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Mrs. Hutchison’s biggest problem may be in getting the Texas GOP base, in the age of tea party rebellion, to applaud - or overlook - her for contributing to Washington’s 20-year spending spree by bringing the bacon home to Texas.

“Earmarks will be a huge issue in this primary next year,” said Merrill Matthews, resident scholar at the Dallas-based Institute for Policy Innovation.

Mr. Perry’s problem may be in persuading his own base of values-voters and libertarian-leaners to ignore his having issued an executive order requiring teenage girls to be vaccinated against a sexually transmitted disease that can cause cervical cancer. Though the state legislature later overturned it, the order had mandated that all young schoolgirls in Texas receive state-purchased doses of a vaccine made by a pharmaceutical firm in which former Perry aides have a vested interest. When critics on the right raised the question of whether it was a case of cronyism or good shepardism, Mr. Perry pleaded the latter.

“I am somewhat surprised that Hutchison hasn’t gotten, or attempted to get, more mileage out of Perry’s vaccine order,” Mr. Karch said. “It’s one of the few episodes during which he was out of step with the GOP primary base. It might be a case of ‘out of sight, out of mind’ since it happened in 2007.”