24 April 2012
On Tom Leppert and his strategy selection
"Tom Leppert would have a much better chance of being senator if he'd run as a Democrat," mused a friend at lunch the other day.
I guffawed, and then a moment later I realized he was right. Leppert might have had a chance as a Democrat. In the race that he is running, he has chosen a strategy that gives him exactly zero chance to be the Republican nominee for Senate in 2012.
Tom Leppert is trying to run as a Reagan conservative, but he's got only regional name ID and not that much money – compared to Dewhurst. He's chosen a strategy that has exactly zero chance at electing him senator. My guess is that a consultant* told him that he needed to run as a wanna-be Ronald Reagan to win. One small problem: there's not much in Leppert's record to support that.
Tom Leppert is running as a Reaganite, but until he ran for public office he'd donated almost as much to Democrats as to Republicans. He now says he's against both gay marriage and civil unions because it is a "faith issue," yet as Dallas mayor he had a gay chief of staff, marched in gay pride parades, welcomed gay conventions to Dallas, and told a gay reporter that while he hadn't thought about gay marriage much…he could see both sides of the issue. He talks now like a conservative activist but sought the support of ACORN and the SEIU…and he mostly didn't even bother to vote until he ran for mayor. He says he wants to cut federal spending as a Senator yet one of his main focuses as mayor was securing Congressional earmarks for a municipal redevelopment project. I understand the occasional nuance, but I can't thread the needle through all of those. Nor can primary voters.
Here's the thing – your average voter doesn't know any of the preceding paragraph (which was off the top of my head…there's more if you research it) and yet Leppert is still in single digits in the polls. Essentially Leppert is trying to fit in a space that he never had any chance of winning, and which Cruz has now locked up securely.
Currently, Leppert is attacking Cruz thinking that he can peel off votes in order to make it into the runoff. What he doesn't realize is that Cruz’s supporters are much more firmly committed to him than Dewhurst's voters are. So Leppert has essentially painted himself into a corner by trying to be something that the record doesn't really support.
Even if Leppert were to somehow squeeze into a runoff, he would have no chance against either Dewhurst or Cruz in a runoff. If you don't understand why, read again the long paragraph above.
Now there's some pretty small chance Leppert squeezes into a runoff, using the Jesse Ventura technique. Put lots of relatively positive fluffy messages on TV and hope to pick up just enough votes when frontrunners attack each other. Or try to pick up just the right amount of Dewhurst support by attacking him since his support is soft. Both sound pretty unlikely to me, and neither are strategies that will allow victory in a runoff.
But as a Democrat, Leppert might have had a shot. He could have run as a Blue Dog with some establishment support. Could he get through a Dem primary? Not my area of expertise, though I might suggest that Dem primaries are more a collection of interest groups that might have afforded a chance. My guess is that Leppert does actually identify more as a Republican, and that's why he ran as a Republican. But he simply doesn't have the record to run as Ronald Reagan, Jr.
* I don't remember who Leppert's consultant is, so I feel free to be candid.