July 11, 2007
The Hill on Noriega and Watts

Via Muse comes this article in The Hill on the emerging and exciting Democratic primary for Senate between Mikal Watts and Rick Noriega. I'll leave it to Muse to highlight the best parts, I just want to note that for the first time since at least 2002, a statewide race in Texas is making national news. The change in attitude, not just here but on the outside looking in, is amazing. I mean, it was just a month ago that some knuckleheaded Democratic "strategist" told Paul Burka that we ought to sit this year out like we were told we should have done last year.

A Democratic strategist I spoke with, who did not want his name to be used, expressed considerable admiration for Watts but still remained skeptical that Cornyn could be defeated. Yes, Cornyn is vulnerable, he said, but that doesn't mean he can be defeated. He questioned whether the Democrats would be repeating their mistake of 2002, putting forth a major effort when they don't yet have the numbers to win. His view is that the Democrats have to keep their priorities straight, that the Senate seat in 08 doesn't matter in the big picture, and the big picture is that the 2010 election will be make or break for any Democratic resurgence. He thinks Watts would be a great candidate for attorney general. If he runs for the Senate and loses, he could hurt Democrats downballot and cost his party some of the momentum it gained in the 06 elections.

That link may not work - the Burkablog archives appear to be screwed up - so click here and search for "Watts Up?" if need be. I'm not saying that beating John Cornyn will be easy, or that there are no possible bad outcomes to trying to beat him. I am saying that at this point in time, that kind of attitude would properly be labeled as defeatist and out of step with the mainstream of the Democratic Party, and not just by us true believers. I say that's a big deal, and something we should keep in mind as we go forward. There's bound to be setbacks and disappointments, so let's not forget that we've already come a long way.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on July 11, 2007 to Election 2008

The advice that you shouldn't oppose Cornyn is correct. One of the reasons the Republican Party of Texas gained so much in the 1980s was that we focused on county and legislative races instead of the statewides. I personally talked several people in 1986 out of running aginst Bob Bullock and Ann Richards. By not opposing them I calculated we gained an additional 50 local and 4 legislative seats. Going after a strong candidate like Cornyn is silly, like attacking uphill. All you do is waste resources and guarantee that the opposition will have a stronger GOTV effort that will help all their candidates. You guys won Dallas last year precisely because you didn't have strong statewide candidates who would have galvanized our Republican base.

Posted by: Royal Masset on July 11, 2007 10:36 AM

Royal, the problem I have with that line of thinking is that it leads to nihilism. By that logic, the Democrats shouldn't have fielded any statewide candidates last year. Putting aside the fact that a properly-funded campaign might have taken out Governor Perry (and Don Willett, too), I just don't see how punting can be a good thing for a party.

I concur that the key to rebuilding is to go from the ground up, and I think we'd both agree that the Democrats have done a decent job of that in the past couple of cycles. But I see a lot of evidence that having excitement at the top of the ticket matters, too. Everywhere I look in Harris County, turnout in Democratic precincts was down compared to 2002. I know of at least one State House race (HD133) where their GOTV efforts were stymied by a lack of interest among the voters, mostly due to the low profile of the statewide races. Given how close some Dems came to winning countywide here last year (Mary Kay Green missed out by 7000 votes), I have to think that the Dems had a lot more to gain than to lose by galvanizing the electorate.

Posted by: Charles Kuffner on July 11, 2007 11:56 AM

Sit out this Senate race? Not on your life!

Fight 'em till Hell freezes over and . . . well you know the rest.

Posted by: Patrick on July 11, 2007 12:25 PM