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Kay Bailey Hutchison

Cornyn on shortlist to replace Comey

Interesting.

Big John Cornyn

U.S. Sen. John Cornyn is on the short list to succeed James Comey as FBI director, according to a White House official.

Cornyn is one of about 11 contenders for the post, according to Fox News.

He has strong relationships with members of his conference and would likely sail through confirmation. Prior to his election to the Senate in 2002, Cornyn served as Texas attorney general, a Texas Supreme Court justice and a local judge.

In the immediate aftermath of Comey’s firing, Cornyn did not take the opportunity to lobby for the position.

“I’m happy serving my state and my country,” he told reporters off the Senate floor.

But that comment came Wednesday, which was a lifetime ago during a dramatic week in Washington.

[…]

A Senate vacancy could make for dramatic change in the state’s political pecking order.

Gov. Greg Abbott would be tasked with a short-term appointment, but several months later the state would hold a special election to finish the duration of the term, which ends in 2021.

When Lloyd Bentsen resigned from the U.S. Senate to become Treasury Secretary in 1993, Gov. Ann Richards appointed former U.S. Rep. Bob Krueger, a Democrat, to hold the post until a special election could be held. That was a noisy affair with two dozen candidates — including a couple of sitting members of Congress at the time — that ended with Texas Treasurer Kay Bailey Hutchison beating Krueger in the special election runoff. She ran successfully for a full term the next year and remained in the U.S. Senate until the end of 2012.

As the story notes, the odds of this happening are quite slim, so anything we say here is highly speculative. But hey, isn’t that what a blog is for? The main thing I would note is the timing of a special election to complete Cornyn’s unexpired term. The special election in 1993 to succeed Lloyd Bentsen took place on May 1, 1993, which was the first uniform election date available after Bentsen resigned and Krueger was appointed. That means a special election to replace Cornyn – again, in the unlikely event this comes to pass – would then be in November of this year, with that person serving through 2020. The good news here is that it means that an elected official who isn’t subject to a resign-to-run law would be able to run for this seat without having to give up the seat they currently hold. I’m sure if we put our heads together, we can think of a sitting member of Congress who might be enticed to jump into such a race.

Two other points to note. One is that, at least according to the story, Abbott is not allowed to appoint himself. It’s not clear to me why that is so – the story references “precedent based in common law, not statute”, so I presume there was a lawsuit or maybe an AG opinion in there somewhere. I know I recall people urging Ann Richards to appoint herself in 1993, but it may be the case that she was not allowed to due to the same precedent. Someone with a more extensive understanding of Texas history will need to clarify here. Point two is that if Abbott names a sitting Republican officeholder, then there would of course be a special election to replace that person, either (most likely) this November for a member of Congress or next year for a statewide official. And yes, Abbott could appoint Dan Patrick, perhaps to take him out of any possible challenge to himself in 2018. Keep that in mind if your first instinct is to cheer a possible Cornyn departure. Like I said, all highly speculative, so have fun batting this around but don’t take any of it too seriously just yet.

Bathroom bills and business interests

Texas Monthly’s Dave Mann reviews the Republican schism over the bathroom bill and comes to the same conclusion as I have.

At the moment, the Legislature—and the Republican party, for that matter—has settled into an uneasy stalemate between Patrick’s right-leaning Senate and Straus’s more moderate coalition in the House. But, as they say, stalemates are made to be broken, and right now, Patrick’s faction seems likely to prevail eventually. It has the support of the most-devoted Republican primary voters, many of whom view moderation or compromise as surrender.

So business leaders and their Republican allies are in a precarious position. They still have a power base in the House, because Straus and his leadership team have fended off several challenges from the right, but he won’t be speaker forever. This session is his fifth leading the House, tying the record for longest-serving speaker with Pete Laney and Gib Lewis. Whenever he departs, Straus could well be replaced by a more conservative figure. So the talk among business Republicans in Austin’s bars and restaurants these days is about how they can reverse their losses and reclaim their party.

Well, good luck with that. The Republican grass roots aren’t going to moderate themselves, and it seems likely that business-friendly Republicans will continue to lose primaries, especially in statewide races. As long as that dynamic remains, the Republican party won’t be tilting back toward the middle anytime soon.

But there is another political party. Remember that one? It’s been stripped down and left to rust for the past two decades. But the Texas Democratic party is still there, waiting for someone to gas it up and take it for a spin.

That’s just what big-business interests should do. The TAB and any number of influential corporations could easily take over the party by recruiting and funding candidates to run as Democrats. It would be a homecoming of sorts; after all, years ago, before the state flipped to the GOP, business-friendly Republicans were conservative Democrats.

The problem with this idea is that Democrats can’t win in Texas at the moment. Sure, big business could take over the Democratic party, but what good would it do? Except the goal here isn’t to suddenly flip the state back to the Democrats. No, the goal would simply be to make Democrats somewhat more competitive, especially in statewide races. They don’t necessarily have to win, just get close enough to scare Republicans and perhaps nudge the GOP back toward moderation.

Republican primaries might turn out differently if there was the threat of a tight race in the general election—and that threat could be more credible in 2018 than it has been in years, with many pundits expecting the national mood to favor Democrats by then. Would Abbott strike a more moderate tone if he knew a well-funded pro-business Democrat was waiting for him in the 2018 general? Part of the business lobby’s problem with Patrick is that it has no way to threaten him. He’s untouchable in a Republican primary, and his general election campaigns have been cakewalks. But if, say, a conservative Democrat, backed by big-business money, opposed him in 2018, that might lead Patrick to moderate just a bit. Similarly, if the GOP once again nominated social conservatives with questionable credentials—like Attorney General Ken Paxton, currently under indictment, or Sid Miller, the agriculture commissioner famous for traveling out of state for his “Jesus shot”—for statewide offices, they’d at least have a challenging race in the fall. And just maybe the specter of a formidable Democratic opponent would lead to a more robust debate within the Republican party, rather than simply a mass rush to the right.

While I agree with Mann in the aggregate, there are several places where I disagree. For one thing, I don’t know what he means by a “conservative” Democrat, but I do know that Democratic primary voters aren’t going to be interested in that. Discussions like this often get bogged down in semantics and everyone’s personal definitions of words like “liberal” and “conservative”, but I think we can all agree that a Democratic candidate who is “conservative” (or just relatively “conservative” for a Democrat) in the social issues sense is going to be extremely controversial. It’s not like Democrats haven’t tried the approach of soft-pedaling such items in recent elections – see, for example, Wendy Davis’ muteness on abortion and her flipflop on open carry in 2014 – it’s just that there’s little to no evidence that it has helped them any. Maybe nothing could have helped them in those elections, but in the Trump era where everyone is fired up with the spirit of resistance, it’s really hard to see how this approach would do anything but piss people off.

I also dispute the assertion that the threat of a close race will make Republicans more likely to choose the less-extreme, more “electable” candidate in their primaries. For Exhibit A, see Kay Bailey Hutchison in the 2010 gubernatorial primary. Surely Bill White was a credible threat to them that year, but Rick Perry’s successful strategy was the exact opposite of striking a more “moderate” tone. The only thing that might convince Republican primary voters to try something different will be sustained electoral failure. To say the least, we are not there yet.

What I would recommend for Democrats like Mike Collier and Beto O’Rourke and whoever might emerge to challenge Greg Abbott and Ken Paxton is to approach the business community by reminding them that we already broadly agree on a number of core matters – quality public and higher education, better infrastructure, sanity on immigration, non-discrimination – and where we may disagree on things like taxes and regulations, the Lege will still be Republican. What you get with, say, a Democratic Lt. Governor is a hedge against self-inflicted stupidity of the SB6 and “sanctuary cities” variety. You will get someone who will listen to reason and who will be persuaded by evidence. From the business community’s perspective, this is a better deal than what they have now, and a better deal than any they’re likely to get in the near future. For there to be a chance for that to happen, it will take Democratic candidates that a fired-up base can and will support, plus the willingness of the business community to recognize the hand they’ve been dealt. The ball is in their court.

Empty benches

It would be nice to have some more federal judges here in Texas.

"Objection Overruled", by Charles Bragg

“Objection Overruled”, by Charles Bragg

Saying that Texas has more vacant federal judgeships than any other state, leaders from state and national liberal advocacy organizations on Monday called on U.S. Sens. Ted Cruz and John Cornyn to do more to fill the openings.

“The Republican senators go out of their way to prevent certain seats from being filled, hoping that a future Republican president will step in and fill them,” Janet Neuenschwander, coordinator of the National Council of Jewish Women, said Monday at a news conference addressing the vacancies. “You have got a circuit court of appeals heavily weighted in favor of Republicans. I can only assume that the two senators do not want to put any additional judges on that circuit to maintain the substantial advantage that they have on that circuit.”

There are seven Texas federal district court judgeships vacant and two Texas seats on the 5th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals. Seven of the vacant spots have been declared “judicial emergencies” by the Administrative Office of the United States Courts because of the length of the vacancies.

[…]

In April, Cruz and Cornyn established a Federal Judicial Evaluation Committee to collect nominations for the seats. “It is crucial that we ensure Texans have the best, most qualified judges and prosecutors defending their rights in court,” Cruz said in a news release on the commission.

The panel accepted applications throughout the summer but has yet to make any nominations. Some of the seats have been open for as long as five years.

According to a statement from Progress Texas, the vacant seats can have serious consequences for Texans trying to have their cases heard.

“When there are not enough judges, Texans can’t stand up for their rights in court,” the group’s statement said. “Delays can stretch from months into years. Memories can fade, witnesses can die, a nd families can be bankrupted.”

Lord knows, the slowrolled by Texas’ Senators on federal appointments since pretty much the beginning. It would be nice if government were allowed to function normally, but that’s not what Cruz and Cornyn were elected to do.

On missing KBH

I have four things to say about this.

Not Ted Cruz

Not Ted Cruz

Does anyone else miss Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison?

>We’re not sure how much difference one person could make in the toxic, chaotic, hyperpartisan atmosphere in Washington, but if we could choose just one it would be Hutchison, whose years of service in the Senate were marked by two things sorely lacking in her successor, Ted Cruz.

