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Republican pundits’ tortured logic, and the horse they rode in on

First, let me get some disclosures of my own out of the way, so I can earn my seat at the high road table.

The vote fairy won’t be visiting Texas on Tuesday. There will not be a surprise winner in the U.S. Senate race here. There are no big upsets in store in any Texas state Senate race anywhere, except one – the only question mark is the Davis-Shelton race in Fort Worth. There are few state House races up for grabs – if you’re a Democrat who doesn’t live in the maybe 8-10 districts which are in play, your hopes and dreams will be shattered. Only two of Texas’ Congressional seats are in serious question – the ones in which Democrats Nick Lampson and Pete Gallego are running. And wish it as hard as you’d like, but of Texas’ 38 electoral votes, Barack Obama will be earning exactly zero of them on Tuesday.

If you don’t live within some of that prized real estate in Texas I just described and had hoped for a better outcome, sorry to disappoint you. Take solace that miracles – and accidents – do happen. Maybe your beloved candidate will be the recipient of one. Or maybe I’m just full of crap. But I doubt it, and now I’ve said what I honestly believe.

With that unpleasantness out of the way, now that I’ve demonstrated that I’m capable of acknowledging likelihoods even when they aren’t great news for my Party, what the hell is up with the national Republican pundits?

Over the last couple of days we’ve been treated to the most tortured logic I’ve seen in recent years out of them, all with the goal of them maintaining their ability to end their sentence with, “…and that’s why Mitt Romney will win.”

These pundits use “anecdotal evidence.” You know who uses evidence like that? Those who don’t have statistical evidence.

The statistical evidence they do use consists mainly of pulling outliers out of the pile of battleground state polling, using national polling to justify something – anything – specific about a given battleground state, or even isolating single crosstabs from some of the very same well-established polls those same pundits otherwise discount as “hopelessly skewed.” Today I even noticed one Republican using as “a promising trend” an isolated crosstab from a poll taken shortly after Obama’s first, disastrous, debate – when it’s clear from subsequent research that this “trend” reversed itself a week later.

To justify saying that which they already know is so utterly unlikely, they are hedging their bets by mentioning, “…well, but of course, the hurricane might have slowed Romney’s momentum.” Perfect target, that hurricane: it’s a factor beyond the control of any of the Republican pundits – some of whom raised and spent millions of dollars of rich peoples’ money and promised that for their investment they’d get a US Senate majority and the White House – which they can point to after Tuesday night and blame. Rove, late last week, was the first one I noticed using the storm as his big asterisk, but over the weekend I’ve noticed other pundits adopting this adorable little baby as their very own to love and hold as well.

Continuing to lie about what you really think is a lot easier than crediting the President’s team for having an effective message and sticking to it. It’s easier than admitting that the Democrats in targeted states are mopping the floor with Republicans on the ground game. It’s certainly easier than blaming Mitt Romney for embracing a far-right message, or blaming the Tea Party nutjobs who not only forced him there, but are also responsible for knocking more mainstream US Senate candidates off in the primaries, leaving the Republican Party with embarrassing losers.

What Democrats need to do – both in Texas and Nationally – is continue doing what you’re doing: get out the damn Democratic vote. What we should do is pretend we never heard the Republicans lie about what they think will happen, and pretend you never read how I responded. Because the GOTV activity – all of it – counts for something. In some areas of Texas, it counts for just about everything.

But don’t be fooled as the unintended recipient of the Republican pundit machine message – they’re just doing CYA duty for all the rich guys they pried money from. They’re creating the Wednesday morning narrative that starts with “Romney would have won, and we’d have a majority in the Senate, if only [fill in the blank with weather reports, or anything else not in the control of the SuperPAC you just gave millions to].” And their narrative ends with “and that’s why it’s not my fault.”

Democrats, continue to work your hearts out to win every one of these elections; you haven’t developed a narrative that ends that way. Your only remaining choice is to do everything doable to win whatever elections you’re working on.

