A few months ago, Texas political consultants thought that a Democrat had about as much chance of winning statewide office as a donkey would have of winning the Kentucky Derby. Those odds seemed to grow longer as the anti-tax, anti-government movement known as the Tea Party gathered more followers.
McKinley, who has a habit of throwing around loaded language like "ultraconservative"  to describe Texas Republican, has never lost faith in White. Back in May  he also rooted for Democrat White against Rick Perry, sayhing "there is a feeling among some moderate Republicans and independents that Mr. Perry has moved too far to the right."
On Friday, McKinley jabbed:
Yet recent polls suggest Texas has a horse race for the governor's office after all. The Democratic candidate, former Mayor Bill White of Houston, has pulled within striking distance of the incumbent Republican, Rick Perry, trailing by no more than 6 percentage points in four polls.You can follow Times Watch on Twitter .
The tightening contest comes as Texas feels the effects of the national economic crisis, weakening one of Mr. Perry's chief arguments for re-election: that his fiscally conservative policies have buffered the state from the worst of the recession.
Mr. Perry has been so focused on bashing Washington that he at times appears to be running for governor of the United States. In Dallas this week, he said that Texas voters faced a choice between "the Obama style of government" of debt and high spending, or his own style - low taxes, no-frills services and minimal regulation.
"There is a land of opportunity still left in America," Mr. Perry said. "It's called Texas."
Mr. White has done his best to undermine Mr. Perry's claim to having steered the state to prosperity with a tight hand on the fiscal reins. Unemployment here is lower than the national average, but at 8.2 percent the rate is still twice what it was in 2008 and higher than at any point since 1986.
The governor also balanced the budget in 2009 with the help of stimulus money from Washington, the same money that Mr. Perry now complains should never have been appropriated, Mr. White has pointed out.
Democratic strategists, meanwhile, are not yet running to the betting windows to put big money down on a victory. But some are saying the governor appears more vulnerable than had been predicted.
"Mr. White is an underdog, but he's not a far-away underdog," said Glenn Smith, who managed the campaign of the last Democrat to win in Texas, Ann Richards, in 1990. "This could be a far more competitive World Series than people think."