Smith County Republican Chairman Ashton Oravetz is resigning his post today because, as he sees it, the GOP is "beyond repair."
It's hard to disagree with that.
The fanatical GOP has meandered deep into the thicket of extremism and nonsense. Less than half of Republicans believe in climate change, while nearly seventy percent believe in demon possession. Congressional Republicans have twice threatened the country's credit rating over the debt limit. 150 Republican congressman in the last Congress voted for a bill that would allow abortions only in cases where the woman became pregnant through, "forcible rape" (as if there was any other kind).
But Oravetz , who identified as a Republican for 33 years and served as chairman of the Smith County Republican Party for five before resigning today, didn't resign because he thought the wayward GOP was too radical. He thinks the GOP isn't radical enough. And he told the Texas Tribune he is working to form a third party by 2016.
Check out Ashton Oravetz's full interview with the Texas Tribune's Alana Rocha below.
On Rick Perry, Texas Tribune pollster Daron Shaw stated, "the notion that he's invulnerable is dead." Such was the reaction to this past week's poll which asked, "If Rick Perry were to run for reelection in the 2014 Gubernatorial election, how likely would you be to vote for him?"
39% answered "somewhat likely" or "very likely." So, it is true that the governor is no longer invulnerable. But it is also true that immediately after a national blunder that embarrassed the entire state, a full 39% of likely voters still would vote for the governor.
As Ben pointed out, that 39% is the same he received in the 2006 general election. So, while a majority stated themselves unlikely to vote for the governor, it is imaginable that many of those are Republicans who simply expect to vote for a different Republican or an independent. So, we must remember that the typical base of Republicans is even larger than 39%.
Even at rock bottom, 39% of the Texas electorate will vote for the crazy Republican.
That's striking, and it shows how hard it will be to ever elect a Democrat. Even if Democrats run the perfect campaign with the perfect candidate against a disaster of a Republican candidate and a campaign, the Republican will still likely receive 39%. But this isn't a fantasy world. Democrats are incapable of such perfections and we can't count on such Republican blundering at any time.
Texas Democrats must get working, because a stroke of luck simply won't ever cut it. We need higher turnout to change the game, and we need to improve our ability to churn out campaigns that can succeed at all levels statewide.
A great day for Democrats simply based on luck -- let's say 45%, slightly higher than Sam Houston's 2008 statewide percentage -- still spells less than a majority. And in the Tribune's poll, not even that many said they were very unlikely to vote for a despicable Rick Perry if he runs in 2014.
39% is a pretty good worst-case scenario. That's where Republicans are at, and I bet you that we won't be facing a worst-case scenario come a November. Instead, Democrats will have to turn it up a notch to win anything at any point. The current state of play simply won't cut it.
14 percent either did not have children old enough to attend school or did not have them at all.
At 35 percent compared to Republicans' 7 percent, Democrats were more likely to either have kids too young for school or no kids at all.
Democrats and Republicans, at roughly 6 and 7 percent respectively, have about the same amount of children in private schools.
Before I go further, I should first point out that when I initially saw and read this study, I voiced strong frustrations (publicly, on Twitter) about the Texas Tribune's decision to do this survey at all. I unfairly questioned their integrity as a news organization, slamming their entire purpose just for one article and one survey. Constructive criticism and feedback is useful, and news organizations -- as well as elected officials, bloggers, and anyone else who engages in the public process of government -- should not be immune to critique. However, the rant I went on was not constructive. It was destructive, dismissive, and overall just pretty dumb. Republicans may slam and attack the media unfairly, but that's not a practice I ever hope to emulate, and I am genuinely sorry for what I wrote yesterday.
What riled my anger was the nature of the survey. The Tribune, in explaining why they conducted the survey, said:
Tribune readers, wondering what was personally at stake for the state's education policy makers, asked us to check where lawmakers send their children to school. We obliged, and posed that question to all 181 members of the Legislature and 15 members of the State Board of Education.