For one thing, Hutchison had an unswerving commitment to the highest and best interests of Texas at all times. This revealed itself in a thousand different ways. Hereabouts, we miss her advocacy for NASA, the Port of Houston and the energy industry. And we know she worked just as hard for Dallas, San Antonio and a hundred smaller Texas cities and towns.

And dare we say it? We miss her extraordinary understanding of the importance of reaching across the aisle when necessary. Neither sitting Texas senator has displayed that useful skill, and both the state and the Congress are the poorer for it.

One reason we particularly believe that Hutchison would make a difference in these hectic days is that if she had kept her seat, Cruz would not be in the Senate.

When we endorsed Ted Cruz in last November’s general election, we did so with many reservations and at least one specific recommendation – that he follow Hutchison’s example in his conduct as a senator.

Obviously, he has not done so. Cruz has been part of the problem in specific situations where Hutchison would have been part of the solution.

1. It’s nice to think that the Chron recognizes that its idiotic endorsement of Cruz was wrong. They sure are loathe to admit it, however much evidence there is that they blew it . I won’t be happy till they apologize for it. The problem wasn’t so much the endorsement itself as the reason for it. Their “recommendation” that Cruz be like KBH in the Senate was so laughably stupid you have to wonder if they’d been paying any attention at all to the Republican Senate primary. Whatever else you may say about Ted Cruz – and Lord knows, there’s plenty to say – he has been exactly who he has said he would be. I continue to be astonished that the Chron’s editorial board managed to delude itself into thinking otherwise, and that they continue to hold fast to their original opinion. Maybe it’s not an apology I want so much as for them to say exactly why they were so disastrously uninformed, and what they plan to do about it going forward.

2. While I certainly agree that KBH would not have led a push to shut down the government or breach the debt ceiling in a psychopathic and anti-Constitutional effort to nullify a perfectly legal law, I also don’t think she’d be anything but a loyal soldier for the opposition. She did serve in the Senate for four years under President Obama, and I challenge the Chron or anyone else to name a piece of legislation on which she broke ranks with her colleagues. It’s almost always the case when Republicans in DC have fought among themselves, the dispute isn’t about goals but about tactics. That would be the main difference between Senator KBH in 2013 and Senator Cruz.

3. The thing to watch for going forward is any sign that Texas’s Republican-backing business interests have recognized that Ted Cruz is part of the problem for them, too. So far, that doesn’t appear to be the case.

While we’re on the topic, we’d like to think our first choice to succeed Hutchison in the Senate, Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, would have been more amenable to following Hutchison’s example than Cruz has been. But these days, we’re not so sure.

4. On Sunday, Peggy Fikac wrote that if David Dewhurst were Senator today, the government shutdown would not have happened. On Monday, David Dewhurst called for President Obama’s impeachment. Coincidence? I think not. Dewhurst will do anything to avoid getting Cruz’ed again. The mere suggestion that he might be slightly less insane than the voters he’s desperately trying to court is toxic to him. John Coby, Texpatriate, and Juanita have more.

UPDATE: What Alex Pareene says.

The trend matters as much as the average

I would characterize this Politifact analysis as basically accurate but not particularly meaningful.

Republican consultant Karl Rove thinks Georgia Republicans need to be more like their Texas counterparts.

In a May 18 speech at Georgia’s GOP state convention, Rove said Republicans have “got to get outside of our comfort zone and go places Republicans are not comfortable going,” according to a transcript provided to us by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “And we’ve got to get candidates who represent the diversity of our country,” Rove said.

“Look, in Texas we get 40 percent of the Latino vote on average,” Rove said. “And that’s because every Republican is comfortable campaigning everywhere in Texas and because we go out of our way to recruit qualified Latino candidates and run them for office.”

Nationally in 2012, Barack Obama defeated Republican nominee Mitt Romney while enjoying substantial Latino support. Some 71 percent of Hispanic voters favored Obama, compared with 27 percent for Romney, according to voter exit polls undertaken for a consortium of news organizations.

We wondered about Rove’s 40-percent-in-Texas claim.

[…]

Mike Baselice, an Austin pollster who has counseled Rove, Perry and numerous Republican candidates, said in an October 2012 memo based on his firm’s Oct. 10-14 survey of 851 likely Texas voters that at that time, Obama had the support of 49 percent of the state’s Hispanic voters, with Romney at 40 percent. According to Baselice’s memo, Republican U.S. Senate nominee Ted Cruz was supported by 36 percent of Hispanic voters, while Democrat Paul Sadler had 40 percent.

The Politico story also mentioned a Texas poll taken on the eve of the November 2012 elections indicating Cruz had 35 percent of the state’s Hispanic vote, outpacing Romney, shown at 29 percent. The poll by Latino Decisions, a Seattle-based firm that specializes in Latino political opinion research, was based on 400 telephone interviews with Texas Latinos who had voted or were certain to vote. Its margin of error of plus or minus 4.9 percentage points suggests that Cruz, but not Romney, was on the verge of drawing 40 percent of the Texas Latino vote.

James Henson, director of the Politics Project in the Department of Government at the University of Texas, struck a cautionary note as we explored Rove’s claim. Any look at how Latino voters divide relies on extrapolation, Henson said, “since there is no direct measure for Latino voting.”

[…]

Upshot: The best a Republican fared with Texas Hispanics in the elections was Kay Bailey Hutchison when she drew half the Hispanic vote in 2000, by one analysis. The same year, Bush got 49 percent in his first run for president, according to that year’s exit polls taken for news organizations, or 33 percent, according to a poll by the William C. Velásquez Institute. Bush also drew 49 percent in 2004, according to the national exit poll.

The worst any Republican fared among Texas Hispanics was Romney’s election eve 29 percent, according to the Latino Decisions poll.

Considering every result except the one for Perry in 2006 (when he faced multiple challengers) delivers an average of 39 percent of the Hispanic vote for Republicans at or near the top of the tickets. We also averaged the poll showings for each election year, reaching an across-the-years average of 40 percent. Trying another tack, we counted only the polled results for nonpresidential candidates, also landing at 40 percent.

There are two basic issues here. One is that whatever polling can tell us, it’s not the only data we have available to us. We also have election returns, and while that doesn’t tell us how many Latinos there were voting and how specifically they did, we can get a pretty decent estimate. As it happens, I did look at Presidential voting in the heavily Latino State Rep districts recently, and the totals for Mitt Romney ranged from 21.8% to 34.1% – actually, Romney went all the way up to 37.3%, as I just realized I missed HD31 when I compiled that list – which needless to say suggests he fell well short of 40%, as we’ve basically known all along. In fact, it’s likely the case that he did even worse in these districts than the numbers given suggest, since some of the voters there were Anglo, and I think it’s safe to say he got more support those voters. As for Baselice, as far as I know he never released the data of his poll, which claimed that “Romney did 12 to 15 points better among Latinos in Texas than in California”, not specifically that Latinos voted 40% for Romney. I’m always extra skeptical of polls whose data I can’t see, especially when they come from the same guy who claimed just before the GOP Senate primary runoff last year that David Dewhurst was going to beat Ted Cruz.

I should note that there were other polls in Texas besides the two mentioned by PolitiFact. The Wilson Perkins poll had Romney at 32% among Latinos; the Lyceum poll had him at 32.5% among Latinos; and the last YouGov poll had Romney at 40% among Latinos. So that’s three out of four polls that publicly released their data showing Romney no higher than 33%, while one poll that did release its data and one poll that didn’t had him at 40.

Getting back to my point about actual election returns, sure there are plenty of Latino voters in places other than those specific districts, but these are the districts where SSVR is over 70%, which gives some assurance that the actual vote totals and the Latino vote totals will be similar. It’s an estimate, like polls are estimates, and in this case it gives some idea of what the upper bound of Romney support from Latinos in Texas likely was. Again, that would put it significantly below 40%.

OK, but Rove was talking about Latino support on the average. That’s all well and good, and for all I know his statement may be perfectly accurate, but how much does the data from the 2000 election really tell you? Texas is a very different place now than it was back then. It would be equally accurate to say that over the 2000-2012 time frame, Texas Democrats averaged two members of Congress from predominantly Republican rural districts. Of course, nearly all of those members of Congress were elected in 2000 and 2002, and the last one was elected in 2008, but the math still works. The point here is that while averages are useful, so are trend lines. Latino support for Republicans is lower now than it was in 2000, or 2004, and it’s likely to stay at those lower levels, at least for the time being. Surely, the high profile opposition to immigration reform among the entire Texas Republican Congressional caucus isn’t going to help their cause here. If the next couple of elections go like the last few have been, it will be about as accurate to talk about Republicans winning 40% of the Latino vote as it is now to talk about Democrats winning 40% of the East Texas vote.

Reed for AG?

This is one of the stranger “draft somebody” movements I’ve seen.

Susan Reed

A movement has been building among local Republicans over the past few months to encourage Susan Reed to run for state attorney general in 2014.

Reed, the hard-nosed, four-term Bexar County district attorney, would be the first female AG in the state’s history, a historic point that some of her supporters have used to coax her to run, according to GOP sources.

Reed concedes that she’s been getting phone calls about the attorney general’s race, including a couple from “leading [Republican] party elected people.” While she declined to name the officials, one source told me that Reed backers have enlisted U.S. Sen. John Cornyn and former U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison to persuade Reed.

This under-the-radar draft-Reed effort has been operating on two tracks, with a shared objective but differing motives.

The dominant group is composed of ardent Reed fans, who think her reputation as a prosecutorial pit bull would make her a dynamic AG candidate.

A smaller group has tired of Reed’s act and would like her to seek higher office at least partly because it would give new candidates an opening for the office that she has controlled for nearly a generation.

Whatever works, I guess. Reed, understandably, isn’t committing to anything as yet. She’s not going to run against Greg Abbott, she’ll only consider it if Abbott leaves to run for Governor or something else. Of course, she’s not the only person who would consider it – State Rep. Dan Branch, who had eyed the office in 2010, has already expressed his interest in it this time. While Reed would have history on her side, Branch has a more tangible advantage: As of January, he had over $2.5 million in the bank, compared to $126K for Reed. The battle doesn’t always go to the strong nor the race to the better funded, but that’s usually the safe bet.

