The XX Factor

If Kay Bailey Hutchison Is the Soul of the Republican Party, I’ll Take Vanilla.

We Texans love our matriarchs, from Ann Richards to Miss Ellie. So Kay Bailey Hutchison’s gubernatorial run strikes a chord for many who like to see big hair in the governor’s chair. But if this primary is truly a battle for the soul of the Republican Party, should even Texas Dems support the anti-Palin?

It’s true that Hutchinson’s opponent, incumbent Rick Perry, belongs to the loopier wing of the Republican Party-witness his support for anti-sodomy laws and Texas secession . And it’s true that Sen. Hutchison is pro-choice and has an intelligent, well-thought-out voting record on tax issues -appealing to the state’s many “socially liberal, fiscally conservative” types.

But she remains unmistakably conservative in ways that make a “social liberal” think twice-like her proposed legislation to overturn Washington, D.C.’s restrictive gun laws, her  commendations from the NRA, and her support for a border fence. She’s played down that pro-choice stance since her decision to run for governor ( leaving the board of the WISH List ). Worse, her views on health care seem limited to a list of what not to do , accompanied by a bland support for unspecified “reform.” She’s rightly pointed out that Texas has the most uninsured children in the United States -but beyond making sure that no aid reaches any children who are here illegally , she’s offered no solutions.

I left Texas years ago, so the only dog I’ve got in this race is an enduring hope that the GOP will move back toward the center, returning some degree of choice to our two-party system. Hutchison doesn’t cut it. Would she have made a less generally offensive choice for VP nominee than Sarah Palin ? Sure. She’s smart and experienced. But if she’ s the lesser of two gubernatorial evils in the state that gave us W., I’m pulling for Kinky Friedman .

Photograph of Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchinson by Joshua Roberts/Getty Images for Meet the Press.