 

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Game ON: Cook versus Delisi on a big election night prediction

Funny thing about making pre-election night predictions – every once in a while, somebody has to be very wrong. And this will be one of those times, since Republican Ted Delisi and I disagree about who will win the most closely-watched legislative race in Texas:

You can watch this entire episode of “Capitol Tonight” on YNN Austin this Sunday at 11 am, and you should definitely tune in on Tuesday night for our special election night show, from 7 pm until the wee hours, to see which one of us will have to eat crow about what we said.
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Democratic National Convention day 3 recap: getting the job done

I loved Bill Clinton’s speech Wednesday night. I thought it was among the best of his life, and it came at the exact right time to stop the minor bleeding of the Democratic convention’s only mistake all week, the platform dust-up.

But I loved his speech so much that I worried then that he might over-shadow President Obama’s speech last night. I also loved Clinton’s speech so much that I wished he’d written it for Obama.

Obama’s performance last night indicated that I should have worried, because it was a close call. But I think Obama’s speech ultimately delivered what it needed to, when it needed to do it, and I think the convention ultimately did the job.

But let’s define “the job.”

The Democratic convention as a whole presented a well-rounded portrait of a Presidential man. The Republican convention presented a man who is certainly competent, but no presidential-level superstar – which only echoes the concerns Republican primary voters have had all year. For a major American political party to present a Presidential nominee  with little mention of foreign policy, with little respect for America’s military, and with scant appreciation for the country’s veterans, borders on political malfeasance.

The Romney camp is so desperate to have an election in which the sole issue is the economy that they forgot that, for any President, there’s a whole country to lead.

The contrast between the two conventions is especially stark for various key voting blocs.

For military veterans, they will not quickly forget that in the same time slot in which the Democrats opted to air their very moving tribute to them this week, the Republicans were cracking jokes about empty chairs last week.

For women, speaker after speaker this week pounded on the Republicans’ lack of respect for their rights. Certainly the Republicans excited the pro-life crowd, but did little to gain back any support which would begin to ease the gender gap of which Romney and Ryan appear very likely to be victims.

For seniors, I don’t think the Democrats ever let a full half-hour pass all week without somebody on the podium reminding Americans that the Romney camp is misleading voters on Obama’s Medicare proposals, and returning to the message that the Romney-Ryan plan would end Medicare as we know it. The biggest problem for Republicans on this front? Romney-Ryan ending Medicare as we know it isn’t a message originated by the Democrats – it’s a message presented by the Wall Street Journal.

For voters watching both conventions, the Democrats were clearly more persuasive than the Republicans. No honest analyst of any ilk could credibly dispute that. The Republicans’ convention was competent – even very competent – but nothing more. The Democrats’ convention was enthusiastic, inspiring, and took the fight to the Republicans – and nothing less. To be fair, however, I bet only a small percentage of voters watched both conventions.

But at its heart, what’s the definition of “getting the job done” at a convention? These days it is solidifying the support among your own party’s voters, while attracting more than your share of undecided voters. The reason I believe the Democrats had the only convention that did that job is because the Republicans quit after the first step.

Having Ann Romney give a good speech will not get women voters back, especially when a week later Michelle Obama gives a speech worthy of blasting off into space – articulating policies which resonate with women will. The Democrats did that, and the Republicans didn’t.

Highlighting Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz will not give you a leg up among Latino voters – sharing values and priorities of interest to Latinos will. That the Republicans failed to give more than a passing mention to the military and to veterans probably put them behind the 8-ball on that, and Latinos just glancing at the Republican crowd shots undoubtedly made eyes roll nation-wide. And that’s before one even gets to the policy proposals.

Women and Latinos were the two most likely groups from which the Republicans could have cherry-picked additional support, and when the post-convention polling results are announced in the coming days, I believe they will show that their token attempts to do so failed.

But the Democrats’ passion and spunk showed that they mean it – among an electorate undoubtedly wondering if Obama and the Democrats really mean it. Vice President Biden was Republicans’ last best hope to have something to seize upon, but his stem-winder was unassailable too. And, where did THAT John Kerry come from – I never met that guy before last night?

Some conventions do not result in a significant momentum shift for a nominee or a party. Neither Obama nor McCain left their 2008 conventions with a significant bump. John Kerry even left his nominating convention with a negative bump. Ronald Reagan had a big bump, as did Bill Clinton in ’92.

