December 04, 2007
Twelve out of thirteen members of Congress recommend Rick Noriega

From Team Noriega:

In an unprecedented early show of confidence in a candidate for the race for U.S. Senator from Texas, Democratic members of the Texas Delegation in the U.S. House of Representatives today endorsed Texas State Representative Rick Noriega in his quest to win the Democratic nomination in March, and the General Election in November, 2008.

The following U.S. House members endorsed Rep. Noriega in the U.S. Senate race: Reps. Al Green, Ruben Hinojosa, Silvestre Reyes, Chet Edwards, Sheila Jackson-Lee, Charlie Gonzalez, Nick Lampson, Ciro Rodriguez, Lloyd Doggett, Solomon P. Ortiz, Gene Green, and Eddie Bernice Johnson.

"Rick Noriega is the candidate in this race whose entire life represents his commitment to profound service to our nation's military service and public service," said the members of the Texas Delegation. "From the halls of the University of Houston under an ROTC scholarship, to the halls of Harvard, to the Texas National Guard, to the halls of the State Capitol, to the mountains of Afghanistan after 9-11, and to the Texas border with Operation Jumpstart ˆ we know that Rick Noriega is the candidate to best serve Texans in the United States Senate."

"On the defining issues of the day - national security, border security, health insurance for our children, and fiscal responsibility - Rick is uniquely positioned, by virtue of his life experience, to best serve Texas interests in the U.S. Senate," the members agreed. "U.S. military policy will long command the attention of future Congresses. Rick's understanding of on-the-ground logistics - as well as abilities and limitations - of our military will be a fresh and important voice in the Senate on military issues."

Excellent. It may not seem like a big deal for a bunch of Democratic members of Congress to endorse a Democrat running for Senate, but 1) it's never a trivial thing to get a bunch of Democrats to agree on anything; 2) the more unified Noriega's support is here, the more likely he'll get support from the national folks; and 3) this is still a contested primary, however loosely that's being defined.

You may be wondering about that thirteenth member of Congress. That would be Rep. Henry Cuellar, and as usual, he's doing his own thing.

U.S. Rep. Henry Cuellar, D-Laredo, says he will not be endorsing Democrat Rick Noriega for U.S. Senate - at least not yet.

Cuellar told the Guardian that he does not endorse challengers over incumbents. The incumbent in this case is U.S. Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas.

"I am supporting the straight Democratic Party ticket," Cuellar said. "I am more than sure he (Noriega) will be the nominee, so I will be supporting him. (But) I am not gonna get involved right now in any primaries. Come the primary, then straight party ticket, I support the straight party ticket; that includes Rick Noriega."

Whatever. I swear, I keep trying to like Henry Cuellar, but the man just mystifies me sometimes.

Anyway. This announcement comes just ahead of the news of a new poll on Sen. John Cornyn's job performance. Again from the Noriega campaign:

A new Lake Research Partners' survey of likely voters in Texas shows that Republican Senator John Cornyn is very vulnerable in his 2008 bid for reelection. Currently, fewer than half of voters have a favorable impression of him, his job-performance ratings are netnegative, and only a third support him for reelection. The winds of change are blowing in Texas, and John Cornyn should be on the list of endangered Republican Senators.

Senator Cornyn is vulnerable for these reasons:

1. Cornyn has an extremely weak profile. Thirty-eight percent of likely voters are unable to rate Cornyn - 24% have heard of him but have no opinion about him, while 14% have never heard of him even though he has served in the Senate for five years and as Texas Attorney General for 4 years before that. Overall, only 40% of voters rate him favorably, while 22% rate him unfavorably. A well-respected Senator would have favorable to unfavorable ratio of about 3-to 1, but Cornyn's ratio is only 1.8-to 1.

2. Voters dislike the job Cornyn is doing in the Senate. Cornyn's job performance numbers are net-negative. Forty-one percent of voters rate Cornyn's performance as either just fair or poor, while only 36% rate it excellent or good. Almost a quarter are unable to rate his performance at all (23% do not know). Conversely, the most recent publicly available data shows Senator Hutchison with a job approval rating of 58%.

3. Cornyn has weak re-elect numbers, and this race is wide-open. Only three in ten voters (31%) say they will vote to reelect the incumbent, while 16% say they will vote to replace him. More than half (53%) will consider someone else or do not know if they would support his re-election.

4. President Bush cannot save Cornyn. While Cornyn has been Bush's most loyal supporter in the Senate, it is unlikely that Bush can help given his poor ratings. More than half of voters (53%) have an unfavorable impression of the President, including 37% who intensely dislike him. Forty-two percent rate Bush favorably (only 20% are very favorable). In fact, voter pessimism goes beyond Bush, with 62% of Texas believing the country is off on the wrong track and only 28% believing things are headed in the right direction.

In sum, Senator Cornyn has a weak public profile that is vulnerable to further negative definition. He has a small base of political support, and he cannot count on help from a weakened president. Even in Texas, voters want change. Come next November, Cornyn could be another Republican casualty. Democrat Rick Noriega, a veteran, has a unique profile that can make this an upset race if he has the resources to communicate his message and define Cornyn.

You know what to do about that last bit. A PDF copy of the memo is here. More to come soon.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on December 04, 2007 to Election 2008