One more thing to note is that Reed would be up for re-election in 2014, so this is an either-or choice for her. Here are the percentages for her previous four elections:

2010 53.84%
2006 60.57%
2002 unopposed
1998 57.18%

She easily outpaced the field in 2006 but was just slightly above average for Republicans in Bexar County in 2010. It’s not out of the question she could lose a bid for a fifth term, given the partisan trends in Bexar County. I doubt that will factor much into her consideration, but there it is anyway. Texpatriate has more.

News flash: Ted Cruz is not KBH

I know, I’m as shocked as you are.

Not Ted Cruz

For nearly two decades, Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison delivered thousands of federal projects to Texas that added billions of dollars to the state’s economy.

The leader of a bipartisan approach known as “Team Texas,” Hutchison worked with Democrats and Republicans to send federal dollars to Texas, even if it occasionally got her in trouble with spending hawks in her party.

Now, in Hutchison’s absence, Texans in Washington are struggling to come up with a unified strategy to return Texas taxpayers’ dollars to the Lone Star State.

“On appropriations, she was just relentless,” said Rep. John Culberson, R-Houston. “We’re certainly going to miss her. We haven’t seen the full impact of Sen. Hutchison’s departure.”

Complicating matters for Texas is that Hutchison, a specialist in back-room negotiations and bipartisan relationship-building, was replaced by Ted Cruz, a hard-charging partisan who has focused primarily on high-profile national issues such as guns, abortion and health care.

He also has vowed to balance the federal budget by cutting government spending, even in his home state.

“The departure of Sen. Hutchison, the ascendancy of Cruz as a national leader and the current budget crunch all combine to form a perfect storm that will result in less money coming back to Texas for the foreseeable future,” said Matt Mackowiak, a Republican political strategist and former aide to Hutchison.

Members of the congressional delegation, business leaders and Texas academics say the most endangered projects include federal spending on education, health care and transportation, in which the end of earmarks has shifted decision-making power over spending to officials of the Obama administration.

“Texas conservatives, in both the House and Senate, seem not to realize that you cannot both be the core of the opposition to administration programs and the frequent beneficiary of administration largesse,” said Cal Jillson, a political science professor at Southern Methodist University.

In other news, water is wet, the sun rises in the east, and hitting yourself on the head with a hammer causes headaches. Ted Cruz is doing what he said he would do. If we don’t like it, it’s on us to do something about it in 2018. I don’t think there’s anything more I can add to this.

Trib poll shows Perry leading Abbott

Make of this what you will.

Gov. Rick Perry would defeat Attorney General Greg Abbott by a nearly 3-to-1 margin if a Republican gubernatorial primary were held today, according to the latest University of Texas/Texas Tribune Poll.

Such a contest might never come: Neither man has declared for that 2014 race, with each saying he will wait until June or later to make a public announcement of his political plans. Perry recently said they have talked and that Abbott wouldn’t run if the governor sought re-election. But just as the 2010 election year was preceded by speculation of a contest between Perry and Kay Bailey Hutchison, will-they-or-won’t-they talk about Perry and Abbott has become an unavoidable subject in the state’s political parlors.

Among all voters, Perry would get 27 percent to Abbott’s 14 percent, with another 28 percent saying they haven’t thought about it enough to have an opinion and the rest saying they don’t vote in Republican primaries. Among respondents who identified themselves as Republicans, Perry got 49 percent to Abbott’s 17 percent, with 31 percent saying they have no opinion.

“There’s a little bit of good news for everybody here,” said Daron Shaw, co-director of the UT/TT Poll and a government professor at the University of Texas at Austin. “For an incumbent who has been in office for a long time and who is coming off a really problematic run for president, these numbers are pretty good.

“Abbott has a lot of room to grow,” Shaw said. “If you look at the people who don’t want to vote for Perry or who want to wait and see, Abbott’s numbers are very high with those people.”

[…]

“A lot of people don’t know who he is, but those who do are overwhelmingly positive,” said Jim Henson, co-director of the survey and head of the Texas Politics Project at UT-Austin. “If you know about Greg Abbott right now and you have an opinion, it’s generally positive. That’s a huge advantage.”

A contest between the governor and the attorney general would probably start with a race between the candidates to describe Abbott to the voters who don’t know him. Perry, meanwhile, could be forced to fend off a challenge of the kind he used to sink Hutchison and that Ted Cruz used to sink David Dewhurst in last year’s GOP primary for U.S. Senate — challenges based in part on long service in government and legislative records not shared by Cruz and Perry, the ultimate winners in those contests.

Still, Perry has been in the top job for a dozen years, and some indicators of his political health are strong.

“He’s still popular among the Republican base. He has high favorables among Republicans,” Henson said. “And the people that like him are still willing to vote for him.”

More details here, and the full poll results are here. You may notice that the very first question they ask is “If Rick Perry were to run for governor again in 2014, would you vote for him, would you vote against him, or would you need to wait and see who is running against him?”, and only 26% say they would vote for Perry, with 36% saying “vote against” and 33% saying “wait and see”. I wouldn’t make anything of that for primary purposes, since the respondents to that question include all of the Democrats in this sample. They didn’t include any test matchups for November in their poll, so go back and review that PPP poll if you want to play the speculation game.

Beyond all that, I just have a hard time believing Rick Perry is going to walk away and hand off the power he’s hoarded over the years without a fight. I don’t claim any special insight, and I’m well aware of the chatter about Perry and Abbott. I’m just saying that my own personal read of Rick Perry’s character is that he’s not the type to gracefully step aside. If he does, I feel confident that he’ll be getting something tangible out of it. One could argue that if he really is thinking about another run for President, he needs to run for Governor again to prove that he still has it with Republican primary voters after his disastrous 2012 campaign. But that only does him good if he wins, and there’s no guarantee of that. He’ll let us know what he plans to do when he’s damn good and ready, and until then we’ll just have to wait. Burka has more.

On bringing home the “bacon”

Ted Cruz doesn’t do bacon.

Not this Bacon, either

Texas’ new U.S. senator-elect, Ted Cruz, has repeatedly taken a cautious approach when asked about how he’ll fill Kay Bailey Hutchison’s shoes when it comes to Texas’ share of federal funding.

Cruz said while campaigning that he’ll work to see Texas gets a fair portion of “legitimate and important” federal spending but added, “I have yet to talk to a single voter who says the problem in Washington is that our elected officials are not bringing enough bacon home. I think if you get 435 members of Congress and all 100 members of the U.S. Senate viewing their job as just feeding at the trough… that is how you bankrupt the country.”

Voters may not specifically clamor for bringing home the bacon, but when military base realignment happens or a program like NASA faces challenges, federal funding can affect their jobs and Texas’ economy.

[…]

Rice University political scientist Mark P. Jones notes that Hutchison vigorously took on the task of protecting Texas’ interests, while U.S. Sen. John Cornyn has “focused much more on internal Senate politics.”

“Who, if anyone, is going to pick up that slack?” Jones asked. “And if no one does, will that lead to a reduction in defense spending and therefore an adverse impact on the economies of places like San Antonio, El Paso, Killeen, Texarkana?”

Well, okay, Cruz does believe in “legitimate” bacon, whatever that means to him. I have no idea how Cruz intends to balance his ideological zeal with the “legitimate” needs of Texas and its residents – frankly, I’m quite certain he doesn’t see this as a potential conflict – but I guess we’ll find out. I put the over/under on the publication date of the first story of local officials and/or business interests lamenting how things have changed since KBH’s retirement at June 30. What do you think?

Endorsement watch: DMN for Sadler

It’s a strange endorsement, at least from my perspective, but it’ll do.

Paul Sadler

Texans face a decision in this election that has come before them only twice over the last four decades: How to fill a Senate seat that has carried with it a proud lineage of service to the state and nation.

Republican Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison is stepping down after almost 20 years in Washington, where she made it a top priority to look out for Texans’ national, state and even personal needs. She first won her post in 1993, succeeding Democrat Lloyd Bentsen, who served for 22 years. Like Hutchison, he provided consistent constituent aid as well as leadership on national and state matters.

The committed work of these two bipartisan leaders to their state creates an impressive, demanding legacy for their successor. Recommending the right candidate to follow in the Hutchison-Bentsen tradition is a responsibility this newspaper takes seriously. That’s why we’ve interviewed both candidates multiple times, examined their public careers, reviewed their answers to our questionnaire, spoken with others who know them well and followed their activities on the campaign trail.

After that thorough examination, we believe Democrat Paul Sadler, 57, is the best person to uphold this legacy of service to Texas and to keep our state relevant where it matters most.

[…]

Sadler also is more in tune with our state’s needs. The moderate Democrat speaks knowledgeably about water challenges, the border and defense facilities. He has praised Hutchison for Texas-specific efforts, such as helping El Paso secure a water desalination facility.

Cruz says he’ll fight for Texas projects “if it’s legitimate expenditures.” When asked to elaborate, he didn’t mention specifics beyond assuring that Washington properly funds “roads, freeways and ports.” He’s more focused on interpreting constitutional principles and applying them generally.

The Republican candidate has gained nationwide attention for articulating his beliefs. Since capturing the nomination, the Houston attorney has appeared on numerous talk shows and addressed the GOP convention. If he wins, he will be a rising star in national Republican politics. This newspaper is left with the feeling that he is pushing his personal star more than the star of Texas.

It’s a bit of a surreal experience reading this editorial, as the DMN comes from the perspective of a bizarro fantasy world in which President Obama is an unbending partisan warrior and the biggest problem in Washington is a lack of good manners. Whatever it is they’re smoking, it’s premium stuff. Still, I’ll take the DMN’s delusions over those of the Chron, who seem to think that after arriving in Washington Cruz will shed his ideological trappings and morph into the second coming of Kay Bailey Hutchison. It was exactly the belief that Cruz is unlikely to do so that led the DMN to join the Express News in making the pragmatic choice of Sadler. At least, the Chron is hoping Cruz will morph into KBH; it’s not clear to me that they actually believe it. The Chron also cites Sadler’s lack of financial resources as a reason for picking Cruz, which is just sad on so many levels. Anyway, that makes the endorsement scoreboard 2-1 in Sadler’s favor for now, with the Statesman and the Star-Telegram still to go.

Some coverage for Sadler

It’s a start.

