Perry vs. Hutchison might cause rift in Texas GOP

Texas Democrats watching the state's top two Republicans fight for their party's gubernatorial nomination are glad that Gov. Rick Perry and U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison have apparently abandoned the Republicans' 11th Commandment, established during Ronald Reagan's run for California governor in 1966: Thou shall not speak ill of another Republican.

And they hope that the GOP gubernatorial battle creates enough division within the party to help Democrats in the general election and for years to come.

"There probably will be so many bad feelings . . . that it will benefit the Democratic Party," said Steve Maxwell, chairman of the Tarrant County Democratic Party. "For now, we'll sit back and watch. It's only going to get better."

Republicans say Democrats shouldn't get too comfortable, because this gubernatorial race — pitting Perry, governor since 2000, against Hutchison, senator since 1993 — will energize, not divide, their party.

"It's a spirited race, and sometimes that's good," said Stephanie Klick, who heads the Tarrant County Republican Party. "One of the things that's fair game in any campaign are issues."

Some point to last year's Democratic presidential primary battle between Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, noting that, despite the attacks, it didn't keep Democrats from winning in November. And the same may well happen in Texas with the fight for the GOP's gubernatorial nomination.

But there could be big fallout, said Harvey Kronberg, publisher of the Quorum Report, an online political newsletter.

"There's a civil war that's happening right now, and it has long implications," Kronberg said. "Nothing good for Republicans can come out of this. Everyone who is an active Republican understands that the losing side is going into exile.

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