Catching up, Part III

Last week, we saw the brief rise and spectacular fall of the self-aggrandizing Texan believing their own delusions of grandeur. Specifically, I’m talking about Congressman Louie Gohmert (R-Texas), a Tea Party favorite who launched a last-minute challenge to Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), the two term incumbent. Gohmert, when all was said and done, received two other votes: Congressmen Randy Weber (R-Texas) and Jim Bridenstine (R-Oklahoma). A grand total of 25 Republicans defected from team Boehner, allowing the speaker to still be easily re-elected.

The total shellacking of the right-wing by establishment Republicans lead Ross Ramsey at the Texas Tribune to openly wonder if it was a harbinger of things to come for the quixotic race to topple State House Speaker Joe Straus (R-Bexar County). State Representative Scott Turner (R-Rockwall County), a Tea Party favorite, is challenging Straus for the gavel but will likely only garner two dozen votes or fewer.

Meanwhile, a great deal of attention has been placed upon the prospective 2016 Presidential candidates. Former Governor Mike Huckabee (R-AR) and former Senator Rick Santorum (R-PA) have already taken official steps toward running, making a mainstream victory in the Iowa Caucuses highly unlikely. Meanwhile, Mitt Romney, the former Massachusetts governor and the party’s 2012 nominee, has begun assembling a new campaign team. The Washington Post reports he is “almost certain” to run for president once more. This coming the same day that Romney’s running mate, Congressman Paul Ryan (R-WI), announced he would not run himself.

On the Democratic side, Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) continues making cacophonous rabble, but has done little to put together a real campaign. Grassroots activists continue pining for Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), no matter how many times she says, in no uncertain terms, that she will not run. That contest still looks like Hillary Clinton’s to win, lose or draw…almost certainly to win.

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Existent and non-existent Democrats

Texas Democrats are giddy at the prospect of Wendy Davis running for Governor. The astute will remember that I was very excited when she first announced, but with all due respect, that was nearly two weeks ago. Democrats might do worse than ever before –oh yes, mark my words– in the 2014 elections if something does not change quick.

Most importantly, the Democrats need to find candidates to run for the Statewide offices. As I have said before, even a State that is 80% non-White will not elect a single Democrat if they do not run. Buckpassing is perhaps Texas Democrats biggest problem, as everyone is so satiated with this abstract concept of a future victory that they are unwilling to do anything today. The reason why Wendy Davis’ candidacy is so extraordinary is that she put the good of the party and the State above her immediate political future. Rick Noriega did this in 2008, but it is a rare occurrence otherwise.

Democrats do have a serious candidate for Land Commissioner, John Cook, the former Mayor of El Paso. Serious candidates have also been suggested for Lieutenant Governor (State Sen. Leticia Van de Putte) and Attorney General (State Sen. Carlos Uresti) as well. However, the latter two individuals have been painfully silent recently, prompting some concern about the rigor of Democratic candidates.

Click here to read more on other candidates

Medina might run for Governor

The Texas Tribune reports on possible huge development for the 2014 Gubernatorial race. Debra Medina, the former Wharton County Republican Chair and Tea Party favorite 2010 gubernatorial candidate, is flirting with the idea of running for Governor in 2014…as an independent. Medina, who was previously somewhat sold on running for Comptroller, has a reputation for being a Ted Cruz-style insurgent type candidate well before Ted Cruz was a household name in Texas politics.

Medina ran for Governor in 2010 to the right of Rick Perry, running against both him and Kay Bailey Hutchison. Ultimately, she finished in third place with 19% of the vote, a full 11% behind Hutchison. However, at one point, she was at 24%, well within striking distance of forcing a runoff with Perry.

The article in the Tribune insinuated that Medina would rather run for Comptroller in the Republican primary, but has trouble getting off the ground when it comes to raising any significant amount of money. Alternatively, she has discussed the possibility of running as an Independent candidate for Governor, to which she insinuated donations would be somewhat larger.