Paul Sadler

The Tea Party has toppled another mainstream Republican, this time in Texas. Lost in much of the coverage of the primary contest between Houston attorney Ted Cruz and Lieutenant Governor David Dewhurst was the November general election, which will feature a real, live Democrat. The assumption behind the media oversight, of course, is that with Texas about the reddest of the crimson states, a Democrat running for national office had better just do it as cheaply and as graciously as possible before his inevitable loss, given the party’s 18-year losing record in elections for statewide offices.

Paul Sadler, the oilman’s son who is opposing Cruz in November, wants to hear none of that talk. “It’s not as long-shot as people think,” Sadler said Wednesday from his office in Austin, the day after his own primary victory. “My phone has been ringing off the hook. A lot of those calls were from Republicans and independents saying, ‘We’re not going there,’ and there are a lot of them.” “There” being the Tea Party.

We know it’s possible for Democrats running statewide to attract Republican votes. We know this because two years ago Bill White got between 200,000 and 400,000 votes from people who otherwise mostly or exclusively voted Republican. Had the last gubernatorial election been in 2008 instead of the debacle that was 2010, Rick Perry would be just another idiot Fox News correspondent today. How Sadler communicates to these people – how he lets the Kay Bailey Hutchison wing of the state GOP in on the fact that he has a lot more in common with KBH than a conspiracy theorist like Ted Cruz does – without any money and in such a way that it does not cause base Democratic voters to revolt is a question I can’t answer. But if he can do that then yes, I think there’s the potential for a more competitive race than anyone would have you believe.

Culberson’s Univesity Line attack makes it through the House

Great.

It's all on KBH now

Advocates of federally subsidized expansion of the Houston Metro light rail system lost a crucial round to Houston Congressman John Culberson on Friday, leaving dwindling opportunities to overturn spending restrictions on the Richmond Avenue project.

The House adopted a $51.6 billion spending measure on a 261-163 vote that included Culberson’s ban on federal spending for any Metro expansion along Richmond Avenue and Post Oak Boulevard. The measure also requires an in-depth audit of the Metropolitan Transit Authority of Harris County by the inspector general of the Department of Transportation.

In a boost for Metro, the spending package included $200 million in 2013 to support continued work on the lines in the North Corridor and Southeast Corridor.

[…]

The House vote left Metro supporters holding their fire and looking to deliberations by a House-Senate conference committee later this year to make the final decision on a ban included in the House bill but not included in the Senate version.

“We will await the outcome of the normal process in the House and Senate,” said Metro Chairman Gilbert Garcia. “We remain hopeful that Congress will respect the wishes of local voters on local issues, as is normally the case.”

Robin Holzer, of the pro-Metro Citizens Transportation Coalition, said voters and civic organizations have voiced strong support for light rail construction along both Richmond Avenue and Post Oak Boulevard.

“Culberson is pandering to a handful of his supporters at the long-term expense of this district,” Holzer said. “Marketing himself as “Letting Texans run Texas,” while pushing his personal anti-rail agenda in Washington is ironic.”

Retiring Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, R-Texas, a member of the powerful Senate Appropriations Committee, will be squarely in the middle of any House-Senate negotiations on Culberson’s spending restriction.

Point of clarification here, the CTC is pro-transit, not pro-Metro. If you don’t get the distinction, go look up some of the things Metro was doing when Frank Wilson was CEO. Despite Culberson loading up KBH’s office with his baloney about Metro and rail expansion, I think there’s a decent chance that KBH will do the right thing. But now would be a very good time to contact her office and let her know that she needs to step up and support transit in Houston. Call 713 653 3456 or 202 224 5922, send email from here, write on her Facebook wall, or send her a tweet. Be nice, be respectful, and be clear.

Long term, the only solution is to elect a new member of Congress. To that end, it would be nice if the two Democratic contenders for the nomination in CD07 could take a few minutes out of their busy schedule of sniping at each other and maybe put out a press release on this or something. It would also be nice if the business interests in Greenway Plaza that support the University Line would say something about this. Barring a significant change in the Congressional map resulting from the DC Court’s long-awaited ruling on redistricting, the best chance of getting an upgrade in CD07 is going to be in the Republican primary. That’s not going to happen as long as these folks refuse to rock the boat. Until we all get on the same page here, Culberson will continue his crusade to nullify the 2003 referendum and ensure Houston is unable to move forward as a competitive 21st century city.

Don’t talk about 2014!

Greg Abbott continues to not talk about his burning desire to be Governor.

Still not Greg Abbott

When it comes to his political ambitions, Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott is playing coy.

During a campaign stop Tuesday in Helotes, where he endorsed Republican state Rep. John Garza, Abbott again refused to offer any details about his next step — a question that has followed him for months.

“I am working to sue the federal government and protect Texans, and I’m not running for anything right now,” Abbott said. “I’ve got a full-time job, and I don’t have time to be focusing on running.”

Mm hmm. I will admit, he does have a lot on his plate, what with getting bench-slapped all over the place. But we all know the reason why he’s not talking about running for Governor, and that’s because he fears that any sudden move will spook Rick Perry into running for re-election again. Abbott’s hoping that Perry will finally abdicate the throne so he can have it. Ask Kay Bailey Hutchison how well that strategy works.

Speaking of KBH, as you know I chose a theme song for her to celebrate her endless public dithering about when and if she should step down from the Senate:

Good times, good times. I’m thinking that the way this is going Abbott’s going to need one as well, but I can’t think of anything that’s as obviously fitting as the Clash’s classic. I have picked a mascot, as you can see above, but I feel like this deserves musical accompaniment. So let me throw this out for suggestions: What do you think is Greg Abbott’s “I want to run for Governor if Rick Perry will let me” theme song? Bonus points for pointing to a video as well.

There’s no point trying to guess what Rick Perry is going to do

Rick Perry does not play by your puny rules. He is not constrained by logic, the greater good, or a sense of shame. If you’re an ambitious Republican politician hoping to move up the food chain, you have two choices: Play by his rules and hope that things work out for you, or don’t play by his rules and be prepared to be hung as a lion and not a lamb.

To whack or not to whack?

Lobbyists and friends who know Perry say he is telling associates that he plans to run in 2014, which could give him 18 years in the governor’s office. He has also publicly held the door open to another presidential run in 2016. On Wednesday Perry told CBS DFW TV that he was thinking about another White House bid and that his “instincts are very positive towards” a race for governor in two years.

“Everybody who I’ve talked to that’s met with him comes away with the idea that he’s running [for re-election],” said Austin lobbyist Bill Miller. “That’s what he’s telling them.”

Is it all a ruse? Some observers believe that Perry merely wants to avoid being written off as a has-been, that he wants to be taken seriously when Texas lawmakers meet again next year.

“I think he is re-engaging to make sure he is a player in the upcoming legislative session,” said Cal Jillson, a political scientist at Southern Methodist University. “It’s a good way to remain in the public eye after taking such a beating in the presidential election.”

[…]

For a whole bevy of Republican officeholders, guessing what Perry will do next goes beyond idle political speculation. It could have a major impact on their own futures. GOP state officials like Attorney General Greg Abbott, Comptroller Susan Combs, Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson and Agriculture Commissioner Todd Staples (plus all the people who want to replace them) have been itching to move up. Without a vacancy at the top, they potentially face bruising primaries or career stagnation.

Abbott in particular has a lot riding on Perry’s next move. He had $12 million in the bank at last count and is widely considered the top GOP contender for governor if Perry is not in the picture.

Allies of both men — and they tend to swim in the same political waters — say Abbott’s strategy is to give Perry a wide berth. They say Abbott wants to avoid backing Perry into a corner, for fear that doing so could push the easily provoked West Texan into making a rash re-election announcement.

Waiting to see what Rick will do is the KBH strategy. We all know how that turns out. Besides, if Abbott thinks Perry is unhinged enough to make a decision about running based on emotion and not wanting to feel backed into a corner, why wouldn’t he want to goad him into doing something he might regret? Why not make him decide on your terms instead of letting him dictate them? I don’t see how that’s worse than letting him remain comfortable for as long as he wants.

The Congressional Geezer Caucus

The DMN notices that a sizable portion of Texas’ Congressional delegation is, um, old.

Of the most populous states, Texas has the oldest congressional delegation, averaging nearly 63 years old, while the average for Congress as a whole is about 58.

North Texas accounts for a big slice of that, paced by Hall, a Republican who is the House’s oldest member; Rep. Sam Johnson, 81, R-Plano ; Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson, 76, D-Dallas; Rep. Kay Granger, 69, R-Fort Worth; and GOP Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, 68, of Dallas.

It’s a record of longevity, solidified by one-sided districts, smart hometown politics and relatively satisfied voters who don’t often kick out incumbents.

That the state sends an older group to Congress is especially striking because Texas has the nation’s second-youngest population, with a median age of 33.6.

[…]

Moving forward, it doesn’t seem likely that the Texas delegation will get much younger any time soon.

Most of the older representatives are in safe seats. And several of the more prominent members — including Sen. John Cornyn, and Dallas Reps. Jeb Hensarling and Pete Sessions — are only in their mid-50s to early 60s — prime years by congressional standards.

Still, the 2012 races may knock Texas off the top of the gray-hair rankings, because it is gaining four new House seats, giving the state 36.

And three of its oldest members — Paul, Hutchison and Rep. Charlie Gonzalez, 66, of San Antonio — are not seeking re-election, although the front-runner for Hutchison’s seat, Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, would be 67 if he wins.

Being in a safe seat makes partisan turnover unlikely, but it does nothing to protect an incumbent from a primary challenge. Take a look at the list of Teaxs’ oldest Congressional members, included at the end of the story:

AT A GLANCE: Oldest Texans in Congress

Rep. Ralph Hall, 88, R-Rockwall
Rep. Sam Johnson, 81, R-Plano
Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson, 76, D-Dallas
Rep. Ron Paul, 76, R-Lake Jackson
Rep. Rubén Hinojosa, 71, D-Mercedes
Rep. John Carter, 70, R-Round Rock
Rep. Kay Granger, 69, R-Fort Worth
Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, 68, R-Dallas
Rep. Silvestre Reyes, 67, D-El Paso
Rep. Charlie Gonzalez, 66, D-San Antonio

As noted, Paul, KBH, and Gonzalez are retiring. As with KBH and Dewhurst, the leading contender for Paul’s seat, Nick Lampson, is someone who won’t bring the average age down that much. But with Joaquin Castro set to step in for Gonzalez, there’s at least some movement in the youth direction.

