Will David Dewhurst really run for Senate?

In the discussion of who will succeed Kay Bailey Hutchison in the US Senate, this might be the most overlooked fact: in November 2012, David Dewhurst will be 67. It will affect whether he runs for the Senate or waits for a shot at 1010 Colorado. And if he runs for the Senate, it'll be an unspoken reason some don't pick h im.

So, Senator or Governor? Put yourself in the Lt Guv's shoes. He's been Lt Guv for almost a decade. He's the leader of the Texas Senate, one of the people who is always making decisions about what becomes law. By contrast, in the US Senate, he'll be one occupant of 100 seats. He won't have a single day of tenure and virtually zero input as to what bills get addressed and what is in those bills. As a former CIA operative, he might be able to carve out a policy niche on the Intelligence Committee, but other than that he won't have much input into legislation until after 75. As he reaches 80 years old, he'll get to decide whether he wants to run for the third term where he'll finally have a shot at a chairmanship. Does he want to spend his 9th decade sitting in committee hearings?

Of course, his age is also an unspoken element among some Texas Republicans. Texas has done a pretty good job of electing senators who accumulated seniority that they used on behalf of Texas. In recent history, we have: Lloyd Bentsen 22 years, John Tower 24 years, Phil Gramm 18 years, Kay Bailey Hutchison 19 years, and now John Cornyn has already accumulated almost a decade himself.

Again, Senator or Governor? In most of the scenarios where Dewhurst runs for Senate and loses, it's very hard to imagine him rebounding back to winning a gubernatorial primary in 2014. Yet, if he waits, he will be the favorite in 2014. If he wins, he'll be the leader of the executive branch, not a mere voice of 100. He'll set the agenda immediately.

Finally, I think Dewhurst is more likely to win a gubernatorial primary than a senatorial primary, though he is the most likely candidate for both. Call it 10-15% more likely for governor. State issues are less polarizing. He won't have to run as far to the right. Furthermore, he knows state issues much better now than he knows federal issues.

So far we all think he's going to run, but for all these reasons, I think the smarter play is for Dewhurst not to run for Senate.

Posted by Evan @ 02/08/11 05:31 PM


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