June 22, 2004
The Murray Memo

One of the buzzworthy items that came out of the state convention was the news that UH political science professor Richard Murray was circulating a memo in which he proposed "to set up a Democratic Party think tank that will develop issues for candidates, conduct polling and network activists". That memo is now online (PDF) thanks to Greg, and it's very much worth your attention.

Like Greg, I'll have much to say about this soon. But for now, I'll begin with a section that George Strong quoted from (via Cate Read):

[W]on't the Kerry campaign help get things rolling here when they realize Bush is much more vulnerable in 2004 than 2000? I certainly hope so. There are excellent reasons why the national campaign should make a much greater effort in Texas than was done in 1992, 1996, or 2000. Let's cite three. First, it would relatively easy to dramatically cut George W. Bush's inflated popular vote margin of 2000 in Texas (3.80 million to just 2.43 million for Gore) because his job approval rating, according to the latest Texas Poll, had fallen to 48%, compared to his job rating (as governor) of over 60% in 2000. Slicing Bush's Texas margin by 800,000 votes, which I believe is entirely possible, would make it much more likely that even if President Bush squeaks by again in the electoral college and wins a second term, he would be a two-time loser of the popular vote. Denied a popular mandate, it would be considerably more difficult to stack the Supreme Court with right wing appointees in 2005 and 2006. A second reason why it makes a lot of sense for national Democrats to put Texas into play is we have 5 endangered Democratic House members running for re-election this fall. Absent help from the presidential campaign, getting the Democratic vote out in these districts will be all the more difficult. Three, Texas is a great stage for Kerry to use to attack the President on a wide range of issues. No one expects the Kerry campaign to spend much of their post-convention $75 million in hard cash in the state, but it makes a lot of sense to play hard here before the convention, and afterwards, as much as possible, given financial constraints. However, unless there is good evidence on the ground that Texas Democrats are geared up for the fight here is 2004, the chances of the national party doing anything here are greatly diminished. In my opinion, if Texas Democrats are going to start a comeback in 2004, it has to be from the ground up within the state, although it would sure be nice to be on the national party's radar this time around."

Several points to ponder:

1. Slicing Bush's margin in Texas and the likely benefit it'd bring to the endangered incumbents (and perhaps even to a challenger or two) is something I've touched on before and continue to believe. I'd guess that among the Redistricted Five, the expected benefit would be greatest for Frost and least for Stenholm and Sandlin, with Lampson and Edwards in between, based on how urban their districts are.

2. Another way to slice into Bush's margin would be for Kerry to dispatch the likes of John Edwards and Wesley Clark to Texas to act as his proxies (all the better if either or both are expected to be part of a Kerry Administration). Clark was endorsed by several of the Redistricted Five in the primary (including Frost and Stenholm), and I'd guess that he'd be the most valuable one to appear with them.

3. I believe an even bigger benefit to raised Democratic turnout would be in the State House races. Many of the ones that represent Democratic pickup opportunities are in big city areas where most of these hoped-for extra Democratic voters live. I know the campaign of Reginald McKamie, running for Harris County District Attorney, is working to make this happen for that reason.

4. I need to get my hands on that Texas Poll Murray cites. Forty-eight percent?? If that's accurate, it's flabbergasting.

More to come later.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on June 22, 2004 to Show Business for Ugly People | TrackBack

"Slicing Bush's Texas margin by 800,000 votes... would make it much more likely that even if President Bush squeaks by again in the electoral college and wins a second term, he would be a two-time loser of the popular vote. Denied a popular mandate, it would be considerably more difficult to stack the Supreme Court with right wing appointees in 2005 and 2006."

Murray and you are both right about it helping endangered Democratic Congressmen, but I think his first reason is a load of crap.

If the Dems can make Bush lose the popular vote by taking away 800K Texas votes, it's hard to believe they couldn't have made him a loser outright by putting those resources into less unreachable states. And what on Earth makes Murray think that the lack of "a popular mandate" means squat to Bush and the Senate Rethugs? It sure didn't stop them in 2001-02!

As a fellow Texan, I'd love to see our Congressmen beat the Perrymander and return to (a Democratic) Congress. But if that means four more years of the Shrub and a fourth rightwing nutjob on the Supreme Court, then I'm sorry; that's too high a price to pay.

Posted by: Mathwiz on June 22, 2004 11:43 AM

I don't the think the right approach is to call Dr. Murray's theories on a hypothetical Bush victory in November "a load of crap." Let's face reality, here - after getting our butts handed to us over and over for the past 10 years, we have a well respected and highly regarded political scientist telling us what happened, how it happened and how we can turn the tide on on the GOP evil-doers in this state. Don't you think it is incumbent upon us to at least listen to what he has to say? I mean, that is, unless there are other academics in the field who have been secretly studying the downfall of the Texas Democratic Party and are just not sharing that information with the rest of us.

THE POINT (and please - correct me if I am wrong) that Dr. Murray is making is that with some organization, hard work and clear ideas we can stop the Republicans who vote in primaries from determining the political climate in Texas. This can be gauged by DENYING Bush a landslide here.
How can you say that that in and of itself would be insignificant?? Not having a mandate in what he calls his home state would ABSOLUTELY influence the political climate of the entire country including his appointments to the bench! We have a damn good shot of taking back the Senate this year, anyway, and therefore preventing the bass-ackwards megalomaniacs from even making through the confirmation hearings.

Posted by: Sandra P. on June 22, 2004 4:00 PM

I agree that ceding Texas absolutely to Bush and the Republicans is a bad idea for Texas and National Democrats. This is true especially when you consider the real waste that results in national campaign spending anyway…look at the complete money pit that was the Dean Campaign in Iowa. At a certain point the rule of marginal returns kicks in so a few extra bucks in a swing state is not going to work as hard as some money putting the Republicans on the defensive in North Carolina and even Texas.

For better or worse, the state office holders depend on the excitement and attention that the national presidential elections create for fundraising and for critical Election Day turnout.

Kicking up some dust in Bush’s backyard is worth the effort.

I humbly offer a suggestion that the readers of this blog will immediately ignore. The message of the anti-Bush rabble-rousers needs to cater to Texans at large—not just the party faithful. The National Democratic line has so much ground to cover in this state that it is hopeless to try to penetrate a larger audience with this message.

The problem with the statistics touted by the disenfranchised Democrat about Texas ranking this in child healthcare spending and ranking that in whichever social service spending means nothing to your would-be audience. (Not as long as children are receiving healthcare as they miraculously do in Texas one way or another) The problem with these statistics is that they suggest that Texas is getting a deal compared to other states.

We spend less on these problems and yet suffer relatively less from their consequences compared to states that spend more but seem to face a greater crisis.

As long as this annoying fact persists in Texas then the National Democratic message will not reach the Texas suburbs.

In order to check the power of a one party state and the mischief that will in sue, the Democrats need to offer up a different kind of Democrat. You need candidates that will speak to smaller government and lower taxes.

There are plenty of differences to get elected on— such as an objection to profiteering and imperialism, a check on corporate plundering of state coffers, and a resistance to our home grown Taliban who seeks to control our private lives and socially engineer our schools.

Believe me, there are tons of people ready to vote for a candidate who can offer these values without bringing in the baggage of socialism.

Posted by: Aaron D on July 21, 2004 1:19 PM