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Tom Leppert

Of Presidents and #PRIDE: Obama Campaigns With LGBT Americans, Romney Says They're "Inferior"

by: Katherine Haenschen

Mon Jun 25, 2012 at 09:30 AM CDT

This past weekend, PRIDE celebrations took place in cities across the country, including Chicago, New York, and San Francisco. Yesterday, The New York Times had a great piece on Obama staff and volunteers marching in PRIDE parades and recruiting volunteers. The occasion prompts reminder of another stark difference between Barack Obama and Mitt Romney.

While Barack Obama has come out in support of marriage equality and worked to give LGBT Americans the same rights as the hetero folks, Mitt Romney said kids are better off with same-sex parents.

Let's unpack this a bit. Obama, who for a long time had publicly supported civil unions but not full marriage equality, came out as a supporter of same-sex marriage rights in a televised interview earlier this year. Before his landmark statement on marriage equality -- he's the first sitting President to affirm such support, and to borrow a phrase from Joe Biden, it's a BFD -- Obama had already signed the repeal of Don't Ask Don't Tell, and ordered the Justice Department to stop defending DOMA, the "Defense of Marriage Act," the federal law that defined marriage as between one man and one woman. It prevented individual states from recognizing same-sex marriages performed in other states, and also required the federal government to refuse to recognize same-sex marriages for all federal purposes, from insurance benefits to joint tax returns.

Meanwhile, Mitt Romney made a speech to the "Faith and Freedom Coalition" earlier this month in which he repeated his views that same-sex parents are inferior to heterosexual parents.

Read his spokesperson's statement affirming what Romney said below the jump.

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Texas Senate Showdown: Dewhurst vs. Cruz, Sadler vs. Yarbrough

by: Ben Sherman

Thu May 31, 2012 at 04:02 PM CDT


On Tuesday, Texas voters added another round to this Senate brawl. Ted Cruz's gambit to ride a wave of corporate Tea Party money (don't worry; that's not a contradiction anymore) all the way to a runoff against Dewhurst worked. The Lt. Governor was held at 44.6%, which is 5.4% fewer than what he needed to avoid a runoff.

Let more dogs out. Dewhurst previewed his runoff strategy at his morning-after press conference, telling reporters that Cruz is just "another lawyer funded by Washington special interests," and framing the race between "a lawyer who talks, a businessman who does." Dewhurst added: "If you like Texas, you're going to love what David Dewhurst is going to do for you in Washington," he said. Referring to himself in third-person is not the best strategy for a candidate who has almost no human characteristics, but at least Dewhurst knows he must inject some energy into his runoff candidacy.

Cruz told reporters that his strategy of "reaching out 18-hours a day, seven days a week to the grass roots activists of Texas" will not change for the runoff. He challenged Dewhurst to five debates before the July 31 runoff election. Dewhurst responded, "I don't know why Mr. Cruz would limit debating me. Is he scared? I'm not going to limit the debates I have with Mr. Cruz to only five." Cruz said he's fine with Dewhurst wanting to "up the ante" but added that the questions should come from voters, not "hand-picked moderators." We can expect a new round of ads and angles of attacks from both campaigns very soon.

Watch your head for the next nine weeks; Republican mud is about to be slung all over Texas.


For months, this series ignored Grady Yarbrough, who's running as a Democrat for Senate. On Tuesday, Yarbrough surprised many and gained enough votes to place second, earning him a spot in the runoff against Paul Sadler. Yarbrough is a perennial candidate who has run as a Democrat and a Republican before. He has no funding, nor an apparent website. His is not a serious candidacy, and so he did not earn the attention of this series or just about any other coverage of the Democratic primary.

How did he win 25.8% of the vote? Well, many may have wrongly assumed he's related to Ralph Yarborough, a progressive Texas senator from the mid-twentieth century. Second, none of the Democratic candidates had much money to communicate any sort of message. Many Democrats no doubt went into the booth and selected a name from their party's ticket. Addie Allen, a female candidate with similarly nonexistent money and messaging, earned 22.9% of the vote, with an undoubtedly significant component of that support coming from her female name. Sean Hubbard ran a worthy campaign with what resources he had, earning the endorsements of BOR and several other voices in Texas progressive politics, but ended up with only 16.1% of the vote.

Sadler vs. Yarbrough is no contest at all, but that doesn't mean you shouldn't come out and vote on July 31 for Sadler, a progressive expert on public education exponentially better prepared than any of the Republicans to be a worthy Texas senator.

