Tag Archives: 2018 election

O’Rourke winning money battle against Cruz

Beto O’Rourke appears to be winning one aspect of the upcoming electoral fight against an incumbent U.S. senator from Texas, Ted Cruz.

It’s the fight for campaign cash.

Will it translate to victory in the bigger, more important battle — the one for actual votes this fall? Well, that remains to be seen.

The Texas Tribune reports that Cruz, the Republican incumbent, is going to declare that he has raised less than half of what O’Rourke, the Democratic challenger, has raised in the first quarter of 2018.

I won’t spend a lot of time analyzing the battle for cash. Here, though, is a thought that came to me from a retired journalist friend of ours who offered this tidbit during our recent visit to the Golden Triangle.

O’Rourke’s goal has to be to cut his expected losses in rural Texas while maintaining his expected hefty margins in urban Texas.

The Cruz Missile has already put the warning out to his GOP faithful that the “far left” is energized against him — and against Donald Trump, whom the far left hates with a passion, according to Cruz.

Our friend, who’s watched a lot of election cycles in Texas over the span of many decades, believes that O’Rourke — a congressman from El Paso — needs to continue plowing the rural field in the hunt for votes. That seems to explain why O’Rourke has spent so much time in places such as Pampa, Canyon, Amarillo and throughout the reliably Republican Texas Panhandle.

In a certain fashion, if that is the strategy that O’Rourke is employing in Texas, it seems to mirror the national Democratic strategy that enabled Barack Obama to win two presidential elections and for Hillary Clinton to win the popular vote by 3 million ballots while losing the Electoral College to Trump. If you look at the county-by-county breakdown nationally, you see that Republican presidential candidates in 2008, 2012 and 2016 all won vast expanses of rural America; Democrats, though, harvested tremendous numbers of votes in urban America.

One can boil that down to a Texas strategy, too, I reckon, given this state’s huge urban centers in San Antonio, Austin, and Dallas/Fort Worth.

Thus, it becomes imperative for O’Rourke to somehow cut deeply enough into the losses he can expect in the Piney Woods, the Rolling Plains, the High Plains and the Permian Basin to give him some breathing space as he shores up the support he can expect in Big City Texas.

I do hope the young man spends his campaign cash wisely.

Cruz vs. O’Rourke: a fight to watch

I’ll lay this out there right away: You know where I stand regarding U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, whom I have dubbed “The Cruz Missile.”

For those of you who don’t know, I’ll just say this: I do not support him. There. That’s out of the way.

I’m going to watch his fight for re-election with intense interest. He has a Democratic challenger who hails from way out yonder, El Paso. Beto O’Rourke is a member of the U.S. House. He wants a promotion to the other end of the U.S. Capitol Building.

I am not going to predict how this year’s election will turn out. I’m not smart enough to make such a prediction. Yes, I consider The Cruz Missile to be the favorite. Texas is seriously Republican. Our voters are more conservative than liberal. Cruz is banking on the voters’ party loyalty.

But wait! O’Rourke is raising lots of money. He has raked in more campaign cash than Cruz. It’s coming from somewhere. He is tapping the state’s pockets of progressive voters.

Political observers do suggest that O’Rourke needs to build his brand. He needs to establish a political identity. Many of us know how to ID Cruz. I consider Cruz to be a front-running media hog. He loves the spotlight. He’s good at basking in it. He ran for president in 2016 after serving just partly into his first term as a senator; that’s not a strike by itself against him, as Barack Obama did the same thing in 2008.

If there is a “blue wave” set to sweep across the land in the 2018 midterms, I suspect that the Cruz-O’Rourke contest will determine just how angry voters are at the manner in which Republicans have governed the nation. We’ll know whether that wave is for real or whether it’s a mirage created by wishful thinkers.

My heart hopes that Cruz gets the boot. My head prevents me from suggesting it will happen.

It will be among the critical U.S. Senate races to watch.

Is this the year to give campaign cash?

I have had an active interest in politics for 50 years.

It probably began the moment I shook U.S. Sen. Robert F. Kennedy’s hand late one night in the parking lot of a trendy Chinese restaurant just before the 1968 Oregon Democratic Party presidential election.

I wasn’t old enough to vote that year. My first vote came four years later when I cast my first presidential ballot for Sen. George McGovern.

In those five decades, though, I’ve never given money to a political candidate. Not for president. Or U.S. Senate. Or House of Reps. Or governor. Or any other state or local office.

