Tom Schieffer's Other Campaign Problem

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Much energy has been spent discussing Tom Schieffer's unapologetic stance towards his votes for George W. Bush and his work for that administration.  But despite its attention, this is not Tom Schieffer's largest problem in his goal to be the first Democratic Governor since Ann Richards.  

He can overcome the “Bush Problem,” especially if the primary field stays stagnant.  After our visit with him in July, we said, “we are confident that Schieffer will be a champion of core Democratic issues.  His positions on education, health care, and transportation are strong, and he understands the need for Democrats to have a seat at the table before redistricting occurs in 2011.”

But that, his vast experiences in the world, and a potential appeal to Republicans are almost all his positives in his quest to win the Governor's Mansion as a good Democrat.  Yet there are people in this very community who have good experiences in the world and would champion core Democratic issues.  He needs more.

In our post on the Schieffer meeting, we furthered that he needs “a better developed campaign infrastructure in place” just to get past March.  The rate of current events convince me that the basics of a campaign infrastructure will materialize and improve.  But I'm not convinced that this will happen with all of the campaign.  I worry that a full-blown Schieffer campaign will not offer any true policy proposals to the people of Texas.

My worries started in earnest when I read Ken Herman's scorching column from the other day.  True, Herman has written two scathing pieces on Schieffer, and one could even argue that he has, for whatever reason, something against Tom Schieffer.  But the following sounded oddly familiar to me:

Karen Pavelka, who teaches library and archives conservation at the University of Texas, came away equally unimpressed with her party's leading gubernatorial candidate. She had asked Schieffer where he would find money for education improvements.

“My answer to your question is I don't know where we find the money,” Schieffer said, after an initial answer in which he told Pavelka “I'm going to ask you.” She had interrupted and said, “I'm not running for governor …”

For me, it might not have been money for educational improvements.  It might have been a transportation or broadband question, but I swear a very similar dialogue happened between one of my fellow Burnt Orange writers and Tom Schieffer back in the BOR offices.

We can trust that Tom Schieffer is a Democrat, and that he agrees with us in our issue-sentiments…But we have virtually no clue how this will translate to policy.  The Governor's seat is best utilized to push a few good policies in a legislative session (and maybe to veto some bad ones), but good policies cannot effectively be pushed for if they do not exist.  Perhaps this explains why his Bush connections continue to prevail as a major problem for Schieffer: he gives us little else to work with.

And until Democrats obtain a statewide office, innovative policy ideas might be the only solid message plan to beat a potentially strong Republican candidate in a Texas-wide race.  Communications Director Clay Robison tells me, “Tom is spending a lot of time studying and thinking about a number of policy issues. More of these will be discussed as the campaign progresses. He already has posted some policy objectives on his web page.”

Alas, tries to explain the complex issues of education, energy, health care, and the environment in less than 20 lines combined.  I don't need his policy plans to come from his website, but that's the best he has offered in public.  To beat someone from a 15-year incumbent party, we need more.  

This is not yet enough.


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  1. Good insights, Michael
    In a state where all of the political battles — especially the one in the Republican gubernatorial primary — are fought on ideological turf, Schieffer's argument to moderates, cross-overs and the other armadillos in the middle of the road is virtually the same as Kay Bailey's.

    If Texans can ever again demonstrate capability of making a choice among candidates based not on how much money they can raise but where they stand on the issues, then Schieffer vs. Hutchison is no place to begin.

  2. Cart before the horse
    “Spending a lot of time studying and thinking about a number of policy issues” should come before you decide that you want to be in charge of the state.

  3. That story
    about the lunch…What kind of new United States ambassador would forget his tuxedo? I guess George W. Bush thought it was a funny story and was entertained by it.

    I don't think it's funny at all. This is a nightmare.

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