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Texas Senate Showdown: Four Days to Go

by: Ben Sherman

Fri May 25, 2012 at 10:00 AM CDT

96 hours until we may know which Republican candidate will misrepresent us in the Senate.

Their primary sure is heating up, GOP-style. A week ago, newly released fundraising numbers showed that Dewhurst and Cruz have eached raised the same amount of money - $6.1 million in the latest, giving numerical backing to the obvious: this is getting close.

Polls show a runoff is entirely possible, and even likely. A UT/Texas Tribune poll released May 21 shows the race at Dewhurst 40 - Cruz 31 - Leppert 17 - James 4. A Public Policy Polling survey taken between Tuesday and Wednesday found the race standing at Dewhurst 46 - Cruz 29 - Leppert 15 - James 3. The recent BOR poll shows the race at Dewhurst 43 - Cruz 30 - Leppert 14 - James 5.

Yesterday, Cruz got a piping hot endorsement from Rick Santorum. "Ted Cruz is spellbinding, a tremendous orator and principled," Santorum said on Glenn Beck's radio show. "We need people who can motivate and lead ... Ted has that capability."

Fully disagreed. Nevertheless, let's move on. We know that Cruz has tea bags like Santorum soaking every inch of his public image (for apparently no other reason than he's the most viable candidate to beat an incumbent). What we don't know is whether he can force a runoff against Dewhurst by keeping him under 50%.

My guess is that there will probably be a runoff. While Cruz isn't all that exciting himself, he's unquestionably capturing the vote of the attention-paying "Tea Party" Republicans. And Tom Leppert is siphoning off a sizable chunk of DFW voters and business-minded Republicans. Dewhurst seems to know this is a close fight: "I'm confident that we'll be the top vote-getter," he said Wednesday night. "As long as I'm the top vote-getter I'm happy with the results." In politician-speak, that means he's pretty damn sure there'll be a runoff. And Dewhurst hasn't been sitting on his hands; he's been attacking Cruz for months and recently started going after Tom Leppert.

The Dewhurst  campaign made a website, LiberalTomLeppert.com, doing the obvious and attacking the big-city mayor for a "liberal" record. To match the negative with the positive, Dewhurst even has a new ad out featuring Mike Huckabee praising his "conservative" record.

A runoff will be brutal and enjoyable, as such GOP affairs are wont to be. The Republicans might as well save their breath though; any of their candidate would be a perfect nominee to represent their party. Obedient corporate whores and bad Texans. Harsh words. Oh, to live in a world where they weren't dead-on.

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BOR POLL: Republicans Satisfied with Romney, Split on Senate and Railroad Race


Mon May 21, 2012 at 10:35 AM CDT

(Attorney General Greg Abbott has signaled to donors that he will run for governor in 2014, setting up a potential challenge to Rick Perry. We polled that hypothetical match-up back in May 2012.   - promoted by Katherine Haenschen)

As part of our year-long statewide polling series, BOR PAC and People Calling People conducted a survey of likely Republican primary voters to determine their sentiments on Mitt Romney's de facto Republican nomination, the Republican primary races for US Senate and Railroad Commissioner, and a hypothetical 2014 Republican primary match-up for Governor. We defined "likely voter" to mean a registered voter who had voted in at least two of the last three Republican Primaries (2006, 2008, 2010). Calls were placed to a random subset of those voters May 15-16, 2012.

Here are the results.

"In the Republican primary for US Senate, the candidates are Glenn Addison, Joe Agris, Kurt Cleaver, Ted Cruz, David Dewhurst, Ben Gambini, Craig James, Tom Leppert, and Lela Pittinger. Who do you plan to vote for in the Republican primary for US Senate?"
David Dewhurst43%
Ted Cruz30%
Tom Leppert14%
Craig James5%
Lela Pittinger4%
Glenn Addison2%
Kurt Cleaver1%
Joe Agris0%
Ben Gambini0%
TOTAL (MOE 4.2%, 557 responses)100%

The poll confirms what political chatterers had surmised for months: Dewhurst and Cruz look poised to head to a late-July run-off for the Senate seat being vacated by Kay Bailey Hutchison. That has to give Cruz hope that he can prevail in a low-turnout hyper-partisan electorate, since the solicitor general has enjoyed more Tea Party and activist support than Dewhurst, whose main constituency seems to be Rick Perry's corporate sugar daddies. A Senate run-off pitting Cruz' grassroots hordes vs. Dewhurst's fat cats has to give serious pause to any moderate Republicans who may be headed to a run-off in down-ballot races, and could play a role in the inevitable run-offs in various Republican Congressional primaries (namely CD-14, CD-25, and CD-36). The only real question is if Dewhurst can spend his way to avoid a run-off, but given the margin he needs to make up to clear 50%, it looks unlikely.