The issue of "what was personally at stake" strikes me as not a good enough reason to bring children into the public policy conversation. I could see someone raising hell about it in a campaign for political purposes, but that's not the context the information was presented in. And while everything may be on the table in a campaign, the purpose -- electoral victory -- is at least a little clearer. One thing I learned from the 2010 election is that everything is on the table and nothing is sacred, even if some things (like children who have no choice and often little impact in the lives their parents choose) should be.
Lacking that electoral context, I'm not sure if it matters where lawmakers send their kids to school, but I'm open to hearing other thoughts and ideas on the subject -- if there are any out there. I'm going to write up my own personal thoughts on the subject in the comment section below.
In some of the most candid public remarks to date Republican Representative Jim Pitts of Waxahachie indicated that if any savings is to come from Texas opting out of the federal Medicaid program that "we will have to throw some people out in the street." The full context of the entire quote is below thanks to the Texas Tribune:
Pitts told the crowd that the state is studying Medicaid and other forms of government-run health care with the idea of getting out of it. A man in the audience mentioned a friend on the program and asked whether lawmakers would "throw him out on the street."
"If we did exactly what we're doing today, we wouldn't be throwing him out on the street," Pitts answered. "But if we have any savings on getting out of Medicaid, we will have to throw some people out in the street. I'm not telling you that your friend would be, but the eligibility to receive state benefits will go down.
Well most of us knew what was coming, but to hear it so blatantly and unapologetically said in a less than heartfelt manner by Republican Pitts should give much reason for Texans to sweat these days. Moreover, Pitts said clearly your friend will not be thrown off if we keep things the way they are right now, but he would if we change things to the GOP way. Inciteful!
If a program such as Medicaid, which the federal government reimburses the state of Texas upwards of 60% of the total cost, is on the cutting block one can only imagine what other programs are next. Although Rick Perry and other Republicans continue to say that the state can handle the needs of those on Medicaid "by ourselves" he is unequivocally and deceptively lying. How can the state of Texas replace 60% of reimbursed funds from the federal government when the state already faces a $25 billion dollar shortfall? The answer is they can't, and they have no intention to even try. Since the 1980's it has been the mission of Republicans to end programs such as Medicaid, Medicare, Social Security, and others and they fully intend to use an internally perceived "election mandate" to do exactly that. The new GOP extreme machine fully intends to throw as many people into the streets as possible with a slash and burn approach to governing that has no mercy.
I don't believe this is the mandate that voters truly went to the polls and voted for, I believe it is a dramatic stretch on the part of Republicans to believe that is the case; however, I'm not surprised that Republicans have manifested the election results to be a full-fledged dismantling of state and federal government of the likes we have never, ever seen before.
The new GOP extreme machine may believe their mandate will be well received by Texans, but as the microscope magnifies the extent of this destructive, slash and burn approach to governing the tide will quickly turn back.
Earlier this week, Bill White released his tax returns for all the year's in which he was Mayor. In doing so, he did exactly what Rick Perry's campaign team had asked for. As Ross Ramsey pointed out during the roundtable discussion posted on the Tribune's website, the initial press release from the Perry campaign asked for White to release his tax returns during his six year's as Mayor.
From the Rick Perry campaign's very first release about Bill White's taxes, dated March 9:
“Bill White has a tax problem – he won’t rule out raising taxes for Texans and refuses to release his own tax returns. His opposition to transparency raises questions about what he is afraid of and what he is hiding regarding his own personal fortune and how he may have profited during his six years as Houston’s mayor.”
Evan Smith, knowing that the Perry team -- in Smith's words -- had engaged "in a classic set the bar, meet the bar, move the bar maneuver" that should not be allowed. As transcribed from the Tribcast:
EVAN: Let's call that what it is: CRAP. The Perry campaign, if the Perry campaign thinks it will get away with not allowing a debate to occur between him and the major party candidate for Governor over what they perceive to be an insufficient release of the Mayor's tax returns it is, pure and simple, crap. It should be called crap by everybody, and no one should allow the Perry campaign to get away with it.
