As he seeks to retain his leadership post, House Speaker Tom Craddick is pounding home a partisan message in his public appearances that portrays Republican legislators who oppose him as aiding and abetting the Democrats.
In speeches to Republican gatherings and civic groups, Craddick characterizes himself as the keeper of GOP ideals in Austin and warns that efforts to prevent him from winning a fourth term are being driven by trial lawyers who want to undo lawsuit restrictions.
Craddick allies have sought primary election opponents for some Republicans who tried to oust him as speaker in this year's legislative session. And telephone surveys have tried to turn voter sentiment against them in their districts. Craddick denies participating in these efforts.
Because the speaker is elected by representatives in the 150-member House and few districts are competitive across party lines, both Democrats and Republicans are trying to determine the outcome of the next speaker's race by counting votes in the primaries.
Most think Craddick's best chance for winning re-election in 2009 rests with his supporters carrying Republican primaries in March.
"A divided Republican Party is a Democratic win," Craddick told a Republican gathering in Arlington earlier this fall, according to a report in The Dallas Morning News. "The Republican base knows what's best for this country."