It was scarcely an ebullient exercise. In one of the smaller conference rooms in the Omni, to a crowd that was mostly party operatives, Perry announced that his former secretary of state Roger Williams will head up the fundraising and grass-roots campaign (everyone had been wondering why he'd quit in June, and the rumors that he was seeking office seemed a bit premature.) They'd be targeting traditional conservative values and traditional conservative voters and make a traditional conservative grassroots campaign. So, no shockers there.
But there was a tacit admission this will be a hard campaign: Three million new voters, many from out of state, who may not be hardcore Republicans and would need winning over. Hispanic voters who might not be very interested in backing the Republican immigration policy. Of course, no-one was churlish enough to mention Iraq, but even [John] Cornyn was commenting that the GOP had never really treated Texas as a state that needed a big investment of time and money - an implicit statement that now it may be "in play".
Then there's the lack of pizzazz. It's always said by campaign gurus that a good candidate needs a little bit of Elvis, and it seemed fairly missing today. (More than one hack noted that it had all the woo-hoo factor of Chris Bell's abortive campaign for governor last year.) And then there was the thought of who wasn't there - not just the state officials were AWOL, but the heavy hitters that had shaped so many Republican campaigns in recent years. No Rove, no DeLay, the heavy-hitters that put real fire in the fundraising belly. Fair enough - Williams is no noob, having been a cash-gatherer and grassroots planter for every major Texas campaign in a decade and a half, but there's a question of where the big motivators and big visionaries may be. Plus the bad news that, in the presidential primary race, the GOP is currently trailing the Democrats by $30 million.
If U.S. Sen. Hillary Clinton, D-N.Y., "is at the top of the ticket for Democrats," says [Harris County GOP Chair Jared] Woodfill, "Republicans are going to be driving around looking for places to vote. There is no greater motivator for our base than Hillary Clinton."
"With Hillary the nominee and if Bush's poll numbers are no longer imploding and the Republicans nominate a candidate their base can get excited about, the worst case is that we lose four to five benches in Harris County," figures former Harris County Republican Party Chairman [Gary] Polland. "Best case for us is a Republican courthouse sweep. Of course right now, the Republicans are not overly excited about anyone" running for president.
So from this we Democrats can take comfort from the fact that the Republicans have come to realize that simply having an R next to their names just may not be enough next year. But not so much comfort that we forget we haven't won anything yet. The ground on which we'll be fighting is more level than it's been in awhile. It's still going to be a hell of a fight. You can take the first step in that fight by making a donation to Rick Noriega. There will be plenty more opportunities to take action, but that's a nice place to start.Posted by Charles Kuffner on July 18, 2007 to Election 2008