The Democratic National Convention felt more like 1992 to me, so it wouldn’t surprise me if polling in the coming days shows a significant momentum advantage for Obama.

But even if I’m wrong about that, two things are clear. First, we already know that Mr. Romney’s support was flat after the conclusion of his convention – the poll results are already in. And second, it’s clear, at least to me, that Mr. Obama will leave this convention, at the very least, with a momentum surpassing Romney’s – having succeeded in reminding Americans that he’s serious about it, passionate about it, and razor-focused on it.

And that’s a pretty good deal.

Here’s what I said about all this on Fox TV in Austin last night immediately following the President’s remarks.

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Democratic National Convention, day 2 recap: los dos Presidents

Was it just yesterday, after a picture-perfect first day, when I said this?

But never fear, Republicans – we are Democrats. We are well-versed in snatching defeat from the jaws of victory. We still have two nights remaining to screw something up.

Why yes, yes it was indeed just yesterday when I said that. And then the Democrats screwed something up. But Bill Clinton made sure it won’t matter, and Cecile Richards made me proud. Here’s what happened:

Bad Democrats: platform stupid human tricks

The first night of the convention was so utterly picture-perfect the Republicans could find little to moan and groan about. But since it is their sworn duty to moan and groan, they were forced to do a little reading before they went to bed, and they found two things in the party platform to complain about: God and Jerusalem.

Say what? Glad you asked. Apparently when comparing this year’s platform to the previous one, the new platform omitted the word “God.” Never mind that people who are experts on, and rather fond of God were not complaining about this. Also, never mind that the mention of God in the previous platform had nothing to do with religion, but in context was a reference to growing the middle class. And finally, never mind that the new platform has an entire section on faith. They complained. It’s their job.

The new platform also omitted a previous plank regarding support for Jerusalem being the capitol of Israel. Similar to the God thing above, never mind that pro-Jewish and pro-Israeli groups didn’t seem to be complaining about this. Also, never mind that those groups participated in the two public hearings the convention’s platform draft committee had held, and had never brought it up, despite sharing input on several other Israel-related planks of the platform. And never mind that as this dust-up gained steam, the Israeli Ambassador to the United States declined to say much about it beyond, “…bipartisan support is a paramount national interest for Israel, and we have great friends on both sides of the aisle.” Also, never mind that no matter what the platform says, it is simply a matter of fact and record that it is, indeed, President Obama’s stated policy that Jerusalem is the capitol of Israel. And finally, never mind that it is Republican President George Bush, not the Democrats, who resisted Congressional attempts to move the American Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

Never mind all that stuff. Complaints must be made, and the platform dust-up dominated convention coverage all day. The whole thing floors me, since the party platform is among the most manageable departments associated with a national convention – that Democrats were clumsy enough to give the Republicans ammo is bad enough. But when the President weighed in and directed the convention to fix the platform, the Democrats got even more clumsy.

Oh, they fixed the platform alright. Except that they forgot to mention this big plan to anybody who would vote on the fix, and when they gaveled the convention in yesterday afternoon and immediately voted to fix it, confusion reigned supreme. It looked like amateur hour.

God remained unavailable for comment regarding either platform screw-up. But Republicans, always eager to explain to us what God thinks, were in abundant supply.

Did the Republican attack work? Well, we’re discussing it here, aren’t we? It was a dumb unforced error.

Good Democrats: Big Dawg to the rescue


I bet I’ve watched Bill Clinton give 75 speeches, and I bet I’ve watched 15-20 of them in person. Never was he better than he was last night.

Clinton is the only man alive who can get away with explaining facts and figures to people and still make it interesting. He became a one-man Politifact-esque wrecking ball, and utterly demolished every major charge the Republicans leveled against President Obama at their gathering last week in Tampa. He explained the economic recovery. He explained Obama’s health care reform act. He explained why the Republicans’ proposals don’t add up. He explained the national debt. And yes, while all that all sounds pretty boring as convention fodder, he did it all so well that he had trouble getting the delegates to stop partying their asses off and laughing with him at the Republicans.

By the time Clinton finished dismembering the Republicans 48 minutes later, even the conservative talking heads on the nets were throwing in the towel.

