31 May 2012
What will Rick Perry do?
What will Rick Perry do? Now that Cruz surprised lots of people by surviving millions of dollars in attack ads, will Rick Perry double down on his Dewhurst endorsement or cut loose?
The smart move politically would probably be for him to cut his losses and just ignore the runoff. Perfunctory mentions of Dewhurst, and only made when pinned down by reporters.
Does Perry really want to double down for David Dewhurst? I can think of a few good reasons why not:
1. Risk of losing -- if Dewhurst loses (a 50 chance?), I bet some major donors would feel like Perry isn't so unbeatable. Some potential candidates might be tempted to dip a toe in the water and see if they can raise donor commitments.
2. Anger his base -- look at the folks supporting Cruz. They were mostly the people backing Perry when Kay challenged him in 2010. How far does he want to push his luck? If he gets a serious primary from someone more conservative than Kay, people will remember if he goes all out for Dewhurst. Perry has largely avoided angering conservatives so far in his tenure, but there will be anger if Perry goes all out.
3. Dewhurst's racial attacks -- are those ads really the sort of thing Perry wants to be associated with? It was ugly, slimy, dishonest...and it backfired.
4. Does he really like Dewhurst? As I noted before, I've heard of a few people who have heard unflattering anecdotes over the years from Perry about Dewhurst.
And if Dewhurst wins, does Perry really get any credit? Not really, because Dewhurst's millions will be credited. At best a few major donors are kept happy.
Despite those reasons, if I were a betting man, I'd guess that Perry will probably put more effort into the Dewhurst effort in the runoff. It will be a fascinating angle to keep an eye on.
30 May 2012
Lawrence Person over at BattleSwarm tipped me off to a Texas Tribune opinion piece from a year and a half ago which basically predicted the entire Texas Senate race up til now.
< /wry sense of humor >
David Dewhurst v Ted Cruz -- runoff!
David Dewhurst versus Ted Cruz is headed for a runoff. July 31st is 9 weeks away.
Think of last night like a poll. Except that last night was really two separate polls -- both released last night, but from different time periods. In the old poll, Dewhurst was comfortably ahead with an 18% margin. In the new poll, Cruz is just barely 3% behind. The pollster was...the State of Texas.
Which poll best reflects the likely runoff electorate?
Easy call -- give me the most recent poll! It's clear that a massive 15 point swing took place over a very short time frame. If there's no compelling reason to think that the old one is more likely to reflect the future, then you go with the more recent one.
It's pretty unlikely that the early voting better represents the runoff electorate, because that would imply that Dewhurst's supporters are more enthusiastic which is contrary to all evidence.
Here's a few angles for the next 9 weeks to consider:
The electorate will look different on a geographical bais. I haven't looked yet at all the legislative races that are going to runoffs, but it looks like the congressional races in 14, 25 and 36 are going to a runoff, as well as SD25. Some areas will turn out more than others. And yes, it's going to be hot in late July. People will be on vacation before school starts. It favors those who really want to vote for their candidate.
Ted Cruz has a movement of passionate supporters. David Dewhurst has a contingent of (mostly non-Texan) staffers.
David Dewhurst still hasn't given people a reason to vote for him, and as a result has very little energy among his supporters. The Dewhurst campaign spent all their time trying to tear Ted Cruz down. They threw the kitchen sink -- guilt by co-worker association, racial attacks, and Chinese xenophobia. It didn't work, and appeared to work increasingly less as the election went on given the Cruz election day surge.
Dewhurst's support is still dangerously soft. Voters don't identify him with a wing of the party. They don't identify him with any issue. He's been at 90+% name ID throughout the entire campaign and yet never cracked about 50% in any reputable poll. That's a serious sign of danger.
What's the message?
Negative -- Dewhurst already scraped the very bottom of the barrel by resorting to the 11th hour racial attacks that backfired on him. Dewhurst managed to get the media to fixate on a nothing attack for weeks. It was flawlessly executed, with just one basic problem: there wasn't much there there. Although the Texas media is inclined to favorably cover Dewhurst, at some point the press corps will stop covering the rehashing of personal attacks that lack substance.
