With the exception of Illinois, which holds its primaries in February, Texas has the earliest primary elections in the nation. Neither candidate, Rick Perry or Bill White, had much trouble in their primaries, which in effect created a 5 or 6 month public dead period for their campaigns.
“This is sort of a self-imposed strange election cycle that Texas has where we start off and we sort of have the primaries and finish that all up in March or April if there’s a run-off and then have this very long period between the primary and the general election.”
Mark Jones is the Chair of Rice University’s Department of Political Science and says over the next six months, Perry’s top priority is to govern effectively, the best tool for him as he heads toward the more crucial months right before the November election. Jones says White has to spend the summer quietly building a grassroots network of support.
“That is, practicing much more low-scale, retail politics, particularly outside of the Houston metropolitan area and that means going to virtually any event that will have him, meeting with small groups, speaking to groups of a 100, 200, 50. He needs to build name recognition as well as positive association by voters with his name, which means essentially traveling the state, appearing at events, appearing in local media, just trying to drum-up support in that manner.”
Building campaign war chests also becomes important during the summer doldrums, especially for White, who is the challenger and not as familiar to voters statewide. Noah Kaplan is an Assistant Professor in the University of Houston’s Department of Political Science.
“It’s critical not to fall behind, even if in terms of fundraising, they didn’t have a tough primary, but it’s even more critical if they had a tough primary which in this case obviously was not the case.”
Kaplan says you won’t see either candidate spend much money on television or radio ads over the summer, mostly because studies show many of those early messages are lost by the time election day rolls around.
“If you see an ad in July, the odds of that still being somewhere in your memory come October 31st or November 3rd is very small, whereas if you’ve seen an ad in the last week of October, it’s much more likely to still be in your memory bank so to speak when you go pull the lever.”
Kaplan and Jones both say even though the so-called summer dead period will be a quiet time publicly for Perry and White, the work they’re doing behind the scenes will be a crucial part of their success in November.