While there were many speakers on last night’s schedule who moved delegates and TV viewers, there is no doubt that Democrats fully intended for Clinton to dominate the news cycle, and he did. Of all the national conventions I have watched or attended over the years, there are, maybe, five to eight game-changing speeches I remember. Bill Clinton’s speech last night takes its rightful place among them, and if President Obama wins re-election this fall, Clinton’s speech last night may be one reason why he does.

…and a point of personal privilege: Cecile Richards

I have known Cecile Richards for more than 20 years. I worked for her mother. I worked with her husband. Her dad – the world’s oldest practicing lawyer – and I have been, and remain, BFFs. Her oldest daughter Lily used to draw me pictures back in the day when she was a little girl, and those pictures lived on my refrigerator door and made me smile.

To sum it up, Cecile and I are acquainted.

Cecile, now the President of Planned Parenthood, showed any few remaining doubters last night that she lives in nobody’s shadow. She very articulately explained why women are, and should be, insulted by Republican efforts to go back on reproductive rights, economic or personal freedoms, and just by-God basic issues of fundamental respect. She laid out the case for the Democrats, and did it well.

I’ve spent my entire adult life being proud of, and fond of, folks in the Richards family. And I’ve never been more proud than after watching Cecile’s performance last night. Job well done, my friend.

 

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Democratic National Convention, day 1 recap

What the hell happened to the Democrats?

This wasn’t supposed to happen. Actually, I’m sure the Obama White House planned it all out, but I certainly didn’t expect the electric night to which Americans were treated last night.

There’s a good reason I chose not to attend the Democratic National Convention this year. It’s because of the 1996 convention in Chicago. Following up on the best time I ever had in politics, the 1992 convention in New York – President Clinton’s nominating convention – I was giddy as I disembarked the airplane to attend the 1996 convention four years later in Chicago – Clinton’s re-election convention. And I very promptly had the worst time I’d ever had in politics. Chicago was so utterly not-fun that subsequent National conventions were attended only hesitantly, until Obama’s nominating convention in Denver in 2008 – the other best time I ever had in politics.

I concluded from the 1996 experience that Democratic incumbent re-election conventions are dreary, and can never quite match the innocence and enthusiasm of the original nomination of a bright and shiny new Democratic object of our Democratic desires. 1992 and 2008 taught me that nominating conventions are like political porn. The 1996 experience taught me that re-election conventions are all about keeping the lid on it, approaching things timidly to avoid gaffe-inducing mistakes, and playing it safe to avoid giving the other side ammo. This all comes at the expense of any enthusiasm whatsoever, of course.

In that context, I ask again: what the hell happened to the Democrats? They broke the rules. They were full of passion. And spit. And vinegar. And…dare I say it…audacity.

Also, somebody lost the leash. My fellow Democrats know what I’m talking about – that unspoken public filter. The one that dictates that, while most Democrats are going to be for marriage equality, we’re going to keep that crazy talk out of prime time while company’s in the living room. That filter that encourages Democrats to support the notion that women’s choices should be their own, not the government’s – but that we’re only going to cleverly allude to it a few times, maybe, and otherwise speak about it only among consenting adults. And the health care reform filter, in which the lion’s share of Democrats absolutely know the President did the right thing, but also that the ferocity of the opposition might dictate a certain impoliteness in openly discussing how the President saved countless lives in doing it.

Aren’t we supposed to be the measured, boring ones? What of our long and proud history of walking confidently to the podium and explaining government to people, stuffing facts and statistics into the eardrums of America against their will and until we detect that they’ve lost the will to live?

Well there was none of that crap. Even the speakers not scheduled for primetime were electrifying. The Democrats were finally allowed to be who we are. The crowd in the hall loved it, and so will general election voters watching on TV, mulling over their choices in November.

Speaker-after-speaker, the unified message was bluntly clear: “Tea Party: take your voters; you can have ‘em. And we’ll welcome everybody else.”

Here’s how good it was: Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley was the weak link. And he’s supposed to be good. But he never had a chance, bookended all night by speakers full of passionate spit and vinegar.