Rick Perry's panicky campaign team is trying to change the nature of the game. Now they've released a demonstrably false attack on White, claiming he profitted from an investment in BTEC while he was Mayor. As Dave Mann of the Texas Observer wrote on Tuesday, in a post titled, "A Bill White Scandal?"
This would seem a looming scandal for White. The insinuation is clear enough: he personally profited from disaster recovery that he oversaw as mayor. But that doesn't seem to be the case. There are some important mitigating details:
1. White had no financial ties to BTEC Turbines at the time the company received its contract. Although he had served on the board previously, he wasn’t invested at the time.
2. White spokesperson Katy Bacon said White’s investment in BTEC came more than a year later and was unrelated to the company’s hurricane recovery work. She said investors who were looking to purchase BTEC called White in 2006 to ask his opinion on the company. The then-mayor said it was an excellent company—one he would personally invest in. In fact, the investment group later asked him to do just that.
3. And, finally, it seems unlikely that White’s $556,000 profit stemmed from BTEC”s work on Hurricane Rita. It’s doubtful a temporary emergency contract for mobile generators could have provided enough money to BTEC to enrich a single investor. (Again, it’s not clear how much money—if any—BTEC earned from the emergency contract. Calls to the company for comment weren’t returned this afternoon.)
While Rick Perry and his campaign team continue to spread lies and send their anonymous bloggers and "we'll-pay-you-to-like-us" supporters lies about Bill White and BTEC, it's important to remember that facts matter. Perry's team, in just the last two days, have been rated "Pants on Fire" liars about their claims on Bill White and cap-and-trade, as well as "False" for their claims that the $18 billion budget deficit estimate came out of the air.
For a full transcript of this section of the Tribcast, check below the fold. In the meantime, today's question that Rick Perry refuses to answer is pretty simple:
Rick Perry -- why are you scared to debate Bill White?
Major props to the Texas Tribune for getting the opening statement from Linda Chavez-Thompson already uploaded to YouTube. Lots of great press on LCT today -- but the Tribune brings you the original material in a great way.
The Texas Tribune was not the first media organization in Texas to do podcasts about Texas politics -- but often times, I find myself enjoying their conversations the most. For one, it is an excellent window into the thinking behind the conventional wisdom and media narrative that shapes the stories we read. Additionally, the Tribune specifically hosts these podcasts to sound like the conversations you would have in a bar, talking politics and thinking through campaigns.
This week, the first major topic of conversation was about Kay Bailey Hutchison and the Republican primary between her and Rick Perry. Their conversation -- which you can listen to in full here -- covers a lot, but I'm going to transcribe and focus on a 2-3 minute segment (starting around the 3:10 mark, if you want to hear it yourself) that raises three interesting questions/comments about the narrative of the race:
Hutchison is so far behind, we really shouldn't call this race a "clash of the titans"
Because Hutchison is so far behind, we could see Perry post larger numbers in mid-January than her, which would blunt the late surge her campaign keeps telling everyone is coming
Hutchison supporters could very well be drawn to Bill White once she loses the primary
Every day, Rick Perry vs. Bill White beceoms less of a possibility and more of an inevitiability.
Let's start at the beginning:
Hutchison is so far behind, we really shouldn't call this race a "clash of the titans"
In some media accounts, we often hear this race referred to as a "clash of the titans" or "war of the roses" -- it has been billed for months, largely by traditional media analysis, as an epic heavyweight showdown for the soul of the Republican Party. When, in fact, it's nothing close to that.
I've transcribed part of the Tribcast below -- let's start with Evan Smith's assessment of Hutchison's campaign (emphasis added is mine):
Evan Smith: I want to be very careful -- I know you're not saying this, and I'm not saying it -- not to write Senator Hutchison off in this race. This race is by no means over. But I think it is crazy for anybody in the press to pretend that it is the comeptitve race today that the Hutchison campaign would like us to believe.
