry's mere 2,632,591. Not only does Strayhorn have proven appeal among Republican voters, she has some support from those who typically support Democrats, including the endorsement of the TSTA and the TFT as well as support from prominent Hispanic Democrats such as Tony Sanchez, Perry's last Democratic opponent.
In addition to these factors, Strayhorn has raised over $10 million to fund her campaign, and the majority of those funds will be spent on comparative advertising directed against Perry's abysmal record as governor. While Strayhorn's support in the polls has been erratic and the trend has generally been downward, she has the campaign funds on hand to mount a substantial television advertising campaign to address that trend.
Bell also threatens Perry. Several recent polls have identified Perry's current level of support between 31% and 35% with a continuing significant downward trend. This would be disastrous for an incumbent in most situations, but Perry is less threatened because the two thirds of the vote which is currently "not Perry" is divided among three significant alternative candidates (plus Libertarian James Werner who will probably get nearly 2%).
Bell's support is trending upward (most recent polls have identified Bell's current levels of support between 18% and 25% and rising).
There are two historical voting trends which strongly indicate that the upward trend of Bell's support will continue to even higher levels.
First, Perry, Strayhorn, and Kinky have very well established name identification among Texas voters. Bell, on the other hand, is identified by about half of likely Texas voters. We know from previous elections, once a candidate achieves a very significant level of name identification with a likely voter without achieving that likely voter's support, it becomes substantially more difficult for the known candidate to win that voter's support. The fact that Bell has the most room to increase his name identification indicates that he also has the easiest task of building his support. Moreover, we also know from past elections that Bell's name identification will rise as the election nears as a result of the fact that Bell is the nominee of a major party. Among likely Texas voters who can identify the names of all four main candidates, Bell is polling at 28% to Perry's 32%, which is barely outside the margin for error. (For those who question the Zogby poll which has Perry at 30.7% and Bell at 25.3%, within the margin of error, if you review Zogby's internet-based methodology, you'll find that Zogby does a good job of polling an accurate ideological cross-section of the voters -- better than telephone-based Rasmussen, for example, who has Perry’s support at 33% -- but Zogby polls skew to over-represent people who are quicker adapters of new technologies – whereas Rasmussen under-polls this group -- and the people polled by Zogby tend to be better informed about politics and so the Zogby numbers show where Bell will be polling when he gets better name identification).
Second, Bell (and Perry) will receive a boost from straight-party voting which polls undercount (people answering polls generally deny voting the straight-party ticket but past elections confirm that about half of Texas voters choose a straight-party ticket in a statewide election during a non-presidential year). In recent non-presidential elections, about 23% of the Texas electorate has voted for the straight-party Democratic ticket (and about 28% have voted the straight-party Republican ticket). Moreover, in recent past elections where the Democratic candidate has accepted the party's nomination but essentially chose not to campaign, those types of statewide Democratic candidates have nevertheless received about one third of the vote (despite the fact that pre-election polling consistently identified levels of support much lower than 33% of the Texas electorate for such non-campaigning Democrats). When statewide Democrats mount a campaign, they generally receive about 43% of the vote during non-presidential elections. Undoubtedly, if Bell could achieve Democratic Party unity, he would easily win, but Strayhorn and Kinky will certainly disrupt the party unity for both Democrats and Republicans.
Kinky is a unique candidate. Kinky's support has polled between 11% and 22% in polls that were conducted contemporaneously so his levels of support are obviously difficult to measure and highly dependant on the poll's method for identifying likely voters. But the prospect for Kinky's rise in the polls is not good. Of all the major candidates, Kinky has by far the highest disapproval numbers. Moreover, Kinky has very high name identification so his task of winning new supporters will be very difficult.
Kinky's campaign looks to Arnold Schwarzenegger's and Jesse Ventura's campaigns as models, but those campaigns are substantially different from Kinky's campaign.
Schwarzenegger's campaign differs from Kinky's mainly in the fact that Schwarzenegger enjoyed the strong backing of the Republican Party as that party's candidate (the California Republican Party and its prominent figures endorsed Schwarzenegger, including several other potential Republican candidates who dropped out of the race to avoid dividing the Republican vote). Interestingly, Schwarzenegger's campaign demonstrates how a minority party (whether Republicans in California or Democrats in Texas) can win a plurality election against a much stronger party (Democrats in California or Republicans in Texas) with strong party unity. Because the multi-party Texas gubernatorial race will be determined by a plurality (the eventual winner will likely garner only 33% to 38% of the vote) just as the recent California election, Schwarzenegger's model for minority-party triumph is more of a model for Bell's campaign than Kinky's campaign. Kinky’s model from the California recall election is not Republican-Party-candidate Schwarzenegger, it’s entertainer-with-campaign-jokes Gary Coleman.
Ventura's campaign differs from Kinky's mainly in the differences between the manner in which Ventura achieved a third-party coalition and in the differences between Minnesota and Texas election law.
