Texas Democrat Is Striving to Make His Name Known

SMU Political Science Professor Cal Jillson talks about Bill White's struggle for name recognition in the race for Texas governor.


MIDLAND, Tex. — On the same day Newsweek magazine anointed Gov. Rick Perry on its cover as a conservative icon, his Democratic opponent, Bill White, was slogging through small-scale campaign stops here in a Republican stronghold, needling the governor, saying he paid more attention to his career than to bread-and-butter issues like schools.

“We need a governor more interested in the state’s future than his political future,” Mr. White said to about 100 curious oil company lawyers and executives at the Petroleum Club.

But after the stump speech, a local lawyer, Mike Cunningham, piped up with the question on everyone’s mind. How was Mr. White going to beat a well-known and well-financed Republican incumbent like Mr. Perry in a state where a Democrat has not won in 20 years? . . .

But it is uncertain whether Mr. White can siphon enough conservative-leaning voters to pull off a victory, political scientists say. Some recent polls with small samples have him trailing Mr. Perry by much less than 10 percent, giving hope to his backers.

Still, most strategists agree that he will need enormous turnout among blacks and white liberals and among Hispanic voters in the Rio Grande Valley to pull off a win. At the same time, conservative white voters are highly motivated to vote this year.

“White is not out of it,” said Cal Jillson, a professor at Southern Methodist University, “but he has to run a good campaign in which he gets the kind of support that no Democrat has gotten in 15 or 20 years.”  

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