The Chairman of the Texas Republican Party Steve Munisteri has decided to leave his post and join Senator Rand Paul’s presidential bid calling him one of the, “most intelligent, well-read, well-informed, and rational thinkers” he has ever encountered. This is a heavy blow to Governor Perry, whom Munisteri backed in 2012, and Senator Ted Cruz who are both thought to be mounting campaigns of their own.
The Texas Tribune reported that Munisteri said it was Paul’s emphasis on appealing to minorities and young people that was the deal closer. He expressed his frustration at the field so far for a lack outreach saying Paul is, “the only conservative candidate that I see who is reaching out to minority voters and young voters,” He also said it wasn’t a knock on other Texans vying for the job — but there is hardly any way around its inference.
Since the GOP in Texas (and its politicians) have become older and whiter, pundits have said demographic changes would bring better fortune for Democrats, but Munisteri had made it his priority as Chair of the party to close the gap in support among minorities. To some degree he has been successful, but you don’t have to look any further than what happened on Texas Muslim Capitol Day, or some of the crude statements made over the course of the mid term elections, to see that his candidates are not all on board.
In his announcement Munisteri told supporters, “Senator Paul also shares my belief that the Republican Party cannot expect to win a national race unless we attract younger voters and take our message aggressively to the Hispanic, African American, and Asian American communities,” adding, “He shares my vision of doing so by actively engaging community leaders, traveling to nontraditional Republican communities…”
Perhaps Munisteri is signaling that he is tired of having to defend the non-inclusion of gays or lesbians at the party’s convention, or ward off gay-reparative therapy from its platform. He even said the wording in the party’s official document that opposes same-sex marriage could be more “kind.” Paul himself has stated that he believes the GOP, “can have people on both sides of the issue,” and has said that, they will “either continue to lose, or it’ll become a bigger place where there’s a mixture of opinions.”
Both men have talked up growing the tent as a path to sustainability for the party, but so has the GOP’s top contender for the nomination who also happens to be from Texas. Former Florida Governor Jeb Bush, born in Midland, sits at the top of the polls, and has staked out the moderate establishment Republican territory which gives him some national electoral appeal. But even Bush, the party’s highest polling contender, still trails Hillary Clinton by double digits. Munisteri said he thought Paul, a libertarian-leaning conservative, could also attract independents. But, the same reasons he is thought to be unconventional, for example his anti-war position and stance on issues like criminal justice reform, also mean he will likely face heavy resistance from within his party.
And, though it won’t make much difference in the GOP primary, the Texas Democratic Party won’t let Munisteri off the hook for the state GOP’s slide to the right over the past few years. TDP Chairman Gilberto Hinojosa released a statement that included: “Rand Paul’s extreme views, and those displayed in the Republican Party of Texas’ 2014 Platform have no place in Texas.”
Hiring Munisteri isn’t the only sign that Paul is making an early strategic play at the delegate rich state of Texas. He is planning to open an office in the liberal haven of Austin in order to tap into the city’s, “energetic, supportive, creative talent,”and has brought on Vincent Harris who has previously worked with Gov. Perry, Senator Ted Cruz and Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick.
There maybe a lot of rising national stars with strong ties to Texas, but like our state nickname suggests, there really is only room for one.
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