Thursday, August 24, 2006
I Just Realized Something

I LOVE Kinky Friedman

And when you look at things, he just might be able to pull out a victory.

Go to his website if you dont' know who he is.
Basically, he's a cigar smoking, whisky drinking, country music singing (his band is called Kinky Friedman and the Texas Jewboys), mystery novel writing, larger than life, Texan. And he's running for Governor.

His two campaign slogans are:
1. Why the Hell Not?
2. How hard can it be?

He is also one of the most honest, straight talking, and natural people who have ever run for any office.

So there are five candidates running for Governor of Texas. Incumbent Republicanazi Rick "Great Hair" Perry, Democrat Chris Bell, Indepent Carole Stayhorn, Independent Kinky Friedman, and the Libertarian who I'm sure has a name and is a nice guy but I can't remember it and don't really want to look it up right now.

There is every reason to believe that the winner will clock in under at 50% (that's why I included the Libertarian; in a race this close a canned ham could make a difference).

Bell has the personality of a skin disease, but could easily pull 15% just from straight party voters that are confused by all the other names on the ballot. Let's give 2% to the Lib.

Strayhorn is known around the state and if she raises enough money she could draw up at least 18%. Some newspaper polls (not very reliable, but hey why not) show Kinky in second place to Perry; so let's roll with that and say that Kinky pulls at least 25%. That gives the election to Perry with a wopping FORTY percent.

These are quick numbers, but I think they're fairly realistic. Lots of people will automatically vote for Bell because he's a Dem; a few will automatically vote for the Lib because he's a Lib.

It's hard to judge support for Kinky and Strayhorn, but they are reaching lots of voters, getting lots of press, and starting to raise lots of money (last time I checked, that's all you need to run a competitive race).

Lots of people in Texas are fed up with both parties. Liberals hate the weakness of the Texas Democratic Party; an increasing number of Republicans are tired of the extremity of the State Party, and the general incompetence of the National Party.

Perry still has to be considered the favorite to win, but the state is ready to vote for someone different, someone weird, someone a hell of a lot like Kinky Friedman.

He's probably the most liberal candidate running for any position anywhere in the country, but he presents it in such a common sensical way that conservatives find themselves agreeing with him. He appeals to everyone, and he is beginning to actually present ideas.

There are lots of questions here obviously: 1. People laugh, but will they vote for him? 2. Will very serious people vote for someone insane? 3. Will he be able to raise any money or outside support from those that matter? 4. Won't people who think they'll vote for him just panic in the booth and vote for a more traditional candidate?

These are all the same questions asked about Ned Lamont, Arnold and Jesse Ventura. Of course they were also the questions asked about Howard Dean, Ross Perot and George McGovern--we know how those turned out.

Stay tuned for more on Kinky...

Read the Comments to discover 1. Why I'm Wrong About Kinky and 2. Why Kinky Isn't A Liberal.

I see the polls differently.

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 at 35% with a continuing significant downward trend. This would be disastrous for an incumbent in most situations, but Perry is less threatened because the 65% of the vote which is currently "not Perry" is divided among three significant alternative candidates (plus Libertarian James Werner whose support is negligible). Of all the candidates, Bell's support is most consistently trending upward (most recent polls have identified Bell's current levels of support between 18% and 21% and raising).

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 less than 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.

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.

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 and legalized casino gambling to alienate social conservatives, but socially conservative on immigration and school prayer to alienate social liberals), and Texas is more like 50% Republican, 35% Democrat, with only 15% 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 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 friend and "Texas Monthly" colleague Paul Burka, to Republican poll guru Mike Baselice, to the progressive Lone Star Project, to independent analyst Chuck McDonald all agree that Kinky will likely end up in the single digits on election day (and if he doesn't, Perry will likely win by default).
I couldn't disagree more with your statement that Kinky is "probably the most liberal candidate running for any position anywhere in the country."

On my blog, we've had some great discussion about whether Kinky is a "liberal." I think the debate rises from the fact that Kinky often jokes that he's in favor of gay marriage because gays should be as miserable as the rest of us, but you have to take those joking comments in light of the fact that Kinky didn't vote against the amendment to the Texas Constitution which banned gay marriage. Anyway, here's my thoughts:

Let's be careful about how we use that word "liberal" here in Texas. I think you'd do Kinky less harm among Texas voters if you called Kinky a pedophile than if you called him a liberal. Texas is at least 60% Republican and if Kinky is going to win, he's going to have to do it with Republican votes (not by snipping off the pot-smoking fringe of the less-than-40%-of-voters Democratic Party because even if Kinky gets 33% of the Democrats -- which is unlikely -- that'd only get him about 13% of the vote).

Here is why I believe it is quite inaccurate to call Kinky a "liberal."

Watch this video clip. It is hilarious, it is true, and it is politically incorrect as hell. Liberal politicians are too politically correct to admit the truth that "negro is a charming word." Whatever Kinky is, he's NOT a liberal.