What the story did not note was that every single non-retiring incumbent on that list has at least one primary challenger. Two of them, Reps. Reyes and EB Johnson, have challengers who have a big money PAC supporting them; the challengers in those cases, Beto O’Rourke and Taj Clayton, are both 40 and under. You can see who the Democratic challengers are here, and who the Republicans are here. I don’t know anything about these folks, including how old they are, and a quick check on the FEC campaign finance reports page suggests that none of the others have any juice, but you never know. There’s more potential for change now than you might think, and projecting forward I’d say it’s a safe bet that the delegation will look a lot different after the 2021 reapportionment and the 2022 election that follows it.

Abbott is the new KBH

Will he take on the boss?

I don’t know how you can write an entire story about Greg Abbott’s political ambitions without stopping to ask the basic question about whether he’ll need to take Rick Perry out in a primary to get what he wants, but Nolan Hicks managed it. Look, you may not believe Rick Perry when he says he’s going to run for Governor again in 2014. Some people think he’s positioning himself for another Presidential run in 2016, some people think he’s just bluffing so the Lege won’t treat him as a lame duck next year, some people think he means it. Four years ago, everyone thought Kay Bailey Hutchison was going to have a clear path to the Governor’s mansion. We know how that turned out. The question I’m asking is what happens if Perry isn’t bluffing? Does Abbott take him on in a bloody, multi-million dollar primary, or does he continue to be the loyal consigliere and stay put as AG, filing lawsuits against the federal government every time the President sneezes? Unlike KBH, Abbott is very much like Perry in how he conducts his business, and as the story notes he has been working hard to appeal to the same fanatical dead-enders in the GOP primary base that Perry counts on. It wasn’t that hard to see how the 2010 primary would play out, but we don’t have a blueprint for 2014 if Abbott and Perry go head to head. Writing a story about how Greg Abbott hates the federal government as much as Rick Perry does – as long as there’s a Democratic President, of course – is easy. Writing a story about what happens if the two of them decide they want the same thing, that’s what I want to see.

On a side note, I thought this quote was precious:

One of the driving forces in Austin promoting this renewed emphasis on states’ rights is the Texas Public Policy Foundation, an Austin-based think tank that has deep ties to Perry and prominent Republican donors.

“The tyranny of the majority is great so long as (it is) embracing policies that you like,” said Mario Loyola of the foundation. “But when it goes against you, and you realize that you have nothing to protect you from the tyranny of the majority because the federal courts don’t enforce the Constitution anymore against the [state] government, then when that goes against you, you’ll realize why some of us are so unhappy about what [Perry] is doing now.”

I edited the quote slightly to make a point. I’m never sure if these guys simply forget the reason why there was a federal Civil Rights Act passed in 1964, or if they just hope the rest of us are too stupid to remember why that legislation was needed.

Patterson to run for Lite Guv

With Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst running for the Senate, everyone else in state government that’s been waiting for a chance to move up is undoubtedly making plans to do so. At the front of the line is Lanc Commissioner Jerry Patterson.

Jerry Patterson confirmed Tuesday night that he will run for lieutenant governor in 2014, making that announcement just hours after Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst said he’ll run for U.S. Senate in 2012.

Patterson, a former state senator, followed Dewhurst as Land Commissioner and wants to follow him again. Other Republicans have expressed interest in the post, including Comptroller Susan Combs and Agriculture Commissioner Todd Staples.

Click over to see Patterson’s statement. Obviously, there is no guarantee that Dewhurst will be successful in his Senate campaign. I think everyone would agree that his odds of defeat are likely to be greater in the primary than in the general, but the point is that there is a non-zero chance that David Dewhurst will not be taking the oath of office in the nation’s capital in 2013. If that happens, who can say for sure what he’ll do next? We were supposed to have a special election for KBH’s Senate seat some time last year, after all. Would Dewhurst want to stay on as Lite Guv if he loses next year? In particular, would he want to run for Lite Guv again in 2014? Admittedly, it’s hard to imagine, but stranger things have happened. I’d do the same as Patterson if I were in his position, but in the back of my mind I’d be a little concerned that this might not wind up being a primary for an open seat. You just never know. By the way, Todd Staples appears to be in, too. So’s Rep. Dan Branch, who would have the distinction of not currently being a statewide office holder.

Another way of looking at this is that we could have a very different state leadership in 2015 than we did this year, much as the leadership in 2003 differed greatly from that of 1999. Everyone knows that Greg Abbott wants to run for Governor; if one way or another this is Rick Perry’s last term in office, given all of the known and projected campaign activity it could be that the only current statewide non-judicial incumbent still in the same office in 2015 will be Railroad Commissioner David Porter. It’s usually foolish to make statements about an election this far in advance, but it’s quite clear that 2014 is going to be a change election in this state. Anyone even remotely thinking about running that year – and not just at the state level – should be thinking about it in those terms.

Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez

In case you haven’t heard, national Democrats may have found a Senate candidate for next year.

Democrats appear to have recruited retired Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez to run for the U.S. Senate in Texas, setting the stage for the party to field a well-known candidate in the 2012 race to replace retiring Republican Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison.

Former Texas Lt. Gov. Ben Barnes, a Democrat, confirmed that Democratic Senate campaign chief Patty Murray, D-Wash., was referring to Sanchez on Thursday when she said Democrats were close to announcing a candidate in Texas.

Sanchez, reached by phone at his San Antonio home, asked where the reports of a Senate run came from and then said, “I can neither confirm nor deny.”

Sanchez, the former top military commander in Iraq who was left under a cloud from the Abu Ghraib prison scandal, would not discuss the Senate race. But he did respond to questions about his career and political philosophy.

“I would describe myself as during my military career as supporting the president and the Constitution,” Sanchez said. “After the military, I decided that socially, I’m a progressive, a fiscal conservative and a strong supporter, obviously, of national defense.”

Sanchez, a Rio Grande City native, said he was shaped by his upbringing.

“It’s my views and my history, having grown up in South Texas, depending on social programs and assistance, that America has a responsibility to its people,” he said.

It’s not official yet, but a story like this (which has also been picked up by wire services) doesn’t usually appear for no reason. It may turn out to be nothing, but not because it was a misguided rumor that got mistaken for news. I believe he’s seriously considering it, and will run or not run depending to some degree on the reaction he gets to this.

And given that the words “Abu Ghraib” will feature prominently in any story written about him, that reaction is unlikely to be muted. Juanita, Jobsanger, and McBlogger are encouraged, PDiddie most emphatically is not. Burka thinks Sanchez is the kind of candidate Dems need to run but he’s doomed anyway. I’m sure we’ll be hearing more as the news spreads.

Personally, I’m with those that are encouraged. We’re not exactly overflowing with credible potential candidates around here. If Sanchez can be decent on the issues and can get support from the money people (something that was never really available to Rick Noriega), then glory be. If not, there will be other races for me to care about next year. Sanchez is the only game in town now, as John Sharp appears to have given up the ghost. I want to hear what he has to say for himself, and we’ll go from there.

One thing to keep in mind here: Having Sanchez in the race doesn’t mean he’ll be the nominee. I expect there will be plenty of Democrats who aren’t happy with this announcement and will not want to support him under any circumstances. That presents an opening, and I’ll be surprised if someone doesn’t try to take advantage of it. It’s not hard to imagine a nasty primary fight, and it’s not hard to imagine a multi-candidate scenario where Sanchez gets forced into a runoff. I hope the people who are gigging Sanchez to run have given some thought to this.

KBH says she’ll support a weaker DREAM

Where were you in December, Senator?

Weeks after a hunger strike orchestrated by college students in San Antonio failed to sway her vote on the DREAM Act, Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison told business leaders Tuesday that she now would work to pass a lesser version of the highly contentious bill, one that would not provide illegal immigrants a path to citizenship.

Hutchison, R-Texas, told the San Antonio group that she could not support legislation that includes “amnesty” provisions of citizenship, which was included in the DREAM Act. Instead, she said, she wants a bill that would protect foreign-born students and those who serve in the military from being deported — but would not want them to receive automatic citizenship here.

“To me, it is a clear-cut issue that we should not deport young people who have been educated in our school, who many times have a college education, who we encourage to go to college,” Hutchison said.

It’s not clear from the story what exactly KBH’s objections are, or what modifications to the DREAM Act, which had already been significantly modified in an ultimately unsuccessful attempt to win the likes of KBH in December, would be acceptable to her. Perhaps if she had engaged those who wanted to discuss the matter with her instead of hiding under her desk, we’d have a better idea of what it is she wants. (Not that it’s ever easy to know what she wants, but that’s a whole ‘nother story.) The whole point of the DREAM Act is to give people who were brought to this country illegally as children and who finished college or served in the military a chance to apply for citizenship, because as Mike Huckabee once said, we’re better off as a country allowing them to become productive taxpaying citizens than relegating them to a life of menial labor. I guess we’ll see what she finds objectionable soon enough. Not that a KBH-approved bill will get anywhere in a Republican-majority House, of course. Should have voted Yes when you had the chance, Senator. See here and here for more.

Ames Jones jumps in, Williams to follow

I don’t really think Railroad Commissioner Elizabeth Ames Jones has much of a chance in the race to replace KBH in the Senate. She was a fairly nondescript State Rep who got appointed to the RRC by Rick Perry then won a full term in the low-turnout 2006 election, and off the top of my head I have no idea what besides that she can claim as accomplishments. But I will give her props for this.

She said she would not resign her seat on the Railroad Commission to pursue the Senate seat, although she does not plan to seek re-election. Her term is up in 2012. Michael Williams, her fellow commissioner and a likely candidate for the Senate himself, has said he will resign from the commission April 2.

“I would never leave my post,” Jones said.

At least it’s a way to differentiate herself from the other Railroad Commish that’s seeking a promotion. And it’s one less appointment Perry gets to make, assuming the RRC doesn’t get reconstituted between now and then. There’s also the fact that she’s campaigning on a promise to do absolutely nothing constructive if elected, which is almost refreshing in a nihilistic sort of way. It might help explain why I can’t think of anything she’s done while in office, anyway. Big Jolly has more.