She is behind. She is behind in every measure, and if there is a poll that the Hutchison campaign has that they are sitting on that shows her competitive, please produce it immediately. Because the narrative of this race -- which of course, doesn't determine the outcome, all it determines is what people talk about between now and the outcome -- the narrative of this race is rapidly becoming that he is way ahead, and that her campaign is in trouble, and what can she possibly do at this point to fix it? It's unfair to her, but that's become the narrative, and I'm not sure either she or her campaign is necessarily helping change that narrative.
Evan goes on to make a second point, later in the Tribcast -- that there is an argument that Hutchison is more electable in the general election, as polls have suggested. Yet, you can't get to the general without going through the primary, and all analysis -- including the one Evan just made -- is that Hutchison is never going to make it past Perry in the primary.
Perry May Post Larger Numbers in Mid-January than KBH (Also, His TV Ads Are Better)
Elise Hu then raises the point Hutchison's campaign often makes -- that Hutchison will launch a TV war in January. But what happens if Rick Perry has more money than her, and is ahead in the polls? Ross Ramsey answers that question:
Elise Hu: Could it possibly be -- this is kind of a conspiracy theory -- but could it possibly be a strategic move? We know, and it's been published, that Kay Bailey Hutchison originally wanted a short campaign, something that ran from January to March, really, and largely on the airwaves. Could they essentially be kind of dark right now and getting ready for some sort of massive push close to the end?
Ross Ramsey: You can make that argument. We've talked before about two primaries here -- one of them is a financial primary, where you're basically trying to impress the finance people around the state so that they will give you the money so that when you get to the real primary, you have the $1.5 million to $1.8 million a week it takes to advertise to the whole state of Texas. So, Kay Hutchison is competitive in the sense that she's got a pile of money. We'll see the reports in mid-January on how much she and Perry have raised in the last six months. But, you know, I expect it to be a $30-40 million two month primary. That's a lot of TV stuff -- I wish I owned a television station -- but I think she'll be competitive in that way.
But what's going on now is that people are perceiving, sort of the insiders are perceiving that she's not really putting up a fight yet. That's the finance primary. And I wouldn't be surprised if we see in January that Perry has had a more successful second half of 2009, financially, than Hutchison.
I'd also like to point out that Hutchison's ads have been panned as ineffective and boring, while Perry's TV ads are highly regarded as being both persuasive and on message. Paul Burka at Texas Monthly -- who, as a Republican, often does better analysis on Republican politics than anyone else -- has said as much in his review of the three ads so far:
Hutchison Supporters Could Support Bill White If She Loses the Primary
Finally, Ben Philpott brings it all home -- the consequences of Hutchison running a completely ineffective campaign, and potentially losing the "financial primary" to Rick Perry -- by telling a story of how a lifelong Hutchison supporter he knows actually likes Bill White:
Evan Smith: And ask yourself, Ben, if there are major donors who are sitting here going, "I'm going to write a check to her." Is there a motivation for them to do that?
Ben Philpott: There isn't, and I think the idea of public perception of what her campaign is doing right now, you know -- I have a friend, longtime Republican, who talked to me this week and was always a Kay Bailey Hutchison supporter, talked to me this week and said, "You know, I really like Bill White."
Now that's just one person -- that's just one moderate Republican friend of mine. But that's -- we've talked on and on that a massive, or rather a bloody Republican primary could have Kay Bailey Hutchison suppoters if she indeed loses, looking to either stay out of the race or possibly looking at a moderate Democrat. Well, I have now one friend who -- he didn't say he was going to vote for White, but he said, "well I sure do like White."
Evan Smith quickly points out that there is no large statistical evidence to suggest that Bill White will automatically attract all of Kay Bailey Hutchison's supporters, and I agree with that. But I've heard too many anecdotes -- and barring a poll, that's all we've got for now -- of friends and co-workers who have Republican family in the Houston area, and their Republican families support Bill White.
Conventional wisdom and media narratives are fickle creatures, and they can change at a moment's notice when large actions take place (like Bill White getting in the Governor's race, for example). But, as Evan points out at the beginning of this particular conversation, they set the tone of the election -- especially among those in the "financial primary" -- and can affect polls. It stands to reason that if you vote in a primary, you are at least an educated voter in the sense that you choose to self-identify with a political party, so there's a good chance you follow the happenings of the organization you belong to.