Like Schwarzenegger's Republican Party support, Ventura had the organized campaign support of the Reform Party (Ventura was the Reform Party's nominee, not an independent candidate) which was by far the most significant third party in Minnesota with a substantial party infrastructure and network of campaign workers. Moreover, Ventura won the support of the Libertarian Party and others who value the separation of church and state when he famously said that "organized religion tells people to go out and stick their noses in other people's business" and whereas Kinky has alienated that group by advocating prayer in school and posting the Ten Commandments in public school classrooms. Ventura won with 37% of the vote by running under a coherent platform as a fiscal conservative and a social liberal in a state with about one third Republicans, one third Democrats, and a full third of the electorate as Reform Party members or other Independents. In contrast, Kinky's platform is not coherent (socially liberal on gay marriage, de-criminalizing some drug crimes, and legalized casino gambling to alienate social conservatives, but socially conservative on immigration, abortion, and school prayer to alienate social liberals), and Texas is more like 50% Republican leaning, 35% Democratic leaning, with only 15% truly independent. Also, Minnesota's minority vote is much smaller than the minority vote in Texas, and Kinky has irreparably handicapped his candidacy among likely minority voters with Kinky's comments about "Negroes" and "tar babies" and black “thugs and crackheads” from New Orleans and Kinky’s alignment with the “Minutemen” border vigilantes and his statements that politicians being "afraid of offending Hispanics" and saying the Tejano immigration protesters were "playing hooky." It is no wonder polls show Kinky with the least minority voter support of the candidates, and this problem with Kinky's campaign cannot be fixed.
Yet perhaps the more important distinction between Ventura's campaign and Kinky's is the election law differences. An Independent candidate's chances of success are much greater in Minnesota due to Minnesota's law allowing for voter registration at the voting booth on election day and Minnesota's public financing for state elections (which would minimize Kinky's current status as the candidate with the least funds on hand).
In light of these factors, the conventional wisdom of professional election analysts from Kinky's former colleague at "Texas Monthly" Paul Burka, to Republican poll guru Mike Baselice, to the progressive Lone Star Project, to independent analyst Chuck McDonald has consistently concluded that Kinky will likely end up in the single digits on election day (and if he pulls anywhere near 15%, Perry will likely win by default).
In summary, Kinky can't win for five main reasons:
(1) Base vote -
(a) Perry will get a substantial Republican base vote (less than in other years because Strayhorn and Kinky will cut into that base) so Perry builds support on a base of perhaps 25% who will vote for the Republican no matter who the nominee is so Perry wins votes to add to 25% he gets automatically,
(b) Bell will get a substantial Democratic base vote (also less than in other years) so Bell builds support on a base of perhaps 20% who will vote for the Democrat no matter who the nominee is so Bell wins votes to add to 20% he gets automatically,
(c) Strayhorn has no party base but she was the top vote recipient on the whole ballot last time she ran so she likely has some established core of support among voters so, while she has to win every vote one-by-one (i.e., she benefits from no straight party vote), she has a voter constituency which she has established in prior statewide elections, and if we look at her petition drive supporters as an approximation of that core of support, she is now adding votes to a base of about 4%,
(d) Kinky has no party base and he has not run for office since his unsuccessful mid-'80 run in a local Kerr County race as a Republican so he also has to win every vote one-by-one (i.e., no straight party boost), and if we look at his petition drive supporters as a core of support, he is now adding votes to a base of about 3%,
(2) Minority vote - Kinky has the lowest levels of support among all racial minority voting groups and his support is still falling among those voters and it appears that Kinky's candidacy has been irreparably damaged in this regard by his bigoted statements, and the alienation of these large voter groups sets a cap on Kinky's ability to build support,
(3) Negative identification - Kinky has by far the highest numbers of likely voters who have already developed a negative impression of him and his candidacy (Kinky’s negatives are about double the other candidates’), and these high negative numbers set a cap on Kinky's ability to build support,
(4) Substantive campaign mismanagement - People complain about how Strayhorn has run her campaign (the suit to get her on the ballot as "Grandma" which the campaign had to abandon was a mistake) and Bell's campaign (not visible enough), but these are complaints about the procedural aspects of the campaign, whereas Kinky's campaign is suffering substantive defects (Kinky has had to contradict his own campaign staff on about “Kinky’s” position in key issues from immigration, to abortion, to ethics) and this is the sign of a rudderless campaign where the candidate is not providing any ideological direction, and
(5) Ideological dissonance - When some Kinky supporters say that Kinky is neither liberal nor conservative, they are mistaken. A candidate who holds middle-ground positions on many issues is neither liberal nor conservative, and Kinky is the exact opposite. Kinky is both liberal and conservative (not neither) because Kinky simultaneously takes the most right-wing views on issues like abortion, immigration, eroding the separation of church and state, privatizing aspects of the public schools, racial scapegoating, etc., and Kinky has also expressed the most liberal views of any candidate on issues like regulating pet ownership, expressing contempt for hunters, and de-criminalizing some drug crimes. Kinky does not take the most moderate views; instead, he combines the most right-wing views with the most liberal views. Kinky’s “platform” is not like Jesse Ventura’s quasi-Libertarian platform which coherently blended liberal social views with conservative fiscal views because Kinky’s issue positions seem almost calculated to alienate progressive voters with his stance on abortion, immigration, destroying the separation of church and state, privatization of aspects of the public schools, and racial scapegoating while simultaneously alienating right-wing voters on issues like hunting. Kinky's nonstop pattern of flip flops (abortion, immigration, hunting, etc.), his taking two contrary positions at the same time on the same issue depending on what audience he is addressing (capital punishment, cronyism, etc.), and some outright lies (his false claim to have voted for Ann Richards and Al Gore, etc.) appear connected to this ideological dissonance.
Considered together, these factors will utterly prevent Kinky from ever rising in the polls to threaten Perry. Will Kinky get 5% or 20%? I can't say. But I can say that Kinky will not ever get anywhere near Perry's base vote numbers so even if Perry is limited to his hardest-core base and nothing more, Perry will still beat Kinky.