Next, read up on Kinky's get-tough illegal alien plan and his 5 Mexican generals plan. Kinky's common sense border security plan is the straight up "minuteman" approach, not Perry's namby-pamby "let's set up cameras" approach. Make no mistake, Kinky is the only candidate brave enough to say we need armed military generals on our southern border. This is not a liberal plan.

Now consider Kinky's party affiliation. Kinky has run for office in the past as a Republican and he voted for Bush/Cheney in 2004.

Here is an excerpt from Kinky's interview with Ruminator magazine confirms that he supported Bush's Middle East foreign policy:

Question: So does this idea of the honorable cowboy have anything to do with why you threw your support behind President Bush in this last election? You did, didn’t you?
Kinky: Yes. I did in this last election, but I didn’t vote for him the first time.
Question: Who did you vote for in 2000?
Kinky: I voted for Gore then. I was conflicted. . .but I was not for Bush that time. Since then, though, we’ve become friends. And that’s what’s changed things.
Question: So it’s your friendship with him that’s changed your mind about having him as president more than his specific political positions?
Kinky: Well, actually, I agree with most of his political positions overseas, his foreign policy. On domestic issues, I’m more in line with the Democrats. I basically think he played a poor hand well after September 11. What he’s been doing in the Near East and in the Middle East, he’s handling that well, I think.

Now maybe you are like me and you were worried that Kinky showed liberal tendencies by voting for a tree-hugger like Al Gore. Well, rest assured that Kinky was mistaken when he said that. Kinky's public voting records confirm he didn't vote for Al Gore in 2000 because Kinky didn't waste his vote on any candidate from 1994 to 2004 when he voted for Bush/Cheney.

Maybe you think Kinky's a liberal because he's a Jew. Rest assured, Kinky's views on religion are well to the right of Perry's. Kinky wants to take time during the school day for prayers in schools, and he wants to post the Ten Commandments in public school classrooms.

Moreover, on another excellent edition of Scarborough Country, Kinky came out in favor of Joe Lieberman leaving the Democratic Party and Kinky acknowledged that liberals aren't pro-America:

SCARBOROUGH: Hey, Kinky, could the argument be that both parties are extreme, vote for the new independent?

FRIEDMAN: That could certainly be. I think the mood of the country is really, really independent. I mean, I think the winds of change are really blowing right now. And all the—the way I see Lieberman, he's very—he's pro-America, unashamedly, and he's pro-Israel. And these liberals are not.

Finally, Kinky has answered the question directly.

I've spent months fending off bed-wetting liberals who want to claim Kinky as one of their own. I have shown them that Kinky doesn't give a rat's a$$ about political correctness and that Kinky has run for office as a Republican and he's voted for Bush and he has immigration plans to satisfy the minutemen alongside school prayer plans to satisfy a Baptist minister, but still the liberals would not accept that Kinky is a dyed-in-the-wool conservative.

Even after I showed the liberals where Kinky said that the anti-war, anti-Lieberman wing of the Democratic Party is anti-American, those liberals still held fast to their misbelief that Kinky is a liberal.

Now, at last, we have an answer from Kinky Friedman himself:
"I'm not a liberal, believe me. I'm a compassionate redneck, far more conservative than I am liberal."

In summary, Kinky is NO LIBERAL! In fact, Kinky charts WELL TO THE RIGHT of Perry on the issues that matter most to Texas voters.
So as far as the "liberal" label goes I think some clarification of our terms is in order.

You're right, Kinky would be the first to say that he is not a "Liberal." But that doesn't mean that he doesn't takes liberal positions. He's using "liberal" the same way you're usin the term--as an insult, as some sort of crazed "tree hugging" (as you say), ultra politically correct loon. This is the myth that the Conservatives created to serve their purposes and to mock anyone who opposes their ideas.

It's ridiculous that a word like "liberal" has come to be such a badge of shame. The fact that Kinky, like every other politician, goes out of his way to eschew that label is a sad sign of our divisions and a sign of how effective Republican word games really are.

But that's not the definition of the word that I use. I call Kinky a liberal because I have respect for the word and I'm not letting Karl Rove define it for me. I call him a liberal because he goes out of his way to talk about protecting the environment, protecting the right to choose, limiting the power of giant corporations and other positions that (it's hard to deny) are definitely liberal.

Sure he'll never use the word, and you're right it would be a bad idea for him or anyone else to present him to the voters as a liberal. But that's not because of his positions.

He's not easy to categorize, (partly because he hasn't really established any type of platform) but it's impossible to deny that some of his positions are clearly rooted in some of the basic tenets of liberal thought. I think it's more likely that he's a "liberal redneck" instead of a "compassionate redneck." Many voters, especially men and especially in the South, are tired of "liberals" and Democrats because of their perceived "whining." This is a myth created by the Republicans which we might not be able to ever completely kill; so maybe that means we need more candidates that espouse liberal philosophy while going out of their way to go against entrenched ideologies (left AND right). Kinky doesn't have to call himself a liberal if he doesn't want to--but the influence is undeniable.
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