Wednesday, January 19, 2011

More Senate stirrings

On the day that Ted Cruz threw his hat into the ring, a new poll shows Ron Paul in a dead heat with David Dewhurst for the GOP primary's US Senate nomination. Let's go to Politics Daily for the excerpt...

On a call with conservative bloggers Wednesday morning, former Texas Solicitor General Ted Cruz announced he would seek the GOP nomination for the seat.

Cruz told the bloggers he was letting them hear his plans first because they will be at the "frontier" of this race.

Now that's what you call sucking up. Cruz is at the very back of the pack as far as name recognition goes, to say nothing of experience. His single claim to respect from the establishment comes in the form of a million-dollar war chest, raised when he was planning on running for Texas Attorney General before Greg Abbott got cock-blocked by Kay Bailey's resignation two-step over a year ago. But Cruz makes up for his shortcomings with inflammatory Tea-ish rhetoric:

During the call, Cruz called President Obama "the most radical president ever to occupy the White House," and said the election is about "which candidate is best prepared to stand up and fight to stop the Obama agenda."

Yawn. This PPP poll bears out that Cruz has a loooong way to go to get credible in the GOP primary. It's the one that has Dr. No on the lead.

If Rep. Ron Paul decides to seek the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by Republican incumbent Kay Bailey Hutchison, he would become an instant frontrunner, a new poll found.

The Public Policy Polling survey showed that Paul, the longtime Lake Jackson congressman and two-time presidential contender, would start the Republican primary race in a statistical tie with Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, with other potential candidates in a hypothetical 2012 Senate match-up trailing far behind.

Paul, whose son Rand was elected to the Senate from Kentucky last year, received the backing of 21 percent of Republican voters. Twenty-three percent named Dewhurst, whose personal wealth and name recognition make him a top-tier hopeful, is currently the top pick of 23 percent of GOP voters.

Nobody has mentioned Paul as a contender before today but that will change quickly with this news.

Among other candidates who were tested, Attorney General Greg Abbott polled third at 14 percent, followed by Joe Barton, R-Ennis, 7 percent, Railroad Commissioner Elizabeth Ames Jones, 6 percent, Railroad Commissioner Michael Williams, 3 percent, Dallas Mayor Tom Leppert, 3 percent, former Texas Solicitor General Ted Cruz, 3 percent, and former Texas Secretary of State Roger Williams, 1 percent.

I have to say that I still don't think Paul -- or Barton, for that matter --  will make a run, as it means they'd have to give up their seat in the House. But Paul definitely has something to chew on.

Vince shows that Democratic contenders also get swamped in hypothetical matchups, which I would expect to see at this early stage. The numbers barely change among D's and R's. I take this poll as simply a popularity contest of the respective brands.

Dewhurst, for his part, screwed the pooch in his inaugural address yesterday. Paul Burka's comments are nothing short of devastating:

I thought Governor Dewhurst’s speech was all wrong. It was too long, too partisan, too campaign oriented. He had one foot off the platform on the way to Washington.

Sometimes the things he said made no sense at all. Speaking of the early settlers, he said, “Those men and women who made their way to Texas, who settled these unforgiving plains, who sought neither a handout nor a stimulus check — they simply sought freedom.”

Oh, please. Was Stephen F. Austin oppressed in Missouri? Was Davy Crockett in debtors’ prison in Tennessee? Did Jim Bowie face constant harassment in Arkansas? Nobody came to Texas for freedom. They came for cheap land and the chance to make a better life for themselves. Texas is not about noble ideals. It’s about making money.


Dewhurst is following the Perry model: If you rail enough about Washington, you can make people forget about what is — and what is not — happening here. Which is: a humongous shortfall and a leadership that is willing, even eager, to wrap Texas in a fiscal straightjacket and throw it under the bus to benefit their own political ambitions.

His priorities, Dewhurst said, include securing our borders, encouraging more job creation, passing Voter ID, improve our public schools because a quality education gives every child a chance to realize their dreams, continue building a world class transportation system, make healthcare more accessable and more affordable with better medical outcomes at a lower cost by passing reforms that will lead the nation…

Does he think we’re all stupid? Does he think that anti-Washington rhetoric will make us forget that he is going to whack $25 billion out of the budget? There won’t be enough money left to build a farm-to-market road, much less a world-class transportation system. Quality education with 30 kids in an elementary classroom? A more affordable health care system? More affordable for the state, maybe, after Medicaid has been cut to the bone, but not for you and me.

My reading of Dewhurst through the years hasn’t really changed very much. It comes down to this: He wants to do the right thing, but he can never bring himself to do it. He perpetually runs scared, scared of the tea party, scared of Dan Patrick, scared of Rick Perry, scared of the Republican senators, scared of his own better instincts. And so we get speeches like this one, which doesn’t ring true.

No incumbent in Texas has served longer and is more of a blank slate than Dewhurst. The state's most powerful elected official is an empty suit, and that's why he won't make it to the Senate.

And today was supposed to be a day about Michael Williams, but news about his impending resignation and announcement for the Senate has been invisible.  Who knows whether he ceded the cycle to Cruz and Paul, but it seems ignominious that the leaks about him breaking news today turned out to be false.

Tune in tomorrow -- hopefully -- for the Bowtie's response to these developments.

Update: Surprisingly muted ...

Texas Railroad Commissioner Michael Williams says he has sent Gov. Rick Perry a letter telling him he will be leaving the commission on April 2 to concentrate on a race for the U.S. Senate. ...

... (B)y giving Perry such advance notice, it will allow the governor to consider whether to replace him on the commission. There is discussion in the Legislature with taking the three-member panel down to one commissioner or possibly combining it with other agencies.

Perry could appoint someone to replace Williams on the commission. That appointee would have to stand for election in 2012 to fill the term through 2014.

Williams said he is not overly worried about the possibility of millionaire Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst entering the race.

"One of the lessons of 2010 is that message and the right messenger can trump money," Williams said.

Williams missed an good opportunity to capture some attention with this tepid announcement. Not a good way to start.

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