Notably, the results also look a lot like the UT/TT poll released today. Dewhurst is in the low 40's and looks likely to go into a run-off with Cruz. That "internal Dewhurst campaign memo" circulated last week and leaked to Politico claiming that Leppert had pushed past Cruz into second place does indeed appear to be smoke and mirrors.

"In the primary for a full term on the Texas Railroad Commission, the candidates are Becky Berger, Beryl Burgess, Warren Chisum, Joe Cotten, Christi Craddick, and Roland Sledge. Who do you plan to vote for in the Republican primary for Texas Railroad Commissioner?"
Christi Craddick25%
Warren Chisum24%
Roland Sledge5%
Becky Berger4%
Joe Cotten3%
Beryl Burgess3%
TOTAL (MOE 4.5%, 479 responses)100%

In the race to fill the seat vacated by Michael Williams, it's clear that no candidate has managed to break through the crowded field, despite their ridiculous TV ads and escalating anti-EPA rhetoric. Over one third of the electorate is undecided, while Chisum and Craddick are the leaders here, the latter doing well likely based on sheer last-name ID alone. Unfortunately for Roland Sledge, despite his shocking TV ad in which Sledge vows not to pee on an electric fence, he's not making a splash with voters. The Republican electorate isn't trickling down from the undecided column into Sledge's camp. Unless his campaign is willing to leak any more-favorable internal polling, it's unlikely that on May 29th anyone will say to Sledge, "urine a run-off."

"In the 2014 Republican primary for Governor, if Attorney General Greg Abbott decided to challenge Governor Rick Perry, who would you support? "
Rick Perry42%
Greg Abbott35%
Someone Else7%
Not Sure16%
TOTAL (MOE 4.6%, 462 responses)100%

It's clear that Abbott is quietly angling to be the next Governor of Texas, what with his sue-the-Feds this and his down-with-women's-rights that. However, Governor Perry is claiming that he plans to run for re-election, either to prevent being the lamest duck next session or because he thinks it will better position him for another failed Presidential bid in 2016. Regardless, the Republican primary voters we polled have Abbott within 10% of Perry in this hypothetical match-up, which bodes well for the hard-charging Attorney General should he tilt at the incumbent Governor.

"How satisfied are you with Mitt Romney as the Republican nominee?"
Very Satisfied35%
Very Dissatisfied8%
TOTAL (MOE 3.7%, 718 responses)100%

We also asked Republican primary voters how they felt about presumptive nominee Mitt Romney. Only two thirds of Republicans are satisfied with the flip-flopping Massachusetts governor, whose healthcare plan was part of the foundation of Obamacare. One third of Republicans surveyed seem unwilling to go along with Romney, and 17% self-report as Dissatisfied or Very Dissatisfied. One wonders about the remaining third of the Republican primary electorate -- are they Ron Paul supporters? Do they want a more conservative candidate? Would a third-party conservative candidate like Rick Santorum or a legitimate Tea Partier like Debra Medina appeal to the 33% of Republican primary voters who are not satisfied with Romney? Most importantly, will they be too dismayed about their Presidential pick that they'll stay home this November?

We'll have more results later today.

Support more polls and more projects like this. Make a donation to the Burnt Orange Polling Fund today!

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Republican Senate Candidates Try To Patronize Women Into Voting For Them

by: Katherine Haenschen

Fri May 04, 2012 at 00:45 PM CDT

I hope I wasn't the sole woman in Texas tuned in to last night's US Senate debate. The Republican war on women was on full display as candidates battled to take the most regressive stance on women's health issues. What was clear from the Republican candidates' answers is that all four are staunchly out of touch with what women and Texans think about Planned Parenthood and the Women's Health Program.

As my colleague Ben Sherman reported earlier, the debate was a fairly staid format in which the four leading Republican candidates (David Dewhurst, Ted Cruz, Craig James and Tom Leppert) and the two leading Democratic candidates (Paul Sadler and Sean Hubbard) sat down for a one-on-one with the moderator before engaging in some short Q&A and a bit of brief back-and-forth on the issues of the day. It was during the Q&A that two questions in particular emphasized the degree to which women's reproductive rights and basic access to healthcare have become a political football kicked around like so much special teams practice.

