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Rick Santorum

Senate passes non-abortion bills, committee passes HB2

The decks are cleared on the Senate side for the main event.

In a speedy Thursday morning meeting with little debate, the upper chamber passed Senate Bill 2 with a 30-1 vote, allowing Texas judges and juries to sentence 17-year-olds convicted of capital murderers to life in prison with parole after 40 years. It also passed Senate Joint Resolution 1 unanimously, a measure to ask voters to approve a constitutional amendment to spend money from the Rainy Day Fund on transportation initiatives.

SB 2, authored by Sen. Joan Huffman, R-Southside Place, alters Texas law to comply with a U.S. Supreme Court ruling that eliminated mandatory life sentences without parole for juveniles last year. The Senate debated the bill for about 20 minutes before voting to suspend the rules and pass it. The measure now heads to the House.

The transportation bill, by Sen. Robert Nichols, R-Jacksonville, would move nearly $1 billion from the Rainy Day Fund to the Texas Department of Transportation. TxDOT has said it needs about $4 billion to deal with growth and congestion on state roads. The House, meanwhile, is working on a different version of the transportation bill, raising questions about whether the two chambers can agree before the session ends.

Both bills then went to the House, which wasted no time in passing SB2. It now goes to Rick Perry, though some people think SB2 is unconstitutional as written – Sen. Jose Rodriguez released a statement saying so after SB2 passed; Texpatriate disagrees with him. There was also some separate action on transportation and an issue that isn’t on the session agenda at this time.

The House Appropriations Committee met on Thursday afternoon and passed House Bill 5, a major “TRB” measure by House Higher Education Chairman Dan Branch, R-Dallas.

The bill would issue bonds for 62 campus construction projects, though House Appropriations Chairman Jim Pitts, R-Waxahachie, made it clear that it will not be sent to the House chamber for a vote until Perry adds the issue to the special session call.

At Thursday’s meeting, the committee also unanimously passed House Joint Resolution 2, a transportation bill by state Rep. Joe Pickett, D-El Paso, which would give the Texas Department of Transportation additional funding from the state’s gas revenues. TxDOT officials have indicated that the department needs roughly $4 billion a year to maintain current traffic congestion in the state.

No clue if Perry will let the campus construction bill move forward. In the meantime, the Senate moved forward on the abortion bill as well.

As the news conference was going on, the Senate Health and Human Services Committee met and approved House Bill 2, which would ban abortions at 20 weeks of gestation and tighten regulations on abortion facilities and providers. Dewhurst said that the full Senate would approve the bill on Friday — and that the gallery would be cleared if protesters mounted any demonstrations to impede the process.

In a likely preview of the debate to come Friday, the committee voted down two amendments offered by state Sen. Carlos Uresti, D-San Antonio, that would have created exemptions for victims of rape or incest and abortion facilities more than 50 miles from an ambulatory surgical center.

State Sen. Judith Zaffirini, D-Laredo, said she plans to offer additional amendments on the Senate floor and that the debate could last eight hours.

The news conference in question was held by David Dewhurst, who beat his chest and clung to outside agitator Rick Santorum in a pathetic attempt to look like he was in charge of something. While it had originally looked like the Senate vote on HB2 would wait till Monday, it’s clear that Dewhurst wants to get it over with as quickly as possible so he can minimize the odds of his screwing something up.

From the “Simple Answers To Simple Questions” department

Is Rick Perry the next Comeback Kid?

Corndogs make bad news go down easier

Corndogs are always in style

Americans love a comeback story.

Tiger Woods has clawed himself back on top of the pro golf tour after a nasty scandal involving nightclub waitresses, lingerie models and his wife swinging a 9-iron near his head. But the whole golf world is watching to see if he can capture another Grand Slam, thus confirming his sponsor Nike’s new TV ad: “Winning Takes Care of Everything.”

The New York Times Magazine has a cover story about disgraced former Rep. Anthony Weiner’s plunge back into public life after a marital and political catastrophe. In South Carolina, former Gov. Mark Sanford is making a political comeback.

Bill Clinton once declared himself the “Comeback Kid.” John McCain jump-started a moribund campaign in 2008. And the 2004 Boston Red Sox surmounted nearly impossible odds to win the World Series.

Comeback stories, all.

And then there is Rick Perry, who famously blew up his front-runner presidential bid with an oops moment in which he couldn’t remember all three federal agencies he promised to abolish. A poll showed that even Texans, embarrassed for the state, didn’t want him to run again.

But the Republican governor is sending signals he might join the GOP sweepstakes for 2016.

There seems to be little going for another Perry bid. The big-money contributors who helped launch his brief, spectacular flameout might be reluctant to dig deep again. A reputation as a less-than-informed politico now precedes him.