My career path precluded that level of political activity. As a journalist in Oregon and then in Texas, I simply could not in good conscience support a candidate with money.

I never took the oath of political abstinence that many in my craft have pursued. I always voted. Many other reporters and editors have vowed never to cast a vote for a candidate in an effort to maintain some level of objectivity when covering these politicians … or commenting on them.

I’ve long understood that voting is a private matter. We cast our ballots in secret. We are not obligated to divulge for whom we’ve voted.

I departed full-time journalism in August 2012, which means I got to vote in another presidential election that year. I did so again in 2016. In between, I voted in the 2014 midterm election and have voted already in the 2018 primary; I intend fully to cast a ballot this year in the fall election.

I am facing a bit of a quandary. There are some political candidates I like — a lot! Whether I prefer them over their opponents enough to give them money remains an open question.

One disclosure I need to make: One 2018 candidate for public office, the U.S. House, is a close personal friend, a man for whom I have the highest regard. If anyone is going to get some of my dough, he is likely to be the one.

About the closest I’ve come to donating to politicians is at tax-filing time; I routinely dedicate a portion of my tax returns to public campaign financing, which I support in the strongest terms possible.

My interest in politics only has grown over the past 50 years. Even though I haven’t yet emptied my wallet. This might be the year.

‘Rumor’ might shake it all up in D.C.

I always steered far away from reporting on “rumors” when I worked for a living as a print journalist.

The worst kind of rumors came from people with no direct knowledge of the tidbit they were passing on.

Still, this item is worth a brief note here. U.S. Rep. Mark Amodei, a Nevada Republican, told a Nevada news station that House Speaker Paul Ryan is considering resigning his House seat and that the next speaker will be Rep. Steve Scalise, the Louisiana Republican lawmaker who was seriously wounded in a shooting involving GOP congressmen who were practicing for a charity baseball game.

Ryan’s office denies the speaker will quit. Which is what you expect them to say.

The Hill reported: Amodei, who is not a close ally of Ryan’s, emphasized that he was just repeating a rumor. But the on-the-record comments from a Republican lawmaker — and the suggestion that Ryan could resign before the midterms — made waves on Monday, briefly crashing the Nevada Newsmakers website.

Ryan might be looking ahead to those midterm elections across the country and the possibility that Democrats could reclaim the majority in the House of Representatives; that, of course, would hand the speakership over to a Democratic House member.

Might it be that Ryan wants out before the so-called “blue tide” washes him out of office?

Hey, it’s only a rumor. Then again …

Negativity sells … big time!

I have lamented the extreme and sometimes harsh negativity I’ve been seeing of late along the 2018 midterm election trail.

However, I am no Pollyanna on this stuff. I know how it works. I know that negativity is a big draw to voters looking for ways to help them make up their minds on who gets their vote.

Human beings are drawn to negativity. It’s like the car wreck you see on the side of the road as you drive by: You don’t want to look at it, but you crane your neck anyway.

So it is with negative political advertising. I’ve also noted how state Sen. Kel Seliger is seeking to stay positive as he campaigns for re-election to the Texas Senate. I do wish him well in that effort and I hope he succeeds.

Let’s get real for just a minute.

I have a quick anecdote from my career in print journalism.

It was fairly routine for me to run into someone who would say something like this: “Hey, I really liked what you wrote the other day.” I would respond, “And what was that?” The person would say, “Oh, let me think. Dang! I can’t remember what it was. I’ll remember and get back to you.”

However, if someone would say, “You know, I didn’t like what you wrote.” I would ask, “What was it about?” The person then could quote the editorial or column back to me virtually verbatim, picking apart every sentence or paragraph and telling me why I was all wet or that I didn’t know what I was talking about.

That is the truth. So help me.

Yes, negativity sells. The marketplace of ideas thrives on people’s dander getting riled up.

More money: Does it equal more votes?

Beto O’Rourke is raising more campaign money than Ted Cruz.

Yes, that is correct, according to the Texas Tribune.

The Democratic challenger for the U.S. Senate is outraising the Republican incumbent … in heavily Republican Texas!

I know what many Texans are thinking about now: This means Beto is going to win the election this fall; Cruz is toast; he’s a goner; he’s done.

Not so fast, dear reader.