Positive -- to date, we've heard more about Dewhurst's father fighting in WWII than we have about why he thinks he should be our next Senator. Maybe Dewhurst's campaign can find a positive message.
DFW -- the battleground?
Do Tom Leppert's voters go to Dewhurst because he's the moderate candidate? Or do they break against quasi-incumbent Dewhurst, having already rejected the Dew the first time? I'd say neither -- Tom Leppert was fundamentally a regional candidate. He registered in single digits outside of the Dallas/Fort Worth metro region. Inside of DFW metro, he was never defined by any campaign. He was a relatively popular local mayor who spent mostly on DFW TV and who was favorably covered by the DFW media.
I don't know if Leppert will endorse (I rather doubt it would matter anyway). Though Leppert campaigned as a conservative like Cruz, his moderate record is more in line with Dewhurst. However, Dewhurst's attacks might have killed Leppert's political future, so Leppert might not be terribly inclined towards him.
Cruz beat Dewhurst by 5% in the vote rich Dallas suburbs of Collin County and won by 3% in the DFW suburbs of Denton County. Cruz also won by 2% in Tarrant County (Fort Worth) while losing by 2% in Dallas County. For whatever that's worth, I wouldn't so quickly assume that Leppert's voters will fall to either Cruz or Dewhurst...assuming they even turn out to vote. It's up for grabs.
Dewhurst still has a vast personal fortune that he can draw on, and vast resources afford the potential to make mistakes. The Dewhurst campaign hasn't found a winning message so far. They've been hiding from voters and hoping scorched earth attack ads will win due to voter inattention. They didn't. But when you have tens of millions to throw around, you can afford to make some mistakes. It remains to be seen how much Dewhurst will spend, but I imagine we are likely to see Dewhurst equal the $15 million that he already spent pre-runoff.
Which will prevail?
Cruz has the message, the energy and the momentum, but Dewhurst has the money and the establishment. Going into a late July Texas runoff, I'd rather have the message and momentum every time. Advantage: Cruz.
Texas went a long time without a serious Republican primary, and even Rick vs Kay disappointed. Dewhurst vs Cruz won't disappoint. It's game time.
Early vote versus election day 2012 Republican Texas Senate primary
David Dewhurst 48%
Ted Cruz 30%
David Dewhurst 41%
Ted Cruz 38%
David Dewhurst won the early voting by almost 18%. Then he barely won the election day voting by 3%. Every single one of the 7 other candidates on the ballot basically stayed the same. Put more succinctly, David Dewhurst lost over 7% in the final days of the election...and it all went to Ted Cruz.
So what happened?
First of all, Ted Cruz had a good closing stream of endorsements that solidified his claim to be the conservative in the race. Second, David Dewhurst closed with his racial attacks (or dog whistle, if you will). They were universally condemned as false and bigoted.
David Dewhurst failed in his imitation of Al Sharpton racial politics. Dewhurst shouldn't have stooped so low as to try to play on some nebulous race-baiting prejudice that he incorrectly thinks Texans hold.
Right now, Ted Cruz is surging with a massive 15% swing that occurred over just a few days. Grab some popcorn, folks, because this is going to be a fun runoff to watch.
28 May 2012
2012 Texas Senate primary prediction
I had to go on the record about 10 days ago when I got asked for my prediction. My response then was, "David Dewhurst won't break 45%." In the days that followed, the TT, BOR, and PPP polls came out. I didn't see anything that changed my mind much.
The big X factor is how people react to David Dewhurst's Al Sharpton-style race-baiting, and the subsequent newspaper coverage. Dewhurst was long-rumored to be contemplating the race card, and play the race card he did. We're in ugly and uncharted territory. And Dewhurst is spending twice as much on a weekly basis as KBH and Perry did in 2010.