Candidates were asked how they plan to get women to vote for them, and to take a stand on a woman's right to choose. Evidently the Republicans' answer was to patronize women, deny them access to healthcare, and reiterate that women can't make their own medical choices. The responses from the Republicans ranged from laughable to infuriating, as all emphasized their hatred of Planned Parenthood and desire to defund the program that provides services to 40% of women enrolled in Texas's Women's Health Program.

Dewhurst stated that he was asking "all good Republicans to vote for me," which I guess means he's Ok with independent and Democratic women abandoning him over his whacktacular views on women's issues. He emphasized his work to both defund Planned Parenthood and find state money to continue the WHP without the provider (which is in violation of Federal rules regarding exclusion of qualified providers, but NBD, right?). Leppert followed up that he's also against funding Planned Parenthood, and has strong anti-choice viewpoints. He then actually gave a better answer than the rest of his knuckle-dragging Republican brothers when he noted that he was raised by a single mom and that women were concerned about the economy and job opportunities. Then he said something about women being concerned about career politicians? Eh, get your talking points in where you can, I guess. James emphasized his pro-life credentials. I didn't really take many other notes since his voice makes chunks of my brain drip out of my ears. Sorry.

Ted Cruz had perhaps the most laughable and awful answer, as he claimed that "a significant majority" of women are pro-life. Unfortunately for Cruz, the facts say otherwise: a Rasmussen poll (yes, Ras the Republican polling firm) conducted last month found that 51 percent of women identify as pro-choice, and only 40 percent pro-life. The pro-life tally dropped 3 points since Ras's previous January poll. Thanks for telling us what we ladyfolks think, Ted! Unfortunately you're wrong.

On the Democratic side, our candidates did women right on this issue, standing up for our ability to make informed medical decisions and choose our own healthcare decisions. Sean Hubbard, who had a solid debate performance on the whole, said that it was "embarrassing" that we're still discussing whether or not women can make their own healthcare decisions. He noted that his wife had gone to Planned Parenthood earlier in her life not for abortions, but cancer screenings. He said that Planned Parenthood provides "invaluable services to low-income women, women with no health insurances." Sadler also made clear that he supports choice and Planned Parenthood, and disagreed with the state's efforts to defund the entire Women's Health Program just because certain individuals don't like Planned Parenthood. "It's the wrong position that we're taking as a state."

Let's be really clear: Republicans' opposition to Planned Parenthood is out of touch with what Texas voters want. A PPP poll conducted in March showed that 59% of likely Texas voters oppose Governor Perry's efforts to kick the provider out of the Women's Health Program. Planned Parenthood itself enjoys enviably high support in public opinion polls. A Quinnipiac University poll found that 53% of voters nationally oppose cutting off federal government funding to Planned Parenthood. An NBC/Wall Street Journal poll ound that 53 percent of Americans found it "mostly or totally unacceptable" to eliminate funding to Planned Parenthood for family planning and preventive health services. Republicans are going against the wishes of voters in Texas and nationally in their efforts to defund Planned Parenthood.

The participating candidates -- all male, as the females in both parties are apparently not considered viable candidates worthy of inclusion -- were also asked where they stand on reproductive choice. Unsurprisingly this broke down along party lines as well, with the men emphatically opposing a woman's right to make her own medical decisions, and the Democrats supporting it. Ladies, gird your loins, because one of these people will be voting on Supreme Court nominees. Cruz reiterated that he's strongly pro-life, from "conception to natural death." I'm unsure how that reconciles with the death penalty. Dewhurst said he's always been pro-life, and bragged about passing some of the worst anti-choice legislation of the last decade. Leppert said he was pro-life because of his faith. Perhaps the best answer was from Craig James of all people, who said that he was 100% pro-life, and declared that the morality in our country in decline! People used to open doors for women, and say "sir" and "ma'am!" He didn't mention anything about killing five hookers, instead immediately retiring to his fainting couch to clutch his pearls.

The Democrats, again, were a beacon of sanity in this portion of the debate. Hubbard stated clearly, "I trust women to make the right decisions about their reproductive health. A group of men in Washington, DC or Austin should not make decisions for them." Amen! Sadler noted that he is a person of faith, a Christian, and that he thinks a woman has the right to make this decision for herself, with her own counsel. He made clear that for him, there's room in his faith to disagree on this issue. It was a solid, nuanced answer.  