For Republicans, the chattering class -- and the media narrative -- is firmly entrenched in Rick Perry's favor. Unless Kay Bailey Hutchison shows some sort of signs of life, which she hasn't been able to do to date, then there may be no reason for anyone -- donors, the press, activists, or voters -- to expect Hutchison to make it past Perry in the primary.
Every day, Rick Perry vs. Bill White beceoms less of a possibility and more of an inevitiability.
The rumors about Houston Mayor and Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Bill White switching to the Governor's race circulated again this week, and the White camapign denied them (again). With Kay Bailey Hutchison appearing to once again be waffling on her decision to resign from the Senate, some have thought White would rather jump to the governor's race than wait until 2012.
Ross Ramsay's Texas Tribune article identified John Sharp and Rick Perry as the two pushing the rumor, which if true certainly does not put Sharp, the former Texas Comptroller and current Democratic U.S. Senate candidate, in very good company.
BOR's Todd Hill wrote in August that Texas Democrats should "get off Bill White's back and get on John Sharp's" when it came to deciding if one of the two leading Democrats would switch races.
I think Sharp is better qualified, and in a better position politically, to change the dynamics completely of the Democratic gubernatorial primary.
Sharp's campaign doesn't appear to be raising the funds necessary, outside of personal loans, to remain competitive in a potential U.S. senate race. I suspect that is because those donors who thought Mayor White would run for governor versus the United States Senate suddenly found themselves choosing between Sharp and White. Many people, including myself, believe that Bill White is the brightest star we have in the Democratic Party, and donors and grassroots supporters do too. Those who committed to Sharp assuming White would run for governor suddenly switched allegiances upon his announcement that he would run in an eventual special election senate race. White's fundraising numbers prove that is the case. That doesn't mean those donors don't support Sharp, they just don't support him in a head to head race with Bill White.
In this race without an election date, not much has changed since August, although White's financial advantage over Sharp has only widened.
Sharp came extremely close to defeating Rick Perry in 1998. Since then Perry has gone form being George W. Bush's Lt. Gov. to becoming one of the most unpopular governors in Texas history. Despite Perry and Sharp's past collaboration on school finance, if he decided to switch to the governor's race, he would probably be the favorite versus Perry. Democrats would have a strong candidate for governor and Bill White's huge fundraising lead would stay in the Senate race, where he gives Texas Democrats their best chance to win a Senate seat in years.
I'll give them credit -- a bunch of reporters sure know how to own a news cycle.
The Texas Tribune announced today that it will acquire Texas Weekly. The newsletter's editor and owner, Ross Ramsey, will be joining the Texas Tribune as its managing editor. The following is from the Texas Tribune's press release:
Before taking over Texas Weekly in September 1998, Ramsey spent twenty-eight months as associate deputy comptroller for policy and director of communications in the office of the Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts. From 1991 to 1996, the West Texas native reported on state politics and policy from the Houston Chronicle’s Austin bureau. From 1986-1991, he was a reporter on the business desk and in the Capitol bureau of the Dallas Times Herald, eventually serving as the paper’s Austin bureau chief. He has also been a radio reporter in Dallas and Denton.
“Ross is one of the two or three best-respected reporters at the Capitol,” Smith says. “He’s fair, scrupulously nonpartisan, whip-smart, and crafty in the way he pries information out of sources. He’s also funny as hell, which makes him a great story-teller. That’s why we’ve asked him to write and report as well as lead our newsroom.”
In acquiring Texas Weekly, the Tribune will give its readers access to the venerable publication’s vast archives—a searchable electronic trove of stories dating back to the early 1990s that amounts to a modern history of Texas politics. Upon the Tribune’s launch this fall, current Texas Weekly subscribers will receive, for the duration of their subscriptions, a new weekly publication featuring premium content not available to regular readers of the Tribune.
The Texas Tribune is going to make a big, big splash when they launch in November.