Tag Archives: 2014 election

The sun still rose in the morning

Those on the left are crying the blues.

Their “friends” on the right are jumping with joy.

Lefties are mourning the loss of the U.S. Senate, which after Tuesday night’s mid-term election flipped from Democratic to Republican control come Tuesday.

Righties are utterly gleeful that Sen. Harry Reid will turn over his majority leader gavel — figuratively — to Sen. Mitch McConnell.

My take?

Well, the sun rose the next morning like it always does. President Obama said he wants to “work with” Republicans in both congressional houses. McConnell said he intends to work with the president whenever it’s possible. Obama said he’d like to enjoy a glass of Kentucky bourbon with ol’ Mitch; no word yet on whether McConnell is going to invite the president over for a belt.

We’re going to learn in due course just how well the two sides will get along. I am not worried about things “getting worse” in Washington. From my standpoint, and looking at it through my own admittedly biased prism, it couldn’t get much worse than it’s been since Barack Obama took office in January 2009.

Don’t misunderstand. I continue to believe the country is in much better shape today than it was when he took over. The pasting Democrats took on Tuesday is because their foes on the right outshouted them over the course of the Obama administration. They have persuaded a large number of Americans that the economy remains in dire peril and that the federal government is doing a lousy job of protecting them against foreign enemies.

It’s all baloney.

The country will rock along. The two sides will continue to fight, squabble, bitch at each other — just as it’s always been done.

I’m trying to look at the big picture. We’ve done all right for the past two-plus centuries.

I’ll accept the election results for what they are. Then I’ll just need to get ready for the next election cycle, which has just begun.


Chaos will reign supreme in 2016 election, if …

Randall County is going to need a serious reworking of how it conducts its elections in 2016, based on what I witnessed all day today in this mid-term, supposedly “low-turnout” election.

The county established “voting centers,” which effectively eliminated many traditional polling places around the county.

One of those centers happened to be at the County Courthouse Annex on Georgia and the Canyon E-Way in south Amarillo. I worked all day there conducting exit polling for a public opinion research company.

I witnessed considerable chaos, some chagrin from disheartened voters and some angst among county election officials seeking to manage the mayhem.

The voting center system allows voters who live anywhere in the county to vote at whatever polling site they wish. It turned out today that nearly 2,000 of them decided to vote at the courthouse annex. It started off fast when the polls opened at 7 a.m., slacked off just a bit right after noon, then it got seriously busy and crowded from about 2 p.m. until the polls closed at 7.

I was camped just outside the west entrance and I watched voter after voter walk in, look at the crowd, then walk out proclaiming they’re “coming back later,” or “I’ll go vote somewhere else. I ain’t waiting in that line to vote.”

It was an impressive display of voter interest in an election that pundits said would produce a tepid turnout. I don’t know what the final numbers are just yet and I don’t think they’ll really rival presidential election-year vote totals. The pandemonium at the annex, though, needs to be examined.

We’ll be electing a new president in 2016. The turnout for those elections always is greater than these mid-term elections.

What’s the county to do? Elections officials told me tonight they’re going to need to reconfigure the ballot box setup, the course of the lines that will be sure to form and look for better ways to manage the crowd packed into the area in front of the tax office.

Good luck with all of it.


Texas Democrats take it on the chin

The Texas Democratic Party has just been knocked out … cold.

All that brave talk about upsets in the making, about how the state was on the verge of returning to its Democratic roots, of Texas becoming a “battleground” upon which Democrats would wage combat with Republicans … well, you can toss it into the trash can.

Greg Abbott is going to be the next governor and, worse still, Dan Patrick is going to become the next lieutenant governor.

If I were Abbott, I’d start plotting my renomination strategy — let alone my re-election plans — right now.

The fight is going to commence probably quite soon for the seat Abbott is about to assume. It well could be between the new governor and the new guy who’ll be lieutenant governor.

Abbott vs. Patrick. Sounds appealing, doesn’t it?

As for the Democratic Party, well, back to the drawing boards, folks.

Battleground Texas, the phony political action group that crowed about pumping juice into the Democratic Party, has been shown to be bogus. It didn’t do nearly the job it claimed to have done in registering voters.

See you around, hucksters.

Meanwhile, the GOP stranglehold on every statewide office continues.