Women of Texas: the four leading Republican candidates for US Senate are all vehemently opposed to your right to choose, your ability to get healthcare from Planned Parenthood, and your knowledge of whether or not you can make your own reproductive decisions. Good times!

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Texas Senate Showdown: Two Parties, One Table

by: Ben Sherman

Fri May 04, 2012 at 09:30 AM CDT

Last night in Houston, all six major candidates came together on stage to face off. The format was less of a debate than a big interview of all of the candidates.

When Cruz was asked about the Dewhurst campaign's radio ad claiming that he stood up for Chinese copyright infringers, he came out strong: "The reason that he's lying," he said, "is because conservatives all over this state are uniting behind our campaign."

Calling another candidate a liar is no small act. With his gain in the most recent poll at his back, Cruz isn't (and shouldn't be) handling Dewhurst with kid gloves. With nutjobs like Oklahoma Senator Tom Coburn now in his corner, Cruz's confidence is clearly increasing.

Dewhurst didn't respond to Cruz's charge, instead touting the "Texas model" for the rest of the nation. This week, the Texas Tribune published an extensive piece on Dewhurst's legacy and its core question - is he a skilled politician or a pushover? Democrats point out that whenever extremists want to push Dewhurst around in the Senate, he's caved. Dewhurst's advocates say he has a more subtle approach that has its success reflected in the dozens of influentially insane bills passed under Dewhurst.

Leppert and James gave their usual corporatist boilerplate. James made one particularly dumb, sellout suggestion: make the corporate tax rate 0 percent so we have manufacturers "running back to the country, setting up shop" and, of course, the U.S. goes bankrupt and slides into the third world. But in James' world, a few people would profit off of that, and that's just dandy.

Democrat Sean Hubbard emphasized his regular-guy-ness. "I am the only candidate in this race that understands how legislation and cuts affect average people, because I am the only one who is an average person," he said. Hubbard also talked about being older than Joe Biden when he first ran for Senate, in response to a question about his age. Sadler focused on education, criticizing the drastic underfunding of education under Republican leadership: "You have to be concerned with what's happening with funding in education in Texas, unless you've just been asleep," he said. "For the first time in the known history of our state, we're not covering enrollment growth."

The four Republican candidates do what children do: cover their ears and make nonsense noises. The Democrats are the only ones who take Texas seriously; not just as a profit machine for the 1% but as a place that deserves respect, planning, and honest representation. This contrast could not be more clear. If that clarity is reflected at the voting booth, it'll be a joyous day for our state.

Ed.: This article has been amended to include a quote from Sean Hubbard.

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Texas Senate Showdown: Watch the Senate Primary Debate Live!

by: Ben Sherman

Thu May 03, 2012 at 06:26 PM CDT

Tonight, there's a pretty excellent event going on in Houston. Democratic candidates Sean Hubbard and Paul Sadler will face off against the Republican candidates in a "Conversations with the Candidates" event hosted by the University of Houston, the Greater Houston Partnership, and Houston Public Media.

The best part? You can tune in to watch the debate livestreaming at texastribune.org at 7PM CT.

Here's hoping Hubbard and Sadler show their claimed gumption and take these corporatist Republicans on directly. We can assume that the candidates will be mostly focused on drawing contrasts with their primary opponents, but there should be some notable cross-party arguing as well.

Here's Sadler's email to supporters about the debate:

The campaign has swung into full gear this week with stops in Lubbock, Dallas and now Houston. Thanks to your support, the campaign is distributing yard signs and handouts across the state.  

Our campaign to return honesty, integrity and a powerful Democratic voice to Washington, D.C. has already been endorsed by dozens of respected Democratic leaders across our state, and now we've received another major endorsement!

That's right, the Dallas Morning News editorial board endorsed our campaign this week.  Paul is honored that they said it's time for Democrats to suport a candidate who is "smart, experienced and independent." With endorsements like this - and with your support - we'll take Paul's record of strong Democratic values and real accomplishments for our state to the U.S. Capitol.

But that's not the only exciting development in our campaign. Tonight - for the very first time - you can watch Paul take on David Dewhurst, Ted Cruz, Tom Leppert and Craig James, all at once.  Paul's ready to tell these failed Republicans the truth about the harm they've done to our state, and why they're pitiful records are wrong for the United States Senate.