As for Williams, now that he’s fixing to have a lot of free time on his hands, he’s ready to jump in as well. Boy, two Railroad Commissioners in the same race – can you feel the excitement?

Yeah, it is too early to be polling for 2012

But that won’t stop anyone from doing them.

2012 could be the year Democrats are finally competitive for President in Texas…but only if the Republicans nominate Sarah Palin.

There are vast differences in how the various different potential GOP contenders fare against Barack Obama in Texas. Mike Huckabee is very popular in the state and would defeat Obama by 16 points, a more lopsided victory than John McCain had there in 2008. Mitt Romney is also pretty well liked and has a 7 point advantage over the President in an early hypothetical contest, a closer margin than the state had last time around but still a pretty healthy lead. A plurality of voters have an unfavorable opinion of Newt Gingrich but he would lead Obama by a 5 point margin nonetheless. It’s a whole different story with Palin though. A majority of Texas voters have an unfavorable opinion of her and she leads the President by just a single point in a hypothetical contest.

Part of the reason Obama looks like he could be competitive against the right Republican opponent is that his position in the state has improved. 42% of voters approve of the job he’s doing to 55% who disapprove. His average approval rating in 4 surveys conducted in PPP over the course of 2010 was 38% so he’s seeing the same sort of uptick in his numbers there that he’s seeing nationally right now.

The other reason for Obama’s closeness is the weakness of the Republican candidate field. He’d have no shot against a GOP nominee that voters in the state like. Huckabee’s favorability rating is a 51/30 spread and he blows Obama out of the water. But none of the other GOP hopefuls come close to matching that appeal. Romney’s favorability is narrowly in positive territory at 40/37, but Gingrich’s is negative at 38/44, and Palin’s is even worse at 42/53. Texas voters certainly don’t like Obama but for the most part they don’t see the current Republican front runners as particularly great alternatives.

What’s maybe most striking about Obama’s competitiveness in these numbers is that they’re from the same sample that showed Democrats had virtually no chance of picking up Kay Bailey Hutchison’s Senate seat earlier this week, trailing all 12 match ups we tested by double digit margins.

The previous poll results are here. I’m going to disagree with the analysis in that I think it really is all about name recognition. In the end, Obama may or may not perform better than whoever the Democratic candidate for Senate is – I’ll take the over if it’s Gene Kelly, the under if it’s John Sharp, and would consider it a tossup otherwise – but he isn’t about to perform 10 to 15 points better than any of them. The level of support Obama gets is roughly going to be the base Democratic performance level.

Yeah, sure, candidates and campaigns and fundraising matter, but only so much in a Presidential year. John Cornyn had Senate incumbency, several terms as a statewide officeholder, and something like a 3-1 financial advantage over Rick Noriega, yet he finished behind John McCain in both total votes and vote percentage, and did only one to three points better than downballot Republicans. Barring a Gene Kelly situation, I expect all the Democratic statewide candidates in 2012 to be within a few points of each other.

The question is what is the ceiling for Democrats in 2012. About a million more people voted in Texas in 2004 than in 2000, and at both the Presidential level and downballot, the Republicans got about 70% of those votes. About 900,000 more people voted in 2008 than in 2004, and again at all levels the Democrats got about 90% of those votes. There are a number of reasons for this, but one factor I’d point to is Latino support. Obama did more than ten points better among Latino voters than John Kerry did, and that was a big part of it. Call me crazy, but I don’t think any Republican Presidential candidate is going to appeal to Latinos like George W. Bush did in 2004. Given that our state, and our electorate, isn’t getting any whiter, I like those odds.

I’ll say this much, if Team Obama actually spends some money in Texas, it would make a difference. If they consider the 2010 results in a vacuum, they’ll run screaming in the other direction, but this was a tough year all over, and one presumes they’re smart enough to realize that the 2012 electorate will be very different, here and elsewhere. Even if they (quite reasonably) think our electoral votes are out of reach, there’s still an excellent reason to play here, and that’s for the Congressional races. Two Republicans won in 2010 with less than 50% – Blake Farenthold and Quico Canseco – and of course there will be four new seats to fight over. Winning back CDs 23 and 27, and taking two of the four new seats, would mean a net +2 for Dems in Texas. If Obama hopes to start his second term with a Democratic (or at least a more Democratic) Congress, that sure would help.

All right, I don’t really plan to talk about this much between now and the end of the year, so file this away for later. We’ve seen how quickly and significantly the winds can change over a few months, so we’ll see where things stand once the Republicans begin to coalesce around a single contender.

Williams will step down from the RRC

Michael Williams makes it official.

Texas Railroad Commissioner Michael Williams says he has sent Gov. Rick Perry a letter telling him he will be leaving the commission on April 2 to concentrate on a race for the U.S. Senate.

Williams described the campaign as a “long cycle and a long race” that will, perhaps, have as many as nine candidates vying for the seat being vacated by U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison. Williams said he thought he could do a better job of concentrating on the race as a private citizen than as an office-holder.

Also, he said by giving Perry such advance notice, it will allow the governor to consider whether to replace him on the commission. There is discussion in the Legislature with taking the three-member panel down to one commissioner or possibly combining it with other agencies.

I’m more interested in the fate of the RRC than I am with Williams’ campaign, which I daresay will be as unoriginal and undistinguished as all of the other contenders’, with the possible exception of Ron Paul. It’s not at all clear to me that a one-person RRC, or whatever it might be renamed to, would be any less corrupt or more accountable than what we have now. But at least it might mean fewer people biding their time while plotting to run for something else.

KBH will not run in 2012

She finally says something definitive.

Texas Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison announced Thursday she won’t seek reelection, ending the uncertainty that had largely frozen a slate of Republicans contenders itching to replace her.

In a statement, the three-term Republican who first won a special election in 1993, said her decision “would give the people of Texas ample time to consider who my successor will be.”

“I intended to leave this office long before now, but I was persuaded to continue in order to avoid disadvantage to our state. The last two years have been particularly difficult, especially for my family, but I felt it would be wrong to leave the Senate during such a critical period,” Hutchison said.

“Instead of putting my seat into a special election, I felt it was my duty to use my experience to fight the massive spending that has increased our national debt; the government takeover of the our health care system; and the growth of the federal bureaucracy, which threatens our economy. I will continue that fight until the end of my term in 2012,” she continued.

I’ve had more than my fair share of fun at her expense over this excessively drawn-out drama. What can I say? The jokes wrote themselves. In the end, she proved me wrong. That’s the way it goes sometimes.

Anyway. The Trib has a copy of her letter, which brings the state’s longest-running soap opera to a close. Look for the floodgates to open soon, though a couple of potential big players – Dewhurst and Abbott, in particular – will likely play it cool until the legislative session is over, unless they plan to rule themselves out. This announcement ought to also clear the way for Dallas Mayor Tom Leppert, who’s been playing his own “will I or won’t I?” game lately, to make his intentions officially known. I imagine we’ll be hearing from John Sharp in the near future, too. Sure hope you’ve recovered from the 2010 election, because 2012 just got underway.

UPDATE: As if on cue, it’s now Dewhurst’s turn to waffle. It’s going to be a long two years.

DADT repeal passes, DREAM Act fails

Some history was made yesterday.

The Senate took a big step toward ending the military’s ban on openly gay servicemembers today. By a vote of 63 to 33, the Senate voted to end debate on a bill repealing the military’s Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy, opening the door for a final Senate vote on the standalone repeal bill passed by the House Tuesday. That means a simple majority of 51 Senators can now bring the legislative fight on repealing DADT to an end.

[…]

Voting with the majority of Democrats were Republicans Scott Brown (MA), Mark Kirk (IL) George Voinovich (OH), Lisa Murkowski (AK), Susan Collins (ME), and Olympia Snowe (ME). Jim Bunning (R-KY), Judd Gregg (R-NH), Orrin Hatch (R-UT), and Joe Manchin (D-WV) were absent.

The vote will likely be seen as a major political victory for President Obama, who pushed repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell on the campaign trail and set a year-long timetable for a legislative repeal of the policy in his State Of The Union back in January. It appears he’s about to get his wish.

For proponents of repeal, it’s important to note that the Senate vote — and President Obama’s almost certain signature on the bill — do not necessarily mean an immediate end to the military’s ban on open homosexuality. Rather, it puts the final repeal timetable entirely on President Obama’s plate. As Commander in Chief of the military, he’ll work out a final repeal timetable with the Pentagon chiefs who will implement it. You can expect the groups that have been pressuring Congress to pass repeal to now turn their attention to Obama, calling on him to end DADT as soon as possible.

Manchin was the only Democratic No vote before, when DADT repeal was part of the omnibus military spending bill. That means that all Democrats present, plus those six Republicans, made this happen. That was the cloture vote; the final vote was 65-31 in favor. Good on all of them for being on the right side of history. Kos and Steve Benen have more.

I wish I could say the same thing about the DREAM Act, but alas I cannot.

By a vote of 55 to 41, a cloture vote on the DREAM Act failed in the Senate this morning. That brings an end to the push for the legislation — which would provide a pathway to legal status for illegal immigrants who serve in the military or earn college degrees — until the 112th Congress, which will convene Jan. 5.

That Congress will have more Republicans than this one did, which doesn’t bode well for the prospects of the DREAM Act passing in 2011. As expected, Republicans lined up to stop the cloture vote on DREAM, fearful of being singed by a conservative base that has zero tolerance for immigration reform beyond the type favored in the Grand Canyon State.

Ironically — or perhaps predictably in the current Senate environment — DREAM was a bipartisan bill when it was introduced in the Senate in 2007 by Sens. Dick Durbin (D-IL), Chuck Hagel (R-NE) and Richard Lugar (R-IN). Now, defeat of the bill has fallen along largely partisan lines as expected.

But there were a few who jumped ship — Republican Sens. Dick Lugar (IN), Lisa Murkowski (AK), and Bob Bennett (UT) voted yes on cloture. Democratic Sens. Mark Pryor (AR), Jon Tester (MT), Ben Nelson (NE), Kay Hagan (NC), and Max Baucus (MT) all voted no. Jim Bunning (R-KY), Judd Gregg (R-NH), Orrin Hatch (R-UT), and Joe Manchin (D-WV) were absent.