I’ll stipulate that I am no fan of The Cruz Missile. He has p***** me off plenty during his six years in the United States Senate. Cruz is the latest version of former Sen. Phil Gramm, of whom it used to be said that “the most dangerous place in Washington is between Gramm and a TV camera.” Replace “Gramm” with “Cruz” and you get the same punchline.

As the Tribune has reported: Over the first 45 days of 2018, O’Rourke raised $2.3 million — almost three times more than Cruz’s $800,000. 

Hurray for O’Rourke, right?

The Tribune also notes: While this is a sign of momentum for O’Rourke, it’s worth considering that this race, in a state as big and expensive as Texas, could cost into the tens of millions. Moreover, Cruz is likely to have a deep well of super PAC money to help him in the fall, while O’Rourke early on in his campaign pledged to not accept corporate political action committee money.

Hey, I want O’Rourke, a congressman from El Paso, to win this fall as much the next guy.

It’s good to remember that Texas Republicans are a dedicated bunch. They go to the mat for their candidates no matter what.

It is true that O’Rourke has spent a lot of time at town halls, talking to folks at plant gates, grange halls, saddle and tack shops, shopping malls — you name it — he still is campaigning in a state that hasn’t elected any Democrat to statewide office for two decades. He also has familiarized himself with the expansive landscape of the Texas Panhandle, which is Ground Zero of the Texas Republican political movement.

Now that I think about it, this might be the year for that lengthy streak to come to an end.

Maybe. Perhaps.

Same song, second verse in Senate District 31

Kel Seliger is running as a conservative West Texan.

He’s trying to avoid being outflanked on his right by a former foe who’s returning for yet another run at the veteran Texas state senator. Seliger also faces another interesting opponent … who hails from Seliger’s own end of the sprawling Senate district.

It’s the same song, second verse for Seliger. This time, though, he is making it crystal clear that he considers himself to be as conservative as his opponents.

I’ve known Seliger for as long as I have lived in Amarillo. That would be 23-plus years. He was the city’s mayor when I assumed my post as editorial page editor of the Amarillo Globe-News. He did a sound, solid — if not spectacular — job as mayor. Then he left office, was a civilian for a time and then he ran for the Senate after the late Teel Bivins was tapped in 2004 by President Bush to become the U.S. ambassador to Sweden.

What I find so fascinating about Seliger’s latest re-election bid are the visuals he is employing in his TV ads. One of them shows Seliger driving away in his pickup truck with two stickers in the rear window: “NRA” and one that declares Seliger to be “100 percent pro-life.”

He’s kind of in our face regarding his conservatism, yes?

Mike Canon is one of Seliger’s foes. Canon ran against Seliger in 2014. He contended four years ago that Seliger wasn’t conservative enough. Canon is a favorite of the Texas version of the TEA Party. He speaks in platitudes and cliches. He did it in 2014 and is doing so again this time.

Seliger isn’t responding to Canon directly. Instead he merely is reminding us of his commitment to the Second Amendment, his opposition to abortion and his insistence that local control of school money is more important than ceding that control to the state.

Again … conservative principles.

Oh, but now we have Victor Leal of Amarillo in the hunt. Leal also is running as a conservative. Leal runs a popular Amarillo restaurant. He once served as Muleshoe mayor and in 2010 ran for the Texas House District 87 seat vacated by David Swinford; Leal lost to Four Price.

What makes me scratch my head is whether Leal is running merely to muddy this race up a bit. I once asked him whether he intended to win. He said yes, absolutely. He’s in it to win it.

But here we are. Three men are running as conservatives. Two of them say the incumbent isn’t conservative enough. The incumbent says he is, even though he makes no secret of his disdain for Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, who runs the Senate and who also is running as a “principled conservative.”

It’s going to get really crowded on the right-wing fringe, as Canon and Leal keep pushing Seliger in that direction.

My own sense is that Sen. Seliger need not prove a thing. He is the real thing and he does represent Texas Senate District 31 well enough to merit re-election.

Yes, he is a conservative. He just chooses to speak in detail about the legislative process and stays away from TEA Party demagoguery.

‘I am not a politician’: Sure thing, pal

I always snicker under my breath, sometimes out loud, when I hear politicians say, “I am not a politician.”

A Texas Panhandle candidate for the Texas Legislature has made such a declaration. He is Richard Beyea, a Republican running for the Texas House District 88 seat now held by fellow Republican Ken King of Canadian.

Why the snicker?