By no means is it a done deal, or even especially likely, that Medina will choose this path. However, let us assume arguendo that she decides to run for Governor as an independent. The situation would be greatly beneficial to the Democrats for a number of obvious, and a few non-obvious, reasons.

If 2010 is any indication, Medina would run to the right of Abbott. While the Tea Party influence in most of the country is somewhat tepid compared to where it was three years ago, the opposite is probably true of Texas. Back in 2010, people of the right-wing were content to believe the institutional GOP had their best interests at heart. That all changed with Ted Cruz, and now has produced a domino effect with Dan Patrick (& possibly Louie Gohmert). If Medina decides to run for Governor as an independent, she would receive more Republican primary voters than she did in 2010.

Medina would also have some issues to run on. Specifically, the US Airlines-American merger, which Greg Abbott famously opposed. The Texas Tribune just reported, a few hours ago, that the Texas Association of Business, a nominally conservative organization, has harshly repudiated Abbott for this stance. Medina would have a major leg to stand on with this issue.

The benefit for Democrats is somewhat obvious. Texas does not require majorities to win, so Wendy Davis could get elected Governor with 44% of the vote if Medina takes a serious chunk of the right-wing away from Abbott. As opposed to other “mavericky” Republicans to recently run for Governor as independents (e.g., Carole Keeton Strayhorn), Medina does not risk taking any votes from moderates.

Darkest before the dawn

About two months ago, the Editorial Board wrote that “it’s going to get worse,” that Democrats and progressive politics will continue taking blows, instead of the conventional wisdom that we have already reached the bottom. Simply put, we haven’t reached the bottom yet, and I have found some evidence of this continued decline.

The Fort Worth Star-Telegram published an op-ed this morning discussing the plight so-called “moderate” Republicans like David Dewhurst have been along. My colleague summarized Dewhurst’s recent saga yesterday, but he by far not the only such official to find himself in such a predicament.

Avid readers of the Texas Tribune would have noticed that Jim Pitts, the only Republican to ever chair the House Appropriations Committee, is retiring. Pitts is often remembered as not-the-worst of the Republicans, being willing to work across the aisle and being able to go after Rick Perry, especially his regents. I would not be surprised if Pitts was deathly worried about facing a primary challenge from the Tea Party. This is because, after two insurgent-fueled Tea Party-dominate primary cycles, 52 of the 95 (55%) Republicans in the State House were elected in either 2010 or 2012. A mere 15 Republicans are left who take office before 2003, when Republicans took over the lower House. Of those 15, two (Hilderbran & Pitts) are already not seeking another term. Considering the rural areas these individuals represent, they will no doubt be replaced by far-right Tea Party types.

Kennedy’s opinion piece at the Star-Telegram continues by mentioning the sour place Senator John Cornyn was put into after Ted Cruz refused to endorse his re-election bid. The Dallas Morning News has the full story on that. The hypothetical primary opponent for John Cornyn at this time would be Louie Gohmert, the foul-talking Congressman with birther-tendencies. Again, the Morning News covered the issue in greater detail, as did Off the Kuff.

The op-ed uses the general theme of cynicism and doom & gloom I have been talking up for years. The night is always darkest before the dawn, and it is certainly still getting darker.

As much as I dislike David Dewhurst, Dan Patrick will almost certainly be worse in an executive position. As poorly as John Cornyn serves this State in the U.S. Senate, Louie Gohmert would be exponentially worse. The place where I break with Kennedy’s op-ed is at the end, where he has the bodacious temerity to assert the sun may be rising sometime soon:

The danger for the GOP,” he wrote, is that by the time Republicans realize they have swung too far, “it will be too late, and [Democratic San Antonio Mayor] Julian Castro will be celebrating his election as governor.”

That might be in 2018.

That’s three House election cycles away.

2018 is a very long five years away, but unless a lot of things go very right, it still won’t be a competitive election.