The Texas Farm Bureau’s political arm, AGFUND, declined to endorse either Gov. Rick Perry or Bill White at its July meeting on Wednesday.
The Farm Bureau has never endorsed a Democratic candidate for governor before.
Gene Hall, a spokesman for the bureau, said AGFUND board members wanted to get more input from the various bureau districts before making their decision. AGFUND won’t meet again to discuss a potential endorsement until Sept. 20.
“They don’t feel any sense of urgency to make that decision now,” Hall said.
Bob Stein, a Rice University political science professor, said the Trans-Texas Corridor has hurt Perry in rural communities, especially in East Texas.
“I’m sure there is a big fight in the Farm Bureau about endorsing him,” Stein said. “[Perry’s] hoping for a draw, for no endorsement. That’s how bad things have gotten for him.”
As the summer wears on and the rhetoric heats up, Perry and White are attempting to position themselves for a final push in the fall.
“‘A toss-up’ is a little generous,” Stein said, pointing out that Texas is a Republican state and 2010 seems like a Republican year. “This is still Rick Perry’s election to lose.”
As the summer season winds down and the campaigns gear up for the fall, ubiquitious campaign commercials have started to hit the air.
The White campaign started running an ad focusing on White’s biography on San Antonio television Tuesday. The Back to Basics Political Action Committee has also put an ad up, attacking Perry’s decision to mandate teenage girls receive the HPV vaccine.
“They’re starting early because Bill White’s name recognition is only about 60-70 percent,” Stein said. He said that outside of Houston, White is best known for the city’s effective response to Hurricanes Katrina, Rita and Ike.
The key to winning voters in the fall will be the messages and themes the campaigns use to frame the issues for voters.
“The White campaign has struck a theme on competence and fresh ideas,” Stein said. “There’s some reason to believe that when the voters find out that Perry has been in office for 10 years, that’s going to work against Perry.”
One White campaign spokeswoman said the framing for the fall would come down to whether voters buy the Democratic campaign mantra that Perry is in it for himself.
Perry campaign spokeswoman Catherine Frazier said the campaign is happy where it is.
“We’re confident that we’re well on the way to winning re-election,” she said.