The night’s winners? Everybody else. Newark Mayor Cory Booker electrified a crowd who hadn’t even planned to start paying attention for another hour or so. Ohio Governor Ted Strickland was outstanding.

But the night belonged to both Julian Castro and Michelle Obama. Castro, the least-known keynote speaker since Texas State Treasurer Ann Richards in 1988, became the most-loved keynote speaker since Ann Richards in 1988 – and that includes the convention speeches of a certain Governor of a small Southern state named Bill Clinton in 1988, and the convention keynote of an unknown guy named Barack-something in 2004.

Ms. Obama, in her performance last night, became the best-loved object in the solar system, easily passing up the Mars Rover in the first half of her speech. By the time she concluded her remarks, many Americans probably wished they were Barack Obama, if only because he gets to hang out with her more than anybody else.

Last night, the Democrats had one of the best nights in political convention history, and easily passed up the Republicans’ entire convention as if Romney’s crew had been screwing around changing a flat tire in the service lane. Americans watching the Republicans last week had to look hard for something to love. Those watching the Democrats last night had to look hard for something not to love.

But never fear, Republicans – we are Democrats. We are well-versed in snatching defeat from the jaws of victory. We still have two nights remaining to screw something up. But on the other hand, maybe Republicans should start worrying, because tonight is Bill Clinton’s night, and he’s been known to change worldwide opinion just by thinking about giving a speech. And Thursday night, it’s Obama’s turn – and after Michelle’s performance last night, he’ll have to bring his A-game just to avoid being called “the second smartest Obama.”

So basically, Republicans, you’re going to have to pin your hopes on Joe Biden. At least you’ve still got that going for you.

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Texas political leadership needs a Prozac prescription

Following yesterday’s primary run-off elections, it seems as good a time as any to review some of the reasons why your current state government might suck. Last night’s election results serve to amplify that suckage factor, and help focus in on why Texas is last or near-last in every people-oriented measure of importance.

To be blunt: your state government at the moment is really grumpy.

Here’s the run-down:

You have a Governor who made it very clear that he’d rather be in the White House than doing his current job. Yet, he’ll be expected to do it for another two years, for at least three reasons, one of which he usually can’t recall. Oops.

You have a Lt. Governor who made it very clear that he’d rather be in the U.S. Senate than doing his current job. Following his loss last night, he too will be expected to do a bit of Lt. Governing for another couple of years.

You have a state Attorney General who would rather be Governor, and a Comptroller, Agriculture Commissioner, and Land Commissioner who would each rather be Lt. Governor.

With the exception of House Speaker Joe Strauss, listed above is the entirety of the elected leadership of Texas government, and not one of them has much reason to be particularly focused on the job they were elected to do – they’re all focused on a job they don’t have, and in most cases, can’t get. They’re saying and doing the things they imagine might score them points for their future electoral goals, and if it’s not costing in the quality of their current jobs, that may just be coincidence or dumb luck. So far.

Meanwhile, you’re also stuck with a Texas Senate in which a third of the membership had conned themselves into believing that their colleagues might elevate them to the vacancy in the Lt. Governor’s office that now doesn’t exist, and a clear majority is clinically depressed this morning at the mere thought of another two years of Dewhurst occupying their principal’s office. And this dispirited bunch is supposed to be the serious deliberative body.

Thanks to one-Party rule and the war against the Republican Party waged by Republican tea party activists, they just had themselves a little primary election yesterday in which an incumbent who forces women to have invasive transvaginal sonograms against their will, and another incumbent who wanted to allow people to carry guns onto alcohol and hormone-infested college campuses, were turned out of office because they’re the liberal ones.

Republican legislators were challenged in high numbers from within their own political Party this year, and those who were still on a ballot last night probably lost, most resoundingly. How, in that atmosphere, are the surviving incumbent Republican legislators to be expected to make the tough decisions and take the tough votes that keep this state’s trains running on time, when their primary electorate is so utterly terrifying?

Whatever happened to state leadership which is focused on the jobs they were hired to do? Whatever happened to public officials who went about their daily jobs, without being terrified of the lunatic fringe primary election voters who have already deducted two strikes against any candidate who won the previous election, assuming that incumbency is a disease worthy of eradication?