You can watch the debate starting at 7 PM central time tonight.  You can visit www.texastribune.org and watch a live video. We hope you will tune in and watch for yourself.


Team Sadler

A statement about the debate from the Hubbard campaign could not be found as of posting time.

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Texas Senate Showdown: Runoff Inevitable?

by: Ben Sherman

Thu Apr 26, 2012 at 09:00 AM CDT

Public Policy Polling came out with a new poll yesterday that suggests the Republican primary may be far from over. Dewhurst is at 38% to 26% for Ted Cruz, 8% for Tom Leppert, and 7% for Craig James. If no candidate receives more than 50%, the top two candidates will go into a runoff.

Two PPP polls ago, Cruz was at 12%. And here's another bit of good news for the "Cruz Crew": among voters familiar with Cruz, he leads Dewhurst 39-34. PPP concludes, "Dewhurst's superior name recognition is the main reason he continues to hold a lead of any size over Cruz." Cruz's favorability has increased from 15/14 to 31/17. Dewhurst's favorability is 47/22, Leppert's is 20/15, and James is least liked among GOP voters at 14/21.

This is not entirely surprising. Cruz is the anti-incumbent despite the fact that he and Dewhurst would be identically awful senators. Republicans have been feeling anti-incumbent since late 2008. It's what created the Tea Party wave in 2010 and continues to be a factor in the 2012 election; even Tea Party freshmen are facing Tea Party challengers.

If Cruz can force a runoff, Dewhurst has good reason to be very afraid. High attention on a runoff would only increase Cruz's chances at victory. And here's another thought: if Dewhurst falls, who can claim that Texas Republicans want more Perry?

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Texas Senate Showdown: Republican Fundracing

by: Ben Sherman

Thu Apr 19, 2012 at 10:00 AM CDT

The fundraising numbers are in for the first quarter of 2012.

Craig James received $268,000 from individual donations, and lent his campaign $750,000. "We know that raising money is difficult in this environment, but Craig's support is clearly growing," James' campaign manager Corbett Howard said. "And after Craig's stellar performance during last Friday's debate, we expect the money to really start rolling in." If the money was really rolling in, we'd know about it by now.

Tom Leppert poured another $500,000 of his personal fortune into his campaign, bringing his total personal investment to $3.6 million. That's a whole lot of money for a candidate who can't get higher than single digits in the polling. Overall, the campaign has raised $7 million, of which $4.5 million remains available to spend. Clearly, Leppert is taking advantage of DFW's wealthy GOP base. What remains to be seen is whether he can turn dollars into votes.

Dewhurst raised $1.7 million (total raised $5.6 million thus far) and Cruz raised $1.3 million (total raised $5.2 million thus far). As has been established for at least two months, Cruz is mounting the most serious challenge to Dewhurst.

Last week's big GOP debate made one thing clear: there is no substantive difference between these candidates. This is reflected in the fundraising numbers: the decade-plus statewide politician Dewhurst has raised barely more than his closest challenger. All these gutter politicians have the same corporatist, anti-woman, and anti-Hispanic views that will ultimately make the GOP, even in Texas, an irrelevant party. Right now, they can rely on the aging Republican infrastructure in our state to be the most well-funded party on the ballot. But they're only treading water; pushing ideology instead of pushing forward. It's hard to blame the Republicans for showing so little enthusiasm for this race because they are choosing between four identical candidates.

This lack of differentiation is why Dewhurst will likely steam ahead to the nomination. But Texas Democrats shouldn't assume that means he'll win the general election, or that fighting strongly against him won't help change the narrative in Texas. Dewhurst, like all of the other possibles nominees, is a one percenter who doesn't give a damn about the welfare of Texans. That fact needs to be publicized. After last week's debate, Texas Democratic Party spokesperson Rebecca Acuña put it aptly: "In November, Texans may see a ballot on which the top two Republican nominees are worth about a half a billion dollars. The problem with that is that Mitt Romney and David Dewhurst, despite how much they owe government for their success, do not believe that people like them should have to pay their fair share." Yup.

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Texas Senate Showdown: The Big Debate

by: Ben Sherman

Mon Apr 16, 2012 at 10:45 AM CDT

On Friday night, the GOP candidates faced off in the only major televised debate of the primary.