So here we go:
Everyone else 4%
Rick Perry's endorsement of David Dewhurst for Senate
It's an open secret in Austin that Rick Perry doesn't love David Dewhurst. The governor has told more than a few unflattering anecdotes about Lieutenant Governor Dewhurst over the years.
So why is the governor endorsing Dewhurst? Well, it's not about Dewhurst. From all indicators, Perry is serious about running for re-election, particularly if Barack Obama is re-elected.
What's the one thing that stands between Rick Perry and re-election? A primary challenge from someone who is more conservative than Kay Bailey Hutchison.
What's the easiest way to win a primary? Convince no one else to run. That's why Perry endorsed Dewhurst.
If Dewhurst loses this 2012 Senate primary, it signals that the incumbent can be beaten. It signals that money and name ID can be overcome. And that might embolden some of the downballot officeholders who have been (im)patiently waiting in line...for over a decade.
It's even more than that though: a Dewhurst defeat imperils the narrative that Perry has promoted in recent years: that the Texas economy is growing due to frugal spending. There's some truth to it (and indeed Perry has fought for lower spending while Dewhurst has equivocated), but there's also been quite a bit of accounting tricks and kicking the can down the road.
Frankly, I think Attorney General Abbott miscalculated in two ways. One, he might have beaten Perry to the punch by announcing earlier that he was running for Guv in 2014. [Conventional wisdom is that Abbott wouldn't run against Perry due to friendship, though perhaps recent polling numbers might strain that? Either way, by letting Perry announce first, he put himself in this position.] Second, he might have endorsed Cruz in the late stages of this primary and taken credit for being the shot in the arm that got Cruz into a runoff. It would have also served the AG well with activists for a future run.
Maybe Perry didn't have a choice. As many people around the Texas legislature have noted, they had to support Dewhurst, because if Dewhurst loses then he is likely to kill their legislation in the next session of the legislature. But one thing is for sure: Perry's endorsement of Dewhurst wasn't really about Dewhurst. It was about Perry.
Ted Cruz resume
I don't think future opponents will make David Dewhurst's mistake of trying to attack Ted Cruz's resume.
27 May 2012
Nassim Nicholas Taleb prologue
The prologue to Nassim Nicholas Taleb's upcoming book is available in PDF.
Robert Caro, Marco Rubio, Nassim Nicholas Taleb. It's a good reading summer for me.
25 May 2012
This post is available in the paid archive.
23 May 2012
Who's the empty suit, Tom Leppert?
Tom Leppert's last few TV ads claim that Ted Cruz and David Dewhurst are just mere empty suits. Yet at the beginning of his campaign, Tom Leppert admitted that he didn't know anything about foreign policy. With apologies to The Hotline:
"Everybody's got their first three sentences, which is about 60 seconds. They can't deal with the issues any deeper than that."
Tom Leppert at the beginning of the campaign, per National Review:
On foreign policy, he's admittedly a neophyte. Asked whether he would have supported New START, Leppert responds, "To be frank with you, that's where I would have used the position to sit down with our folks in national security and get a good feel for whether they thought that was protecting our interests."
At the time of that interview, New START was the hottest issue facing the US Senate and conservatives opposed it. Yet Tom Leppert apparently hadn't even heard about New START, much less formed an opinion on whether the terms of the treaty made it worth it to give up American sovereignty.
Bottom line: You can't claim others are empty suits when you don't have a position on the hot issues of the office you're running for.
About that Huckabee endorsement
Due to a paucity of willing endorsers, David Dewhurst has long pointed to Mike Huckabee to vouch for his conservative credentials.
One little problem: Huckabee's endorsement doesn't even carry much weight in his home state of Arkansas. Last night, former Huckabee aide Beth Anne Rankin lost a congressional primary in Arkansas by more than 20 points to Tom Cotton. Rankin lost despite the fact that she was the 2010 Republican nominee and despite (or maybe because of?) Huckabee going all out in his endorsement of Rankin.