The Ranking Member of the key Senate Commerce Committee, Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX), is actually in the Senate on borrowed time, if she were held to her promise to resign in order to run for governor of her home state. Now it is not known if she will retire or run for re-election in 2012. But members of her own party are already lining up to challenge her in a primary if she does run.
Hutchison believed that incumbent Republican Rick Perry had been in the position too long and that she could easily defeat him. However, Perry was able to tie her to Washington and paint her as too moderate to be a Republican in the state of Texas. He completely overwhelmed her in the primaries.
Hutchison had planned on exiting the US Senate prior to her run for governor, then extended the deadline for a retirement decision until after the primary, and eventually decided to serve until the end of her term. She has still not announced plans for 2012.
Many Republicans were gearing up for a 2010 Senate election to serve the remainder of her term, and are ready to try again. Perry not only damaged her within the state by running to her right, he clearly blazed the trail for challenging her in a way that is very harmonious with the standard Tea Party approach seen in many jurisdictions in 2010.
According to The Hill, tea leaf readers won’t have to look much further than her fund-raising efforts to get a peek into her thoughts on running again. According to the FEC, her warchest at the moment is not well-endowed, and serious fund-raising will be a necessary prelude to a serious run for re-election. If such activities are not engaged in soon, it will likely mean that Texas will have an open Senate seat in contention in the next election cycle.
RBR-TVBR observation: Competitive primaries are always good for broadcasters – they often constitute a double-dip election windfall. Texas in 2012 is a good bet to have battles going in both parties, and that is regardless whether or not Hutchison runs again.