Whatever happened to just doing your job?

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Weird campaign videos on parade (updated)

Everybody seems to be ripping on Herman Cain today over a really odd video featuring a guy smoking a cigarette and explaining why he supports Cain. So yeah, the guy’s smoking a cigarette. And he introduces himself as an employee on Cain’s campaign. I’m guessing most of Herman Cain’s staff, and a clear majority of his family, support Herman Cain.

The more I talk about it, the more odd it seems to me, and the more I want to join in the ripping of Herman Cain for the video.

Except that I’d already seen this video for Rick Perry.

Suddenly the Herman Cain “America needs a smoke break” video seems completely normal.

Update: now Colbert’s getting him some.

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Taking God’s name in pain

I’ve always strongly agreed with Voltaire’s theory that God is a comedian playing to an audience too afraid to laugh.  After all, how else would one explain the existence of giraffes, penguins, and East Texans?

It would also be a perfect explanation for the fact that four Republican candidates for President each claim that God told them to run. Against each other. On purpose.

Alternatively, I suspect it may have something to do with those Republicans hearing whatever they want to hear when it comes to God. I also suspect is has a lot to do with those folks being a lot more interested in talking to God, especially when there are people around watching them do it, than they are in listening to God.

I also note with interest that none of them claims God told them to win. God knows it’s not good to over-play a joke.

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Handicapping the Republican primary for U.S. Senate

David Dewhurst

Nothing new: I’ve said from the start that the nomination for the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by Kay Bailey Hutchison is Lt. Governor David Dewhurst’s to lose.

New: Dewhurst might just lose it.

Ted Cruz

Also running is former Texas Solicitor General Ted Cruz, who has shown what some have termed surprising spunk and strength in a race against the seasoned campaign winner and self-funding Dewhurst.

I’m not surprised. I first encountered Ted Cruz in Laredo in 2003. As the state Senate Democrats’ 46-day Albuquerque quorum break ended, they boarded a plane and went to Laredo to attend a hearing on the matter in Federal court. I accompanied them on the plane, and attended the hearing in the Laredo courtroom. Ted Cruz, then the Solicitor General, was the state’s lawyer in court that day. In other words – ironically – he was Dewhurst’s lawyer in the suit.

I have never seen a better courtroom performance, before or since. He was articulate, passionate, and flat-out out-lawyered the Democrats’ legal team. By the end of that hearing, not only was I convinced that Cruz had won the day (which he did), but he was so utterly great that I myself had serious doubts as to the merits of the Democrats’ suit. I’ve been a begrudging admirer of Cruz’ skills ever since.

Based on my observations in 2003 on a hot September day in Laredo, I know Cruz will be an articulate and passionate candidate. If and when the U.S. Senate candidates debate, Cruz will mop up the floor with ‘em all. And there’s little doubt that he will outwork Dewhurst in the campaign.

The Williams un-brothers – former Railroad Commission Michael, and former Secretary of State Roger – each started out in the U.S. Senate race, but quickly discovered that between Dewhurst and Cruz, there would be no oxygen left for either of them. They both jumped into a U.S. House race instead. State Senator Dan Patrick is a non-starter who won’t, and shouldn’t, run.

Railroad Commissioner Elizabeth Ames Jones remains in the race, but I don’t know why. She’s catching nobody on fire with her candidacy, and I expect that she will either quickly figure out that the air is thin and get out, or that she will stay, hoping that being the only woman in the race will mean something. In her case, it won’t translate to any support, and in this field she’ll come in last.

Tom Leppert

Former Dallas Mayor Tom Leppert, who also has the ability to self-fund, is the odd man out – seemingly a solid candidate in any other race, or at any other time. My guess is that he’ll stay in the race and end up being somebody’s spoiler.

But the real story will be Dewhurst versus Cruz. Dewhurst’s strength is his personal wealth, with which everybody expects him to self-fund the race. Cruz’ strength is…everything else.

Here’s why Cruz will win the nomination: there’s only so much love Dewhurst can buy with all his money, among a Republican primary electorate increasingly uncomfortable with him, for many reasons. Cruz’ passion and key endorsements will create enough funding for Cruz to stay in the game, and as long as a candidate that good is suited up and on the field, he’ll make the big plays and ultimately rack up the highest score.