It’s deeply disappointing that there were enough Republican votes to break the filibuster, but five Democratic No votes sunk it. Remember, as with everything in the Senate, this wasn’t the vote on the bill itself. This was merely the vote to begin debate on the bill. There was a time when these votes were routine, and the vote that mattered was the vote on the bill itself. That time was before the 111th Congress was sworn in and the Republican Party made obstruction of everything its top priority. I’m angry at the five Democrats who voted along with the Republicans – they should be ashamed of themselves, and they deserve to lose support for their actions – but it shouldn’t matter. There were 55 votes in favor of the DREAM Act, and that should have been more than enough. In any place but the US Senate, it would have been.

Note that in a few weeks, the Texas Lege will be sworn in, and the Texas Senate will adopt its rules of order. They will very likely go along with the wishes of a certain Senator from Harris County who has been the arch-nemesis of that body’s two thirds rule, on the grounds that the majority should be allowed to rule. I trust that the irony will not be lost on anyone.

Anyway. As expected, both of Texas’ Republican Senators voted no on each of these bills. Someone should remind newest Republican Aaron Pena that this is the side he has chosen to be on. In a better world, Texas would have been represented in this debate by Sen. Rick Noriega, who was the author of the Texas version of the DREAM Act in 2003, which passed overwhelmingly. Sadly, that was not to be, and the Republican Party that once supported and even co-sponsored legislation like the DREAM Act is no longer around, either. News Taco and PDiddie have more, while Kos singles out two of the Democrats who made the wrong choice.

DREAM Act to be voted on in the Senate today

Today’s the day.

Clergy from San Antonio and elsewhere in Texas vowed Thursday to continue pushing for passage of the DREAM Act, despite getting what they characterized as unclear responses from the staff of U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison and U.S. Sen. John Cornyn, both Texas Republicans, during a visit this week to Washington.

A spokeswoman for Hutchison has said the senator will not support the bill because it’s too expansive.

[…]

During a conference call Thursday, the Rev. Lorenza Andrade Smith of the Rio Grande Conference of the United Methodist Church said she and other religious leaders met with Hutchison’s staff but were unable to get a clear answer.

Not sure what that means, as KBH has been quite clear in the press about her intent to vote No. Maybe she’s capable of greater feats of waffling than I’m crediting her for, or maybe she just doesn’t have the guts to give these honorable people a straight answer. Either way, it couldn’t hurt to call her office (202-224-5922) and remind her that once upon a time she cared about stuff like this. Kos and NewsTaco have more.

The Senate will also vote on the repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell today. That one appears to have 60+ votes, enough to overcome the by-now routine Republican filibuster, while the DREAM Act is seen as unlikely to reach that height. Both have already passed the House, meaning that Senate passage would be the last stop on the way to the President’s desk, so one way or another today ought to be historic. How historic remains to be seen.

Still DREAMing

The good news is that the DREAM Act passed the House last week. The bad news is that means it had to go to the Senate, where good bills go to die these days. At this point, it may not ever get more than a procedural vote, which is to say a vote to have a vote, for which 60 Yeses are needed to continue. Seems unlikely, but that isn’t stopping its strongest supporters from fighting on.

More than 100 leaders from 10 states took part in a march around U.S. Senate office buildings as lawmakers scrambled to finish their legislative work in a lame-duck session and adjourn for the holidays.

“We are hoping for a Christmas miracle,” said Rev. Harry Knox with the Resurrection Metropolitan Community Church in Houston.

Rev. Lorenza Andrade Smith, a San Antonio Methodist minister, and Maria Antonietta Berriozábal, a former San Antonio councilwoman, took part in the Washington activities just days after their Nov. 29 arrest for protesting at Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison’s office in South Texas.

Knox, Berriozábal and Smith were several of the activists who called on Hutchison, R-Texas, to drop her opposition and to the Development, Relief and Education of Alien Minors Act.

Despite some needless speculation about what she might do, in the end Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison has cravenly announced her opposition, despite having supported it back with it was a Republican President’s agenda item and the fanatically insane wing of her party hadn’t quite taken over yet. At least she graciously declined to press charges against those rabble-rousers who showed up at her office to try to talk to her about it. Beyond that, Lisa Falkenberg says what needs to be said about KBH. Enjoy your legacy, Senator.

It’s always tease, tease, tease

I refer of course to the ongoing Waiting for KBH saga.

Hutchison hasn’t said whether she’ll retire or seek re-election in 2012, but several prominent Texans — including Republicans such as former Secretary of State Roger Williams and Railroad Commissioners Michael Williams and Elizabeth Ames Jones, along with Democratic former Comptroller John Sharp — have long said they plan to run.

And now there’s talk of perhaps a half-dozen or more Tea Party-affiliated candidates joining the race if Hutchison seeks re-election.
“If [she] runs for Senate again, I feel she will be met with the same results that she received when she ran for governor,” said Angela Cox, who heads the Johnson County Tea Party. “Hard feelings are there, not necessarily because she challenged Perry, but [because] she didn’t remain put as a senior Republican senator from Texas in Washington when we needed her to.”

[…]

Now the question is whether Hutchison, in office since 1993, will seek a full fourth term. A statement from her office said Hutchison “is not thinking about this right now” but instead is focused on congressional work.

“A number of ambitious politicians have been waiting a long time for a way to move up, and if she chooses to run there will likely be a large field in the race,” said Matt Mackowiak, a Republican strategist and former aide to Hutchison. “But her decision will determine the shape of the race because everyone else is secondary. She’s done a lot for the state over her term in office and it won’t be easily forgotten.”

Roger Williams, a Weatherford car dealer, has said he’s in the Senate race no matter what, and in recent weeks he has sent out campaign cards reminding voters of his 2012 candidacy. “We feel that our campaign has a lot of the Tea Party support and would not be at all surprised to be backed by them,” said Colby Hale, his campaign manager. Jones is also in the Senate race. “Mrs. Jones has been crystal clear that when her term ends on the Railroad Commission in 2012 she will not file for another term, but will instead file to run in the Republican primary for the United States Senate,” said Steve Dutton, her campaign manager.

Michael Williams maintains a “Williams for United States Senate” website and has attended several Tea Party events. “I have said from the beginning, I will be a candidate for this seat whenever it comes up,” Williams said in a posting on his site. He could not be reached for comment.

Sharp, who did not return a call from the Star-Telegram, has indicated that he would like to run for the Senate in 2012, but his campaign website has been disabled and his campaign telephone number has been disconnected.

So as always, no one knows what KBH will do, teabaggers hate her, and the line of Republicans wanting to run to replace her is already out the door. Tell me something I don’t know, right? The one bit of interest here is John Sharp not being easily reachable for comment, given that he’s not particularly shy and has been out there telling people he’s in it for 2012. Probably doesn’t mean anything, but we’ll see if there are any further signs of waffling the next time this article gets written.

And if anyone is wondering what the title of this post to, you should surely know the lyrics to KBH’s theme song by now:

There may come a day when that video gets old, but that day is still a long way off. Thanks to BOR for the link.

What will KBH do about the DREAM Act?

I don’t think there’s any question what she’ll do, but these stories get written anyway.

Hutchison, R-Dallas, who has supported similar legislation in the past, is one of a half-dozen Republican lawmakers targeted by Democrats, Latino groups and organized labor, who see her as a swing vote in what is expected to be a close final tally.

“We are going to need a handful of Republicans to compensate for the Democrats that, quite frankly, we have given up on,” said Frank Sharry, executive director America’s Voice, a pro-immigration advocacy group.

But Hutchison, who has not announced publicly whether she will seek another term in 2012, is in a political predicament following the contentious GOP Texas gubernatorial primary defeat where she was tarnished as a Washington insider.

“She’s in deep trouble” in her own party, said Larry Sabato, a University of Virginia political science professor. “If she wants to run again, she’s going to have a tough primary race.”

[…]

Early indications are that Hutchison will be a hard sell for immigration advocates. The senator says she does not support the current version of the plan because it goes beyond citizenship status for students and could include parents and other adults.

“The current legislation would include green cards and citizenship, which under present law would follow with amnesty for those who came here illegally as adults,” Hutchison said in a statement.

Political experts say her final vote may depend, to some degree, on her future political plans.

“If she’s going to retire, she can do whatever she wants, but if she wants to win a Republican primary in Texas, then a ‘no’ vote would be advisable,” Sabato said.

Oh, Larry. Her re-election chances have little if anything to do with this vote. It may affect the final margin, but that’s all. Really, she should feel free to do the right thing – did you know that among other things, passing the DREAM Act would reduce the deficit? – because her fate is already sealed. The question KBH should be asking herself is “What do I want my legacy to be?” The answer is easy if she actually cares about that. The vote will happen tonight, so we’ll know soon enough.

UPDATE: Though the vote in the Senate has been postponed, the DREAM Act passed in the House. Progress!

DREAM drama

In theory, there will be a vote in the Senate on the DREAM Act during the lame duck session. I don’t have a whole lot of faith that the usual Republican intransigence can be overcome, but it’s well worth the effort and great to see the White House and Harry Reid work to keep their promises on this. In case you hadn’t heard, there’s been some drama here in Texas over this, as a number of students and other activists got themselves arrested outside Kay Bailey Hutchison’s office while waiting for a chance to speak to her about it. They’ve since been released, and it’s unclear why they were arrested in the first place. You know how that can go. Anyway, NewsTaco and Dos Centavos have been following this, so check in with them to keep up with what’s going on. And even though she’s pledged to vote against the DREAM Act in a pathetic and ultimately futile attempt to keep from being teabagged out of her seat in 2012, give a call to Sen. Hutchison’s office at 866-996-5161 to tell her that you support the DREAM Act and she should, too.

More on KBH 2012

The Fix on our senior Senator and her next electoral challenge.

Hutchison, who previously broke a term-limit pledge when she ran for reelection in 2006, had been saying since 2007 that she would not seek another term in the Senate. Everyone now agrees that no longer applies, and many expect her to run again.

When contacted by The Fix about her decision-making process, a Hutchison spokeswoman said only that “the senator has not yet announced her plans.”

But that doesn’t mean people are waiting around to see what she does.