As for the Texas Senate, let’s just say it’s going to be a good bit crazier than it’s been. Patrick is likely to toss aside all the bipartisan niceties shown by predecessors of both parties. He isn’t likely to appoint any Democratic Senate chairmen or women, which David Dewhurst and Rick Perry did when they held the office. Indeed, the late Democrat Bob Bullock selected Republican allies to chair committees when he ran the Senate prior to Perry taking over in 1999.

I’ll say this, though. Watching the Texas Senate will provide plenty of grist for folks like me.

As for the rest of the state’s political lineup, they’re all likely to march to the cadence that Dan Patrick is going to call once he takes office.

Get ready, Texas.



What's in store on Election Day?

Who knows what the future holds in the next four days?

Americans are going to elect a new Congress, several governors and thousands of county commissioners, sheriffs, constables (in Texas at least — ugh!) and assorted lower-level government officials.

Everyone who follows this stuff, though, has their eyes on the U.S. Senate. Will it swing from Democratic control to Republican? Virtually everyone who isn’t a dedicated Democratic Party operative thinks it’s a done deal.

Here’s what we ought to look for on election night to determine how strong the tide will be.

The earliest poll closings will be back east. In New Hampshire, Democratic Sen. Jeanne Shaheen is being challenged strongly by carpetbagger Republican Scott Brown, who lost his Senate seat in Massachusetts and then moved to New Hampshire because he wants to serve in the Senate from another state. If the race is too close to call when the polls close — or if Brown is declared the winner — in the Granite State, Democrats are going to lose big.

Look for something similar to happen in North Carolina, where Democratic Sen. Kay Hagen is being challenged by tea party Republican Thom Tillis. If Tillis is declared the winner outright when the polls close, turn out the lights — as Dandy Don Meredith used to say — the party’s over.

OK, one more key race to ponder. Down yonder in Georgia could tell us something. If Democratic challenger Michelle Nunn defeats Republican foe David Perdue for that state’s Senate seat, then we’ve got something quite different going on. The seat has been in GOP hands. Both of these candidates are kin to political giants in Georgia: Michelle’s dad is former Sen. Sam Nunn; David’s cousin is former Gov. Sonny Perdue. Talk about dynasty politics, right?

These early races could determine how much of the rest of the country will go.

Texas’s Senate race between GOP incumbent John Cornyn and Democrat David Alameel? That one’s over.

The GOP tide has yet to build in the eyes of many observers. We’ll know in due course whether the swells are growing across the country or whether the Senate flips with a slim majority turning up on the Republican side of the chamber.

If the Senate turns Republican Red when all the ballots are counted, then the game changes. We’ll have to see how these folks intend to actually govern and whether they can rise beyond the role of obstructionists.

I’m waiting anxiously.



Why is economy such a drag on election?

Some things I just don’t get, such as why polls keep showing that the economy remains such a worry for Americans.

Incumbents from both parties are sweating out the election that takes place Tuesday because the economy, for crying out, is on voters’ minds.


I keep seeing the numbers and I actually am heartened by them. Joblessness is down; job growth is up; retirement accounts (such as mine) are up; budget deficits are down; energy production is up; energy consumption is down; home construction is up; auto sales are up.

Who’s badmouthing the economy? Oh, I keep forgetting. It’s foes of the Obama administration in Congress, on talk radio, on cable news shows and a smattering of right-wing economists who keep saying that the economy is in mortal danger of collapse at any minute. They grabbed Americans’ attention when the government enacted aggressive stimulus incentives in early 2009 to try to rescue the failing economy and haven’t let go.

It appears from my vantage point that the economy has been in full recovery mode for about a year, but the doom-and-gloomsayers keep instilling this fear in us that it’s all about the collapse.

OK, it’s not rosy in every corner of the country. As the link attached to this blog notes, some governor are taking it on the chin because job growth isn’t what it should be. Other governors, such as the one in Texas, are crowing about superior growth and are taking all the credit they deserve — and even more than they deserve — for that growth. That’s all fine.

So help me, though, while I might be slow on the uptake a lot of the time, I fail to understand how the economy continues to strike such fear across the land.


If GOP takes Senate, it'll need to govern

The stars apparently are lining up for a Republican takeover of the U.S. Senate, or so the experts are saying.

Let’s assume they’re right. A RealClearPolitics average of all the major polls show a six-seat shift, precisely the number that the GOP needs to become the majority in the Senate.

I’m not clear about the House of Representatives, where Republicans have ruled since 2011. Perhaps their control will tighten.