Bob Vander Plaats, an influential conservative Christian activist in the key early-voting state of Iowa, didn’t even volunteer Perry’s name when asked about the GOP’s prospects to win back the White House in 2016.

Inside the Perry camp, word is that some around him who would benefit are encouraging Perry to run again — this time by studying up on the issues, getting enough rest and meticulously tending to grass-roots voters in a way he didn’t last year.

Playing the comeback card might be one of the few things Perry has going for him.

No. No, he is not poised for a “comeback”, and no, he has no future as a Presidential candidate in 2016. Even if you can somehow forget what a massive clusterfsck his 2012 campaign was, he’s still yesterday’s news. Marco Rubio, Rand Paul, and Ted Cruz are the new hotness, and Rick Santorum gets whatever benefit there is to be derived from being runnerup to Mitt Romney. But speaking as someone who loves a good farce, I’m all in for him to make another attempt. I can’t wait to see what he tries to do for an encore. If it means he runs for Governor again and thus continues to frustrate the ambitions of Greg Abbott, so much the better. Oh, and on a side note, maybe Mark Sanford isn’t a good role model for this after all. Via the equally skeptical Burka.

PPP’s April poll of Texas

Here’s Public Policy Polling’s latest snapshot of Texas heading into May and the primaries.

If Newt Gingrich was going to win a big victory anywhere between now and the Republican convention Texas would be a logical candidate…but it doesn’t look like that’s going to happen. Mitt Romney leads the state with 45% to 35% for Newt Gingrich and 14% for Ron Paul.

Texas really shows the extent to which GOP voters have unified around Romney over the last few weeks. When we polled the state in January Republicans were evenly divided in their feelings about him with 44% rating him favorably and 44% giving him poor marks. Now his favorability is a +43 spread at 66/23. That’s very much indicative of people jumping on board the train.

[…]

Texas looks like it will remain Republican in the general election, although it might be closer than it was in 2008. Romney leads Obama by 7 points at 50-43. John McCain took the state by 13 points in 2008. Obama leads Romney 56-34 with Hispanics and 57-35 with young voters. This is not likely to be the year Texas goes Democratic, but the trends with those groups make it seem possible it will happen some day.

One thing that would make Obama more competitive in Texas is the- very, very off chance- that Rick Perry was on the ticket. In that case Romney’s advantage over Obama would be reduced from 50-43 to 50-45. Perry’s Presidential bid clearly did a lot of damage to his reputation. His approval rating has sunk into the 30s at 39%, with 53% of voters disapproving of him. With independents he’s even worse off at 30/62. We’ll have more on how Texans feel about Perry’s political future later in the week but it’s clear the hurt to his image from his failed campaign hasn’t dissipated yet.

I’m sure I’ll have something to say about those results as well. You can see PPP’s full data here. If you scroll down to page 9, which is where the general election matchup stuff starts, you will see that Perry’s approval rating in Texas is slightly worse than Obama’s; the President’s numbers are 42% approve and 52% disapprove. Oh, the humanity!

PPP’s April numbers are nearly identical to their January numbers, in which Romney and flavor-of-the-month Rick Santorum both led Obama by a 49-42 margin. It’s consistent with all other polling we’ve seen so far, with the exception of that UT/Trib poll from the time of Santorum’s surge, and that’s only if you apply their strange “likely voter” filter. I figure we’ll get another set of their numbers soon, perhaps before the May 29 election date, so we’ll see how they compare. While I’m sure PPP did not include Santorum as an option for poll responders since he’s suspended his campaign, he will be on the ballot. I think the effect of not mentioning him likely overstates Gingrich’s support, but it would not surprise me if Romney’s numbers dipped a bit as well. Interesting that even with the consolidation of support Romney still can’t get to 50, isn’t it? As they say, the only poll that matters is May 29.

So long, Santorum

That sound you hear is Texas Republicans crying in their beer.

I love Wikipedia

Rick Santorum’s withdrawal today from the 2012 presidential contest makes Texas Republicans, once again, all but irrelevant in their party’s nomination process.

The drawn-out nature of the race had given party activists rare hope that this would be the most competitive presidential primary since 1976, when Ronald Reagan and Gerald Ford duked it out in a contest that didn’t end until the party’s convention.

But a legal fight this year over redistricting pushed the Texas primary to May 29 from early March.

“Certainly if we had gone in March, we would have a much larger voice in this process,” Republican Party spokesman Chris Elam said. “It was the federal [redistricting] trial in San Antonio that kept moving our date back.”