State Railroad Commissioner Elizabeth Ames Jones and former Secretary of State Roger Williams are both actively campaigning for the seat, and several other candidates are threatening to run regardless of Hutchison’s announcement.

Among the undecideds are a number of well-known candidates, including wealthy Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, Railroad Commissioner Michael Williams and, potentially, Dallas Mayor Tom Leppert.

Dewhurst would be formidable because he would instantly be financially competitive due to his personal wealth and already has a cultivated statewide profile (he was just elected to his third term as lieutenant governor with 63 percent of the vote). He also has the luxury of taking his time to make a decision because of his high name identification and money.

At the same time, he’s not regarded as a great candidate, and because he is part of the establishment, he wouldn’t bring the tea party, insurgent-type profile that was so successful in the 2010 Senate primary season.

The candidate that fits that bill the best would appear to be Michael Williams. But Williams, like other tea party candidates, could face a funding problem, which is even more deadly in such a big state.

Three things:

1. Dan Patrick. I don’t see how this doesn’t happen.

2. Michael Williams has been in statewide office nearly as long as Dewhurst has, having been appointed to fill out the unexpired Railroad Commissioner term of Carole Keeton then-Rylander in 1999, and winning her unexpired term in 2000. I guess if all you do in office is make rabble-rousing speeches to conservative organizations and play around with social networking you can appear to be an outsider even after a decade as part of the establishment.

3. Who knows what the political landscape will look like in 2012? All of us, myself included, who are ready to write KBH off have no way of knowing what will happen over the next year or so. The teabaggers have to govern now, which is a lot harder than lobbing spitballs from the back of the room. The kind of intensity they have now will burn out, it’s just a question of when. Circumstances may wind up being a lot more favorable to KBH in 2012 than they were this year. We just can’t know how it will play out.

The “Dan Patrick for Senate in 2012” campaign makes its unofficial debut

Well no, nothing of that sort actually happened. But that’s my interpretation of this.

Sen. Dan Patrick — the Houston Republican who earlier announced the founding of the Independent Conservative Republicans of Texas to reach out to Tea Party activists and independents — now says he’s joining with other lawmakers to create the Tea Party Caucus.

“The Tea Party has played an important role this year and I want to be sure their voices are heard in Austin long after next Tuesday,” Patrick said in a press release. “The power of the Tea Party beyond election day is to hold those elected accountable for a conservative voting agenda.”

Patrick’s office in its release said the Tea Party caucus will meet with leaders of that movement and build support for “important conservative legislation” in the coming session.

I suppose it’s possible to interpret this as something other than forming a parade that lines up behind Dan Patrick for the purpose of advancing his interests and taking aim at other Republicans who are insufficiently Patrick-esque, but I think my explanation is simpler and more plausible. Burka, PDiddie, Neil, and Big Jolly have more.

Can we finally get some US Attorneys?

A “Republican and former federal prosecutor” named Bill Mateja wrote an op-ed over the weekend that simultaneously cheered and criticized the Republican obstruction of getting US Attorneys nominated for Texas.

Why should Republicans, who have played their hand so well, now help Democrats get these posts filled during a Democratic administration? The simple answer is that while their stand may be principled and worthy of kudos to the extent they’ve beaten back Democratic efforts to install mere politicos, it is no longer what is best for Texas.

Mike McCrum’s recent announcement that he was withdrawing his name from consideration for the San Antonio U.S. attorney’s post underscores the fact that whatever the cause of the political logjam, it simply has to end.

McCrum — a first-rate, prosecutor-first-Democrat-second lawyer – withdrew his name even though he seemed to be the pick of Democrats and Republicans. He had been on hold too long without the ability to take on new cases, which was anathema to his legal practice and bringing home the bacon.

[…]

The time is now to put empowered federal prosecutors in place, even if it means Republicans relinquish their upper hand and settle for someone who is politically not what they would prefer. Again, I call on our senators to end this stalemate, whether by making things happen or allowing or greatly easing the way for Democrats to move nominees to confirmation. I trust that the senators’ principled stand on this issue will result in Democratic nominees who aren’t merely political hacks and who, while not perfect from the senators’ political vantage, can get the job done.

It’s interesting that Mateja mentioned the specter of “political hacks” or “mere politicos” three times but never claimed that any such candidates had been seriously put forth, and the one nominee he did name he called “first rate”. Protest a bit too much, Bill?

I give Mateja credit for accurately citing Republican obstructionism as the primary reason for the delay, but of course this is much bigger than just Cornyn and KBH throwing their weight around. The entire strategy of the Republican Party from January 21, 2009 onward has been to obstruct and delay, which has been a huge success for them thanks in no small part to the dysfunction of the Senate. I have no doubt that it would be an acceptable outcome to our Senators and to any Republicans who might succeed either of them for these positions to remain unfilled for as long as President Obama is in office. The GOP is perfectly content to ensure that the economy remains broken in order to maximize their chances of retaking the White House in 2012. Why should they care about a few white collar criminals going unprosecuted in the interim? But hey, good luck trying to get them to listen to you, Bill. My advice would be to accompany your pleadings with a few bags of unaccountable corporate cash, but to keep your expectations low anyway.

On a side note, the next time someone tells me that we need to stop electing judges because doing so is just too political, I’ll show them this and ask why they think the appoint-and-confirm process would be any less political. At least with elections I get to have a say in it.

One election at a time, please

Apparently, some folks are bored with this election and are ready for the next one.

Rice University political scientist Mark Jones isn’t ready to stick a fork into Democrat Bill White’s campaign for governor, but he does suggest White start thinking about a run for U.S. Senate in 2012.

“With only three weeks remaining until Election Day, and less than one week before early voting begins, the door is slowly closing on the possibility of a Bill White victory over Gov. Rick Perry in this year’s gubernatorial contest.

[…]

“With victory increasingly unlikely, White’s thoughts now must begin to turn to his 2012 campaign for the U.S. Senate.

A strong showing against Perry Nov. 2 (more than 45 percent of the vote) in what is turning out to be a very difficult year for Democrats nationwide would make White an early favorite for the 2012 Senate race. Conversely, a poor performance (less than 40 percent of the vote) would raise serious doubts about White’s viability as a statewide candidate.”

I feel pretty confident that the latter will not be an issue. As for the rest of Prof. Jones’ point, you know that I’ve been an advocate for thinking about the 2012 Senate race on the grounds that I believe there’s a decent chance that KBH may get teabagged out of the Republican nomination. But with all due respect, let’s please conduct this election before we start speculating about what the candidates who are running in this election might do in the next one.

Don’t forget Kay!

Salon looks at recent GOP history to preview the 2012 Senate primaries:

As it is, though, the Tea Party is out of Republican targets for 2010. But 2012 is just around the corner, and the Tea Party may pick up right where it left off when the next round of Senate primaries convenes..

This, at least, is what history suggests. The last time there was this much upheaval within the GOP was in the late 1970s, in the wake of Ronald Reagan’s challenge to President Gerald Ford in the 1976 primaries. While Reagan fell just inches short in that race, the writing was on the wall: The GOP’s demographics were changing and the conservative wing that Reagan represented would soon dominate; Ford’s win would be the Rockefeller crowd’s last stand.

After ’76, New Right activists set out to purge the remaining liberal Republicans from the party — a task that only took on more urgency when liberal Republican senators provided critical votes for Jimmy Carter’s Panama Canal treaty in 1977. To the right, this represented a blatant sellout of American sovereignty. In the 1978 midterms, the right organized several high-profile primary challenges. In New Jersey, they united behind a Reagan aide named Jeffrey Bell and took out an icon of liberal Republicanism, four-term Sen. Clifford Case. In Massachusetts, they rallied around a radio talk-show host and anti-busing crusader named Avi Nelson and nearly knocked off Sen. Ed Brooke, the only black Republican ever elected to the Senate. There was no collective name for the movement that did this, but in spirit and style, it was very much the Tea Party’s precursor.

And the movement didn’t stop in ’78 — not with Reagan running again in 1980, and not with liberal Republicans still roaming the halls of Congress. Down went Sen. Jacob Javits, Herbert Lehman’s literal and ideological Senate heir, in New York’s ’80 GOP primary, felled by a then-obscure Al D’Amato. Only after Reagan’s election did the purge mentality cease.

If that model holds, the Tea Party will be just as thirsty for GOP blood in ’12 as it is today — still enraged by TARP votes the way the New Right was still infuriated by the Panama Canal treaty in ’80.

Because only 10 GOP-held Senate seats will be up in ’12 — a consequence of the party’s drubbing in 2006 and weak showing in 2000 — only three incumbents seem at obvious risk of becoming the next Bennett or Murkowski: Olympia Snowe, Orrin Hatch and Richard Lugar.

You know who else is up in 2012? Our own Kay Bailey Hutchison, that’s who. And there’s already trouble on the horizon for her.

It’s not that Texas Republicans don’t like her. Despite her primary loss earlier this year she still has a positive 56/28 approval spread with them. It’s not even necessarily that they think she’s too liberal- 38% of them do, but 44% think that ideologically she’s ‘about right.’

But if you give them the choice of a more conservative alternative to Hutchison Texas Republicans are ready to ditch her in a minute. Only 25% of them generally say they’d vote for Hutchison if she faced a challenger from the right, while 62% say they’d pick the insurgent option.

PPP tested a hypothetical matchup between KBH and Railroad Commissioner Michael Williams, and while she led him by 21 points, she only garnered 34%. That doesn’t sound too secure to me. And that’s just one possible opponent for her. Anyone want to bet against Dan Patrick deciding he wants to trade up? You can write her obituary now if that happens.

Now maybe they overlooked KBH because they think she’s not running again in 2012. Clearly, they need to ask around a bit if that’s what they thought. She has time to try to mode to the right, though I doubt it would help. It’ll be interesting to see what she does. Who knows, maybe this time she really will step down. Stranger things have happened.

And since we can’t reasonably claim we didn’t see this coming, it’s not too early for Democrats to start thinking about who we’d like to have on the ballot that year. There are the candidates who are running statewide this year, all of whom I hope are unavailable due to incumbency, and there are the mandatory possibilities, but if I had to name my first round draft choice for this race, it’d be San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro. You got a better choice? Go ahead and leave it in the comments.