This much is becoming clearer as the mid-term elections approach: If Republicans are destined to control the entire legislative branch of government, then they need to prepare to actually govern, as in enact legislation that President Obama can actually sign into law.

So far since January 2009, when Barack Obama took office, Republicans have done their level best to block just about every major initiative the president has put forward. It started with the financial bailout package which the GOP opposed, but which got enacted over its objections.

Then came the 2010 mid-term election. The House switched to Republican control. Then the fun really began.

Republicans opposed the Affordable Care Act; they’ve conducted an ongoing series of show hearings on Benghazi and the Internal Revenue Service’s vetting of conservative political action groups’ request for tax exempt status; they’ve opposed immigration reform; increasing the minimum wage and a host of other White House initiatives.

If the Senate flips, then we’re going to see donnybrooks develop over confirmation of, say, the next attorney general and a series of lower-level appointments the president will seek.

I’ll buy the notion that the legislative branch of government is going to turn Republican.

Will legislators keep trying to stick it in the president’s eye or will they actually compromise when possible on key bills and send them to the White House in good faith? And will the president follow suit and sign these bills into law?

Republicans have mastered the art of obstruction since Democrat Barack Obama became president. Let’s see if they can learn the art of governing.


More than a filibuster, Sen. Davis?

One filibuster does not a governor make.

Pay attention, Wendy Davis. You’re trying to ride a single political event into the most visible — if not the most powerful — office in Texas.

It likely won’t work.


Davis, the state senator from Fort Worth, is running for governor as a the Democratic Party nominee. The latest polling on the race shows her Republican opponent, Attorney General Greg Abbott, with a 12-point lead. That’s a good bit of ground to make up for Davis, who burst onto the national scene by filibustering an anti-abortion bill nearly to death in 2013. It came back to life in a special legislative session and became law shortly thereafter.

Davis’s filibuster, which occurred a year ago this week, made her a celebrity with the reproductive-rights activists.

She should be able to mount a stout challenge to Abbott. However, as the summer progresses and the autumn campaign season approaches, it’s beginning to look as though Davis hasn’t yet found her voice.

My sincerest hope is that Texas can become a place where Republicans and Democrats can battle each other on a level playing field. It hasn’t been that way in Texas for more than two decades. Ann Richards was the most recent Democrat to become governor, and that was in 1990. John Sharp was re-elected comptroller in 1994 and he was the most recent Democrat to be elected to any statewide office.

It’s been Republican-only ever since.

The preferred outcome is for both parties to be strong so they can keep the other party bosses honest, keep them alert and keep the crazies from infiltrating them. The Texas Republican Party has been hijacked by its very own tea party wing. Formerly mainstream Republicans — such as Abbott — now are tacking far to the right, apparently in keeping with the prevailing mood of Texas voters.

Democrats? They’ve been languishing in the political wilderness.

Many Democrats saw a superstar in the making when Davis burst onto the scene. Her campaign has been floundered. Her campaign manager quit, so she’s starting from scratch.

Yes, Davis has banked a lot of campaign money. Her task will be to spend it wisely and effectively.

Relying on the feelings of those who thought her filibuster against the abortion restrictions was an act of heroism isn’t going to get the job done.

“Anybody that thinks that this campaign is over, or somehow she’s irrelevant, isn’t thinking,” said Garry Mauro, a former Texas Democratic land commissioner. Then he added, “Nobody with $20 million is irrelevant.”

Money talks. What’s it going to say about Wendy Davis?

Will the tide turn on Hispanic votes?

Paul Burka’s blog on the candidacy of state Sen. Leticia Van de Putte suggests a now-or-virtually-never scenario for Texas Democrats.


Van de Putte is running for lieutenant governor. She is a Hispanic woman with a lot of appeal to the base of her party. The question she faces — as do Texas Democrats — is whether she can motivate Texas Hispanics to vote in next year’s race for lieutenant governor and governor.

Van de Putte joins state Sen. Wendy Davis of Fort Worth at the top of the Democratic Party ticket next year. Davis’s chances of becoming the next governor are longer than long, according to Burka and many other analysts. I’m not so sure about that … but that’s just little ol’ me.

