Rick Perry vs. the World *
Tracking the 2006 Texas gubernatorial race.
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Tuesday, April 26, 2005
Democrats can win...but it would take the perfect storm
In May's Texas Monthly, Patricia Kildray Hart theorizes that:
The chance of a Democratic upset in the 2006 governor's race is as likely as, well, Bill Clements winning in '78. Or Mark White winning in '82. Or Ann Richards winning in '90. Or …
Color me unconvinced. I'll put Hart's support for her position in an orderly fashion, and then I'll comment on it.
1. Texas gubernatorial elections have historically been unpredictable.
Yawn. This is hardly a statistically significant sample size. Some Dem primaries were unpredictable in the past, but statistically that doesn't mean much.

2. The GOP has a 10 point advantage, but because the GOP won when Dems dominated, now the Dems can win in GOP dominated Texas.
The situations aren't analagous at all. Republicans were able to win the governorship in Dem Texas a few times when Democrats had a substantial lead in party ID. But by this time Texas was already starting to swing Republican presidentially. Moreover, Texas has always been conservative, and that favors Republicans.

Today, Republicans dominate, but we also dominate in Texas at the presidential level. Likewise, the same is still true: Texas is still conservative, and Republicans are even more clearly the conservative party today.

3. I almost summarized this, but it's just too rich not to: "Buried in the 2004 election returns were a few hopeful events that Democrats believe they can build upon: Congressman Chet Edwards’s defeat of former Texas lawmaker Arlene Wohlgemuth in a district that was drawn to elect a Republican; Hubert Vo’s defeat of House Appropriations chairman Talmadge Heflin in an ethnically dynamic Houston legislative district; and Mark Strama's defeat of Republican incumbent Jack Stick in a Republican-leaning Austin legislative district. Their common trait? Criticizing Republican priorities: redrawing congressional boundaries at the behest of DeLay instead of focusing on school finance and voting for budget cuts over health insurance for poor children. There's also recent evidence that Democrats can raise money in Texas: Hillary Clinton netted half a million dollars in a two-day campaign swing in March."
That's an optimistic (from a Democrat's perspective) look at the 2004 elections. Sure, they managed to win a few elections. But lots of Democrats also thought that several redistricted Democrats would survive. Only Edwards did. And let's remember that many of these white Democrats who lost already had strongly GOP districts before redistricting.

Hillary Clinton can raise money in Texas? I guess that means national Democrats can still use Texas as an ATM to withdraw money for other states.

Wohlgemuth let herself get caricaturized in the general, Heflin ran a terrible race, and the Statesman hammered Stick on what they felt were ethical lapses. Also, it's doubtful whether Stick's district is still GOP. It's trending the other way.

Sure, these were the Democratic bright spots for 2004. But to extrapolate to a statewide race is essentially just fantasy.

4. "The biggest issue for Democrats is not really who but when. Consultants on both sides of the aisle agree that it's only a matter of time before Democrats become competitive again, with the help of the expected surge in the Hispanic vote and, if the Vo race is an indicator, the Asian vote as well."
The question might be when, but that day is unlikely to be soon. Folks have been writing about the looming Hispanic vote in Texas for 50 years.

Remember how Tony Sanchez did? His model for winning was based on Hispanic voters, and he got swamped. There's no reason to think that in 2006 anybody could do better than that. They won't be able to spend $70 million on GOTV.

Also, Vo is Vietnamese -- the most Republican ethnic group in America. All indications are that he switched some Vietnamese votes and Asian to the D column -- and in that he was a perfect candidate for the district -- but using Vo to extrapolate that "the Asian vote" is trending D...there's no evidence of that.

5. "One thing that could change that forecast is the Kinky factor. The former Texas Monthly columnist has destabilized the field by declaring his independent candidacy for the job with a logical query: How hard could it be?"
If Kinky can actually get 50,000 folks to sign his ballot that don't vote in either primary, then I'll be impressed. If not, he's not even on the ballot.
In short, I'm totally unimpressed by Hart's argument. Sure, there's always a chance for a Democrat to win -- it's never impossible -- but it would take a perfect storm.

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