Longtime readers of this blog will recall that I am not much for predictions. Well, to be fair, I used to predict things all the time, but I was notoriously wrong too many times to count. Accordingly, in an effort to save face, I will not field my own electoral predictions, which are only slightly less reliable than the Tribune polls.
Rather, I want to note what I am looking for and what I am hoping for; admittedly, they are nearly mutual exclusive categories. Within those categories, I would like to look most specifically at both the Republican & Democratic primaries, as well as both Statewide races and those in Harris County. Within these four categories, there are quite a few overlapping key points, however.
1. HOW BIG IS THE STUPID VOTE?
This is one for the Democratic primary. I am using the official academic term, of course, to describe these so-called stupid voters. They are the voters who will cast their lots for Kesha Rogers (US Senate), Lloyd Wayne Oliver (District Attorney) and Lori Gray (115th District Court), in that order. Albeit, plenty of otherwise unintelligent voters may coincidentally vote for the non-egregious candidates, but there is no way to discern them from Adam.
Of course, perhaps some of these people’s supporters are actually informed voters. LaRouche cultists will, in good faith, support Rogers. Wife beaters will, in good faith, support Oliver. Homophobes and MADD fanatics will, in good faith, support Gray. However, these three constituencies are remarkably small, and do not account for the vast majority of the individuals pollsters believe will support these candidates.
Instead, the leftover supporters are the “stupid voters.” Make no mistake, I am not making this statement as hyperbole. I have some very serious reservations about supporting someone like David Alameel for the US Senate, or Susan Delgado for the Texas House, but I would never be so arrogant as to call of their supporters unintelligent. That being said, I quite literally mean it in the three aforementioned races.
This demographic will make up a significant proportion of the electorate. The magic number Statewide is over about a quarter, whereas it is the full majority in Harris County. At that point, the stupid voters will make up the plurality of the electorate and the crazies will be either nominated by the party or advance into a runoff. If Lori Gray is nominated, it is disappointing. If Lloyd Wayne Oliver is nominated (again), it is humiliating. But if Kesha Rogers is nominated, it is downright despicable and a travesty of the greatest proportions. In summation, the higher the proportion of stupid voters –or “idiot caucus,” if you will– the more observers will take the position that Texas Democrats are not ready for prime time.
2. WHAT WILL THE WEATHER BE?
This one is rather straightforward. The worse the weather, the lower turnout will be. Specifically in the Democratic primary, where a larger proportion of the electorate cast their ballots on election day, this could prove instrumental in determining how high the stupid voters proportion ends up being. Tomorrow morning looks to be absolutely abhorrent in Austin, with tentative snow/ice and possible university closures. As for Houston, temperatures will hover above freezing, but a rainstorm in the upper 30s will be sure to retard turnout at least slightly.
3. ESTABLISHMENT vs. TEA VOTERS
This is the big one for the Republicans. Most observers foresee the establishment candidate in the Statewide primaries to advance into a runoff, be that David Dewhurst, Dan Branch or Harvey Hilderbran. The Tea Party candidate, for lack of a better term, will also likely be in a runoff, be that Dan Patrick, Ken Paxton or Debra Medina. The triggers to look for include who finishes first, and by how much.
Additionally, if John Cornyn goes into a runoff, it will be a very good sign for the future of the Tea Party irreconcilable plank. If Cornyn wins with close to 60%, the inverse will be true. If the Agriculture Commissioner primary runoff is Sid Miller and Eric Opiela, it will be good news for the Tea Party. The inclusion of Tommy Merritt in a runoff will be a good sign for the establishments, the inclusion of J Allen Carnes will be a great sign.
This split will also be important in State House races. There are the obvious examples, wherein Straus allies are being challenged by Tea Party backed challengers. Rep. Byron Cook faces Bobby Vickery, whereas Rep. Jim Keffer faces Cullen Crisp. Paul Burka at Texas Monthly seems to think Keffer is in some serious jeopardy.
Burka also has some stuff on the Bennett Ratliff/Matt Rinaldi race and the Jonathan Strickland/Andy Cargille race, which are both great examples of this standard. However, my radar also includes two races closer to home.
Rep. Sarah Davis, the only pro-choice Republican in the Texas Legislature, is being primaried by a woman named Bonnie Parker for –you guessed it– the abortion issue. Davis’ district, 134, represents a fairly affluent portion of Houston, wherein her fiscal conservatism and social moderation is loved by the general election electorate. However, given the pitiful turnout in a primary like this one, anything goes.
Finally, in Galveston county, Rep. Craig Eiland’s seat has drawn quite the contest on the other side of the aisle. Eiland, a Democrat, is not running for re-election. While the Democrats have recruited the very capable Susan Criss, a former District Judge, to run for the post, the Republicans are fighting a dirtier battle. Bob Senter, an insurance agent from Texas City, has courted business and establishment support while Wayne Faircloth, a City Councilman from Dickinson, has garnered support from social-issue groups and Tea Party movements.
I’m tentatively going to be at the Todd Staples watch party tomorrow night, then perhaps the Richard Jung event. I do not think I’ll be livestreaming any coverage on video, but be sure to cover both my twitter feet (@NmHorwitz) and this page for live-blog updates.