Burka is right about Hispanics’ turnout in previous elections. It hasn’t been good. He notes also that Texas Hispanics are descended from folks who came into Texas from Mexico, where the political culture hasn’t been kind to folks who depend on government. Burka writes, “Hispanics emigrated to America from a country whose government seldom did things FOR people, but rather did things TO people. In such circumstances, the degree of trust or belief in government and politicians was, and remains, negligible. All too easily, the culture of Mexican politics was transplanted to the Texas side of the border.”

A very high hurdle sits in front of Van de Putte and Davis as they seek to break the GOP’s hold on statewide offices.

They’ll need to “nationalize” this campaign by linking the Republican nominees for governor and lieutenant governor to the extreme policies of their party’s national brain trust: government shutdown, immigration reform reluctance and, of course, women’s reproductive rights.

If they can connect those dots, there might be a Texas transformation in the making.

Two senators: same ideology, different styles

Ross Ramsey’s analysis of Texas’s two Republican U.S. senators reminded me of a political truism authored by none other than the late President Richard Nixon.

Nixon, who essentially wrote the modern political playbook, used to say that candidates run to their extremes during the primary and tack toward the center in the general election. The president’s theory applied to Democrats and Republicans.


That might work in most eras and in most states. Not in Texas. Not now.

Ramsey, the editor of the Texas Tribune, says Sen. John Cornyn has stepped right out of “central casting” to be a U.S. senator. White hair, former judge, former state attorney general, handsome features. “Soft face.” He says Sen. Ted Cruz presents a different image. Black hair. Fiery temperament. He’s a TV camera hustler.

Cornyn is running for re-election this year. He might face a serious challenge from his right, from the tea party — aka the wacko — wing of his party. Why? Mainly because he opposed Cruz’s tactic of tying Affordable Care Act funding with the government shutdown earlier this year.

Cornyn is a virtual shoo-in for re-election. To secure his party’s nomination in the spring, he’ll have to say all the right things. He might even have to harden that soft face of his while saying them. He’ll blast the ACA to smithereens. He’ll say mean things about Democrats in general. He might even accuse the president of being something other than a true-blue American.

In another time, though, Cornyn then would veer toward the middle, saying more reasonable things. He would talk about his desire to reach across the aisle to work his “friends on the other side.” He might even mention that he is pals with a few of those Democrats.

But these days, in Texas, the Nixon Axiom no longer seems to matter. Cornyn likely will stay focused on the far right. He might even get more inflammatory as the campaign progresses into the summer and fall of 2014. That’s because so many Texas votes seem comfortable with their senators tossing bombs.

Look at Cruz’s popularity among Texas Republican at this moment. If you’re a Texas politician, all that seems to matter is whether the GOP faithful will stand with you.

All of this could play out as described here, except for one possible factor: whether Democratic state Sen. Wendy Davis’s campaign for governor gins up enough support among women angry at the GOP’s stance on abortion rights. I’m not predicting that will happen.

However, if it does, then President Nixon’s general election strategy is back in play.

Women hold key to Democrats’ future?

Leticia Van de Putte has become the latest candidate for Texas lieutenant governor.

The biggest news of all simply might be that she isn’t a Republican. She’s a Democratic state senator from South Texas who now stands as the prohibitive favorite to win her party’s nomination in next spring’s primary.


Van de Putte will face a tough challenge if she hopes to break the GOP’s vise-grip on statewide offices. She joins another prominent Democrat, state Sen. Wendy Davis, at the top of the ballot; Davis is an equally prohibitive favorite to be the Democratic nominee for governor.

As the Texas Tribune points out in the link attached to this blog post, Democrats may be targeting suburban women as their essential voting demographic group. Women, Democrats hope, just might be upset enough at Republicans’ view of abortion that they’ll turn out in sufficient numbers next year to elect fellow women to high office.

It’s a big risk. Texas Republicans have good reason to be confident as election year approaches.

Their candidates — namely Attorney General Greg Abbott — are flush with money. Abbott is the clear favorite to win the GOP governor’s primary and he is in strong position to win the big prize next November. Davis presents Democrats with their strongest gubernatorial candidate in many election cycles. Van de Putte joined Davis this past spring in battling legislative Republicans over a restrictive GOP-sponsored abortion laws.

Will these two candidates be able to parlay that notoriety into votes this coming fall?

Democrats hope so. In a state that remains solidly in Republican hands, their hope might resemble a pipe dream.

I do know this: A most interesting lieutenant governor’s race just got even more so with Leticia Van de Putte’s entry.