Here’s why Cruz won’t win the nomination: nobody ever loved David Dewhurst in a political race, except all the voters. Dewhurst has never run a race in which he was taken very seriously by the press or by political insiders, and he’s never managed to over-work himself in a campaign. Yet, he always ends up winning his races anyway, overwhelming opposition with a blockade of paid TV ads which nobody can match, silencing his opposition.

I still think Dewhurst is the front-runner. It wouldn’t surprise me if he won. It also wouldn’t surprise me if he ultimately came in third, behind both Cruz and Leppert. Because whoever invented the pedestal probably invented it for the purpose of knocking candidates like David Dewhurst off of one.

With Cruz at his heels, Dewhurst is more vulnerable than many believe. What am I missing?

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Dear John Sharp:

Yes, I realize that your hopes and dreams of some day becoming a U.S. Senator from Texas may be over. Perhaps that’s why you allowed your domain name to expire.

Then again, perhaps you should have thought that through just another moment or two.

[h/t: MeanRachel]

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Crashing Peña’s Party

I almost decided not to weigh in on the contemplated party switch of South Texas state representative Aaron Peña. For starters, I couldn’t think of a decent pun for the headline.

“Republicans fix flat by letting the Aaron”

“Peña sees the Aaron his ways”

“Apparently, choosing a political party is a Peña the ass”

Nah. None of those headlines make the cut. But I’ll share some thoughts anyway, because this is pretty interesting stuff.

If Aaron Peña switched parties, it certainly wouldn’t be under the same political calculation as Chuck Hopson in East Texas.

Hopson, a Democratic East Texas House member who became a Republican last year, switched parties out of political necessity, and he turned out to be exactly right on that measure. His district had gone Republican around him, and his margins of victory were getting slimmer. After looking at the election results this time, there’s no doubt that if Hopson had remained a Democrat, he’d be a former House member by next month – there’s no way he would have won.

The math for Peña is different, both in his district and his county, which is heavily Hispanic. Those believing the hype that Hispanics are quickly trending Republican are reading exit polling instead of actual election results. Believing polls which depend on voters to accurately tell you what they did, versus believing election result analysis in which one can prove what they actually did, is dicey business. The fact is, while you can argue that Hispanics turn out in relatively low percentages in general elections, you cannot argue that they will soon be voting Republican in large percentages – they’re not. Peña represents a Democratic district, in a Democratic county, in a Democratic region. There’s no reason to believe he wouldn’t continue to win elections as a Democrat for as long as he wanted to serve.

I could make a pretty good case that one could draw Mr. Peña a Republican-leaning house district, even in that region – there is much more political diversity in Hidalgo County than many in Austin are aware. But drawing that district would make it extremely likely that Pena would face a stiff Republican primary challenge – one in which his ethnicity might be a liability instead of an asset, and in which his moderate voting record could be represented to primary voters as RINO-esque. He could lose in the primary, which is exactly what happened to Congressman Greg Laughlin in the coastal bend, in the first Republican primary after Laughlin switched parties.

And if Republicans are telling Peña that they’ll draw his district first, full of happy smiling Republicans for him to win with, they’re probably blowing smoke – there are already too many Republican incumbents in the House who will be scrambling to find every available Republican household to draw into too-many-districts. What Republican Redistricting Fairy is going to inform those other Republican incumbents that they won’t have a district to run in, because Aaron Peña, who has been a Republican for about ten minutes and has paid no dues, needs a district? This Republican Redistricting Fairy will undoubtedly patiently explain to other Republican incumbents that the Republicans in Peña’s district would have otherwise been stranded Republican households, trapped inside Democratic districts. The other Republicans, after being shown Lloyd Doggett’s hyper-gerrymandered fajita district of 2003, will know it’s not true, and will begin to suspect that the Redistricting Fairy just doesn’t know how to draw maps very well. I’d love to be a fly on the wall of that House Republican Caucus meeting.