Well, that and the fact that they waited till June to pass a Congressional map, then bypassed the Justice Department in favor of litigating in the DC federal court – they still haven’t issued a ruling, by the way – then appealed the interim map to the Supreme Court even though it was still quite Republican-friendly. I mean, we’d be more than a week into Early Voting right now if Greg Abbott had sucked it up and accepted the San Antonio court’s first map. Sure, they got a better map for themselves (for this year, anyway) as a result, but in return they missed out on participating in the Presidential primary. Only they can answer the question whether that’s a worthwhile trade or not.

Elam pointed out that former House Speaker Newt Gingrich and Texas Congressman Ron Paul are still in the race.

One word: Newtmentum! Don’t let Mr. Sweater Vest’s absence prevent you from giving a black eye to Mitt Romney, y’all. It’s your solemn duty. Texas On The Potomac and Trail Blazers have more. Oh, and be sure to see the slightly NSFW video about a particular anti-Santorum interest group here. We sure will miss you, Ricky.

Texas will be relevant to the GOP nomination circus after all

After Mitt Romney’s unimpressive showing on Tuesday, the race for the GOP Presidential nomination continues to slog on with no clear end in sight. Which is good news, I guess, if you’re a Texas Republican because it means that your vote on May 29 will matter. And polls right now are showing a tight race here:

TEXAS (Rasmussen): Romney 32, Santorum 30, Gingrich 19, Paul 9

TEXAS (Wilson Perkins Allen): Santorum 35, Romney 27, Gingrich 20, Paul 8

Links via Kos. We’re all aware that the Romney machine has been spending tons of money along the way in a so-far futile effort to crush the opposition. He will no doubt spend millions more in Texas, and it looks like Rick Santorum will have some help from a number of sugar daddies as well. In other words, if you still listen to commercial radio, or watch live TV, be prepared for a relentless assault on your sensibilities as the airwaves get taken over by campaign ads. It may not be as all-encompassing as the Obama-Clinton fight of 2008 was, but it will certainly leave you feeling a lot dirtier afterward. Prepare yourself now, before it’s too late.

Santorum surges in January UT/Trib poll

There will come a day when using the word “surge” to describe the now-frontrunning Republican Presidential candidate in Texas will get old. That day has not arrived yet.

Former Sen. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania has a commanding lead among Republican presidential candidates in Texas, according to a new University of Texas/Texas Tribune poll. Santorum would get the votes of 45 percent of the respondents if the election were held today, according to the survey. The other three candidates in the GOP race — former U.S. House Speaker Newt Gingrich, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and U.S. Rep. Ron Paul of Texas — are clustered well behind. Gingrich got 18 percent, Romney received 16 percent and Paul garnered 14 percent.

The presidential race in Texas remains highly volatile, and the numbers could change significantly between now and the state’s primaries. They were originally scheduled for March 6 — early voting would have started this week — but have been delayed by redistricting litigation. Texas still doesn’t have all of its congressional and legislative maps in place, and May 29 appears to be the earliest possible primary date.

[…]

In the October UT/TT poll, Herman Cain led with 27 percent, followed by Rick Perry at 26 percent, Paul at 12 percent, and everyone else in single digits. Santorum had just 1 percent in the October survey.

That’s a heck of a surge. Timing is everything, I guess.

One thing has remained consistent: All four Republicans would beat Obama in a general election in Texas. In head-to-head matchups with the president, Santorum would win 51 percent to 37 percent among likely voters, Gingrich by 49 percent to 38 percent, Romney by 49 percent to 36 percent, and Paul by 44 percent to 35 percent.

“The GOP primary electorate has been and remains very conservative,” Henson said. “The second thing is that Republican Party identification is still the name of the game in Texas. If you’re the guy with ‘R’ next to your name and you’re running against Barack Obama in a general election, you have a pretty significant advantage.”

Couple things to note here. One is that this poll shows three out of four Republicans with larger leads than the previous UT/Trib poll from October and an earlier Texas Lyceum poll did. It stands in stark contrast with a January PPP poll that had Santorum and Romney each leading Obama by 49-42 margins. One possible reason for the difference may be found in the poll details. The total sample is 800 adults. Eighty-nine percent of them proclaim to be “extremely” or “somewhat” interested in “politics and public affairs”, and 91% say they voted in at least one election in “the last two or three years”, while 68% claimed to have voted in all or nearly all of them. Yet the results highlighted in the story are those of 527 “likely” voters, which is less than 66% of the total sample. How did they arrive at that number for the “likely” voter screen? They don’t say. But they do give the head to head results for the full 800 voter sample, and this is what they look like:

1. Newt Gingrich 42% 2. Barack Obama 40% 3. Someone else 13% 4. Don't know 5% 1. Mitt Romney 40% 2. Barack Obama 39% 3. Someone else 16% 4. Don't know 5% 1. Rick Santorum 44% 2. Barack Obama 39% 3. Someone else 11% 4. Don't know 6% 1. Ron Paul 40% 2. Barack Obama 37% 3. Someone else 18% 4. Don't know 5%

Quite a bit different. You can make of that what you want, but it’s remarkable enough that I think it at least merited a mention in the story. I’ve been making a big deal about how polling so far as shown 2012 to be a lot like 2008, and these “likely voter” numbers represent the first result that strays from that narrative. That may well mean that I’ve been wrong all along, but I’ll be honest with you: Having Rick Santorum at the top of the Republican ticket here doesn’t exactly strike terror in my heart, and I’m willing to bet I’m not the only Democrat in Texas who feels that way. If you scroll all the way to the bottom, you see that the full sample respondents claim to have voted for John McCain over Barack Obama by a 46-39 margin, with 4% for “other” and 11% for “did not vote”, which conveniently enough corresponds to the total that did not claim to be “extremely” or “somewhat” interested in politics. That translates to 54-46 straight up, so it’s not the case that the total sample is particularly skewed. However they applied their “likely voter” screen, it gives a very different picture than everything else we’ve seen so far. BOR has more.

They want to be relevant

Texas Republicans are looking longingly at the utter depraved insanity excitement of the apparently competitive GOP Presidential primary and hoping that they will still have a voice in picking the winner.

Ricky and Mittens (Source: Daily Kos)

Texas may be “the conservative epicenter of this country,” as Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum proclaimed in Plano last week, but its chance to rock the GOP presidential elections hangs on a still-unsettled primary schedule.

The delay in determining when the primary will be held, plus lingering indecisiveness on the part of the nation’s Republican voters, means Texans could have a say about who wins the opportunity to challenge the incumbent president.

Santorum’s three-state sweep last week in Minnesota, Colorado and Missouri was the latest signal that the Republican nomination race could be a monthslong marathon rather than a Mitt Romney cakewalk. With social-conservative Republicans, perhaps, beginning to coalesce around the former Pennsylvania senator and with nominal front-runner Romney having trouble sealing the deal as the man most likely to defeat President Barack Obama, Republicans still may be undecided by the time the nation’s second-largest state gets around to voting.

Originally scheduled for March 6 as part of Super Tuesday, the Texas primary got pushed back to April 3. It is likely to be further delayed while courts in San Antonio and Washington wade through legal challenges to redistricting plans for the state’s congressional and legislative districts. Potential dates are April 17, May 29 and June 26.

State GOP chairman Steve Munisteri is hoping the court will act quickly enough for Texas to hold its primary on April 17. That is important because precinct and district conventions must be held before the parties convene statewide in early June.

Rice political scientist Mark Jones said April 17 is absolutely the last date for Texas to be relevant. By April 17, he pointed out, about 36 states and other jurisdictions with more than 1,100 delegates will have held primaries or caucuses.

I wouldn’t completely rule out the possibility that the GOP nomination could still be undecided as of whenever the Texas primary is. Four years ago, we Dems were lamenting our “late” primary in March because we were convinced it would be wrapped up by then. I admit that it’s a less likely scenario, and that Republicans may be lining up to jump out of windows if they don’t have a nominee by May or June, but given how nuts this thing has been so far, can anyone really rule anything remotely feasible out?

If anything will prod AG Greg Abbott to sweeten his settlement offer to get most if not all of the other plaintiffs on board, it’s this. Let’s be honest, the differences between the Abbott maps and the original interim maps aren’t that great, at least in terms of R versus D numbers – just Lloyd Doggett’s district, by their own adkission. If having an April primary is that important, I’m sure the AG can find it in his hard little heart to give a bit more. What’s two more years of Doggett if you expect to win on the merits anyway, right? And maybe, if Harvey Kronberg’s reading is correct, Abbott may be forced to give more than he has so far wanted to:

Be that at as it may, in its most strongly-worded order to date, the three San Antonio judges said there will be an April primary and instructed all the parties to continue negotiating. If the litigants walk into the courtroom on Tuesday without a deal, they will continue negotiating on Tuesday and Wednesday until there is one.

And to underscore their seriousness, the federal judges said, “All necessary parties are expected to have a person with binding settlement authority either in attendance or available by telephone.”

Link via EoW. That hearing today could be mighty interesting. There are numerous other map proposals floating around – see Texas Redistricting for the details, of course – so who knows what may happen. Maybe our long state nightmare will draw to a temporary close. If not, well, we’ll get a ruling from the DC court sooner or later, and we’ll go from there. At least we Democrats know how our Presidential candidate will be, and we’re pretty happy with it.