Here’s the thing. Every dictionary definition of the word “politician” I have seen defines the word as someone who seeks political office or is “active” in politics. Thus, Beyea — who I do not know — becomes what he says he isn’t. He’s a politician.

His website touts his business experience and how he has been a conservative “my entire life.”

Let me offer this bit of perspective: John Smithee is a lawyer who also serves in the Texas House; so is Rep. Four Price; Kel Seliger ran a steel company before he ran for the Texas Senate. Pete Laney was a cotton farmer before he ran for the Texas House.

Donald Trump was a hotel magnate before he ran for president; Barack Obama was a law professor before he ran for his first political office; George W. Bush was a big-league baseball team owner before he ran for Texas governor.

On and on it goes. Damn near every single politician who entered politics for the first time can make precisely the claim that Richard Beyea is making.

Maybe this so-called “non-politician” ought to re-calibrate his message. He’s a politician now, by golly.

Cyber security remains a (pipe) dream

CIA Director Mike Pompeo has issued a dire warning, which is that it is a near certainty that Russia is going to try meddling in our 2018 midterm election.

Yep, just like they did in the 2016 presidential election, the event that the president of the United States — Donald John Trump Sr. — keeps denying publicly.

Mr. President, please talk to the CIA boss. He knows more about this stuff than you do.

However, I keep circling back to an initiative that was launched in 2011 in Congress. It was designed to improve cyber security and was to be led by my own member of Congress, Republican U.S. Rep. Mac Thornberry.

House Speaker John Boehner appointed Thornberry to lead a select committee to iron out the wrinkles in our nation’s cyber security system. It’s interesting to me that this was a GOP-only panel, comprising just Republican members of the House. I guess Thornberry and Boehner didn’t think there were any Democrats who could contribute to what ought to be a bipartisan/non-partisan concern.

Thornberry said in a statement after the panel’s work was done:

Cyber is deeply ingrained in virtually every facet of our lives.  We are very dependent upon it, which means that we are very vulnerable to disruptions and attacks.  Cyber threats pose a significant risk to our national security as well as to our economy and jobs.

At least 85 percent of what must be protected is owned and operated by the private sector.  Government must tread carefully in this area or risk damaging one of our greatest strengths — dynamic, innovate companies and businesses that are the key to our economy and to cybersecurity advances.

A “significant threat to our national security.” Yep, Rep. Thornberry, that is so very correct.

That threat presented itself in the 2016 election. There remain myriad questions about whether the Donald Trump campaign played a role in that threat. We’ll know the answer in due course, once the special counsel, Robert Mueller, finishes his work.

However, I do believe it’s fair to wonder: With all the work that Rep. Thornberry’s committee did to improve cybersecurity, did it do enough to protect our electoral system from the hanky-panky that came from this country’s preeminent foreign adversary?

I do not believe it did.

This is ‘winning,’ Mr. President?

Happy New Year, White House staff. They’re seemingly filled with anxiety about their future and the future, possibly, of the Man in Charge — the president of the United States.

Donald Trump has returned to the White House from his “working vacation” at Mar-a-Lago in Florida. He is sunny, upbeat and ready for the challenges that 2018 will bring him.

I hope he’s really ready for what could be a rough year, as if 2017 wasn’t rough enough.

Sure, he got that tax cut through Congress and signed it into law before Christmas. But … that was it, legislatively. Of course, the president had a different take on it, calling his first year the most successful in the history of Planet Earth.

A new year is now upon us all. The White House reportedly is getting ready for more senior staff shakeups. I guess they’re getting used to it by now. Trump has let one White House chief of staff go; he canned the White House communications director, who replaced the guy who resigned; he fired his first national security adviser; the first White House press secretary quit in a huff.

Deputy Cabinet officials have yet to be named in many departments. The secretary of state might be on the bubble; but then again, maybe not.

And, yes, we have the special counsel’s investigation into that “Russia thing.”

Against all that backdrop, there is a concern among White House staffers about a potential Democratic onslaught in the upcoming midterm election. “They absolutely should worry about 2018,” said Ari Fleischer, a former press secretary to President George W. Bush. “I do fear a wave election. Democrats are highly motivated to vote against Trump and all Republicans. Trump has got to grow beyond the base, and he has got to make himself less hated among a group in the middle.”

Anxiety abounds

Yet the president keeps talking about “winning” and saying all is good, all is bright, all is just plain peachy within the White House.

I, um, don’t think that’s the case.