Even before the debate, there was some serious Republidrama. Ted Cruz texted Craig James the following: "Craig--hope you're well. See you Friday. For what it's worth, since you're asking me a Q, it might be worth asking me something about Dew skipping 31 debates (or something else related to his record). Just an idea... Ted."

James immediately released this text to the media, accusing Cruz of trying to "rig" the debate: "Today I was put in an awkward position by Ted Cruz, a man I've come to know and respect. Ted sent me a text suggesting I ask him a set-up question for Friday's United States Senate debate. In my mind, this is nothing more than an attempt to rig the system. This has challenged me to see if I'll be a man of my word. I've campaigned that I'm going to stand for right and this is simply not right. I leave it now to the press and the public to decide whether this kind of politics is acceptable in 2012 Texas. I hope not."

The controversy led the debate. Cruz said, "I'm glad Craig got my text" and asserted that "there is nothing rigged at all" about the debate. James said the text was "unethical," and then the debate moved on. Too much lying to do to spend too much time on Republidrama, I guess.

Debate Drivel

Birth control: All the candidates agreed that companies should have the ability to deny women birth control coverage at their discretion.

Border wall: James and Leppert oppose a wall, Dewhurst and Cruz tout "boots on the ground" and a wall in some places.

Favorable parts of Obamacare: Only James says he would keep a provision: children staying on parents' plan until they are 26.

The Dallas Morning News rain a live-blog of the debate, and the Houston Chronicle recapped it.

Attacks and Defense

Cruz needled Dewhurst throughout the debate, especially on Texas' budget. Cruz claimed that Dewhurst "was playing games" and never cut the budget, which Dewhurst denied.

Even the Dallas Morning News' Wayne Slater noted that the state budget has increased substantially during Dewhurst's tenure. "Facts are stubborn things, governor," Slater said. Dewhurst came right back with a classic lie: "I cut state spending," he said, adding that he made clear a state income tax would pass "over my dead, cold body." A: gross. B: not having a state income tax has no bearing on whether the state budget increased under his watch.

About midway through, Dewhurst responded directly to the attacks on him from his opponents: "I sometimes get a little confused," Dewhurst said. "I'm running for the U.S. Senate. Some of my opponents are running against David Dewhurst."

During the Q&A portion of the debate, James and Dewhurst needled Cruz for not going on record to support Sen. John Cornyn's bid for a GOP leadership position.

Leppert responded to a Cruz question by berating him for not having business experience. "To you, it's really an academic exercise," Leppert said. "To me, it's a career."

Democratic candidate Paul Sadler responded to the debate in a release: "What Texans saw tonight at the Republican U.S. Senate debate was a total lack of political courage and real leadership from four disappointing politicians."

Fundraising and Cruz'n for a Bruisin'

The filing deadline for the first quarter of 2012 was Sunday. Dewhurst raised $1.7 million during the first quarter of 2012 and Cruz raised $1.3 million. Leppert raised "nearly $1 million" and James will release his numbers today.

As the money shows, Cruz is nipping at Dewhurst's heels. Up to this point, the race has been getting relatively little attention. Now, with this debate and the dwindling six weeks until primary day, Dewhurst has to make sure he looks good and Cruz looks bad in the spotlight. Cruz's successful fundraising and high-profile national endorsements make him a target of Leppert's and James' as well, who recognize the need to take him down before they can convincingly take Dewhurst on.

The night before the debate, the Texas Conservatives Fund, Dewhurst's Super PAC run by Dewhurst's former chief-of-staff Rob Johnson, put out a new attack ad on Cruz. "Shattered Vision" calls Cruz a "false conservative" whose law firm has donated over $200,000 to Obama's campaign, sides with Chinese businesses over American ones, and opposed lowering property taxes in 2006. The ad's epic graphics, dark imagery and daunting music make Cruz out to be some sort of Manchurian candidate. Essentially, standard Republican fare, but a sign nonetheless that Dewhurst will be hitting Cruz back hard until Election Day. As The Hill pointed out last week, Cruz wants to be the "Marco Rubio of Texas."

Dewhurst would sure hate to be the Charlie Crist in that scenario.

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Senior Staff Writers:
Genevieve Cato
Joe Deshotel
Ben Sherman

Staff Writers:
Omar Araiza
Emily Cadik
Phillip Martin
Natalie San Luis
Katie Singh
Joseph Vogas

Byron LaMasters

Blogger Emeritus:
Karl-Thomas Musselman

Read staff bios here.

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