So I have to conclude that if Peña is considering a switch, it is probably for ideological reasons – the same reason all party-switchers claim, but is hardly ever the truth. A conservative Democrat representing the border region, he may have a growing unease with what he perceives as an increasingly liberal Democratic establishment, and/or one which is tone deaf to the concerns of the border or Hispanic Texans.

We’ve all been there, buddy. It was probably between your 18th and 23rd birthdays. You were with that girlfriend you were getting tired of – the one who seemed like a great deal six months ago, but who eventually became annoying, shrill, and argumentative. Let’s face it: she was a bit of a nag. In fact, the only reason you got with her in the first place is because it’s what everybody expected you to do.

Remember the night you walked into that party with her (she’d probably been picking on you in the car ride), and there, standing on the other end of the room, was that brand new shiny hot exciting girl? The one who made you think “holy crap, I’d rather be with her!”

I bet she even gave you that “come on, baby – I’ll do things to you that she won’t do” look.

Problem is, once you move in with the new one, you discover that she’s absolutely insane – plus she’s a nag too, she just nags you about different stuff. Hanging out with the new one made you realize that the first one was…well, sane for starters. And all-around, not so bad. Maybe there was something to work with. But it’s too late – she moved on.

Bad analogy? You SO knew what you were getting into when you clicked into this site.

I’ve always been personally fond of Aaron Peña, and if he becomes a Republican I’ll be just as fond of him. The Republican Party, Democratic Party, Aaron Peña, Peña’s constituents, and the Texas House of Representatives – they’ll all be just fine no matter what decision he makes, or at least as fine as they were before this came up. But he certainly has some thinking to do.

But Aaron, take my word for it: the new girl may be hot, but she’s got some serious issues.

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Happy election day!

Ah, election day, the culmination of the months-long grueling hard work of thousands of campaign workers and volunteers, exhausted candidates for public office, millions of dollars of Bob Perry’s money, and a tuckered-out electorate tired of being lied to, but also thinking that the lies don’t sound half-bad to them.

Never fear, Texans, because by tomorrow, your network TV commercials will be back to that hysterically funny talking baby flacking for E-Trade, instead of ads about Diana Maldonado being absent, Bill White being wonky, Lloyd Doggett being Lloyd Doggetty, or Patrick Rose being a tax-and-spend liberal and/or shamelessly bashing immigrants, depending on who paid for the time slot.

Meanwhile, it’s not looking good for the home team across the nation, except for the good-natured attendees of the Comedy Central rally in D.C. last weekend. At least they made us laugh.

Here, courtesy of HuffPo, are my favorite signs from the rally.

Did you vote early, or will you vote today? Congratulations, you win.

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Indications that we are very near the end of civilization as we know it

Letters From Texas Worldwide Headquarters, Research and Development Division, has been working feverishly toward the next step in 21st century cutting edge blog technology, and we have every expectation that soon, we will be rolling out the latest new feature to enhance the blog-reading pleasure of you, the crap-reading public.

And by that of course I mean scratch-and-sniff blogging.

But we still have a couple of technical issues yet to work through, so until then, here’s the next best thing: scratch-and-sniff political mail.

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No-names in the news

A couple of endorsements went by yesterday which aren’t worth noting. But we here at Letters From Texas Worldwide Headquarters often note the un-notable.

First, Farouk Shami, who earlier this year garnered a massive Democratic primary vote encompassing the overwhelming majority of his own campaign staff, endorsed Republican Rick Perry yesterday. The endorsement wasn’t worth noting, even by us, until I saw this photo from the event.

When I saw the photo, I have the overwhelming feeling that I had seen that photo before. Then it hit me – I had indeed seen that exact photo before – it’s from the movie “Airplane”:

“Joey, do you like movies about gladiators?”

In other news regarding Democratic endorsements involving people who aren’t Democrats, a friend of mine received a postcard in the mail yesterday announcing Kinky Friedman’s endorsement for Democratic Supreme Court nominee Jim “NotSo” Sharp, who I’ve pointedly written about before:
If this is NotSo’s big winning message. that’s fine I guess, but I don’t see how he can do any better than his award-winning campaign website, which more accurately reflects every single reason a voter might be attracted to him.

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The ballad of 2010

[thanks to Juanita Jean]

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