October 16, 2008
And the Democratic perspective

This article appears to be a companion piece to the earlier story about the Republican game plan, though it's less about strategy and more about the legislative horse races.

[T]hough Texas Republicans dispute any notion of losing their leverage, political experts agree the Republican brand name is in trouble.

"With all that happening, it's pretty inconceivable that Texas isn't going to participate at some level in a movement toward the Democratic Party," said Cal Jillson, a political science professor at Southern Methodist University, who expects Texas Republicans to lose their House majority.


In the Houston area, Democrats are targeting the open seat held by retiring Rep. Robert Talton, a Republican, that covers Pasadena and southeast Harris County. Voters will choose between Democrat Joel Redmond and Republican Ken Legler.

Democrats also are targeting Republican incumbent John Davis and his southeast Harris County district. The district still favors Republicans, but Democrats are hopeful about their candidate, Sherrie Matula.

The second tier of targeted Democratic contests includes Kristi Thibaut challenging Republican incumbent Jim Murphy in western Harris County.

Republicans' best hope of defeating a Houston-area Democrat rests with Greg Meyers, who is challenging two-term incumbent Hubert Vo in southwest Harris County district.

I personally would include Thibaut in the top tier, since she has done quite well at fundraising, and would mention Virginia McDavid for the second tier. She hasn't kept up in the money game, but HD138 is purple enough (Jim Sharp got 46.3% of the vote there in 2006) that it could easily tip if Barack Obama wins Harris County by more than a hair. As for Vo-Meyers, I agree the Republicans have hopes there. I don't think it's a lot of hope, and as with the rest of the county it will be dependent to some extent on the level of support that Obama gets versus McCain. Even with Vo's issues this year, he has a history of overperforming the Democratic numbers in his district, and that will give him some cushion.

Kelly Fero, a veteran Democratic strategist and campaign consultant, believes his party will get between five and 12 Texas House seats. Elections give voters a choice between the status quo and change, he said, "and this is as much of an election about changing the way things are as we have ever seen in our lifetime.

"The polling shows there is far greater intensity among Democrats and independents and even among moderate Republicans -- both nationally and in Texas -- to move in a new direction," Fero said. "And that means they blame the party in power, so Republican incumbents are likely to take it on the chin."

House Republicans picked up 13 seats in 2002 when the party benefited from new boundaries drawn in their favor in the redistricting process a year earlier.

Texas Democrats won five House seats in the 2006 election, which was another bad election cycle for Republicans nationally. But it will be difficult for Democrats to make additional gains because most of the GOP-held seats remain friendly for Republicans, said Eric Bearse, a GOP campaign strategist.

Democrats contend that aggressive efforts to increase voter turnout in Houston and Dallas will help their candidates in those areas.

"Democratic candidates have put themselves into a position to take advantage of a good political atmosphere," said Matt Angle, a Democratic campaign strategist.

But Republicans can point to tort reform -- which puts limits on lawsuits -- school accountability and a fairly healthy state economy to separate them from the national party, said Ted Delisi, a GOP strategist.

"I think there's a certain level of rock throwing when you are this close to the election and the economy is bad," he said.

I have no idea what that quote means. I'll simply note as I've mentioned before that I heard Ted Delisi speak at a panel the day after Election Day 2006, and he said that generally Texas was two years behind the nation in terms of electoral trends. Maybe he's singing a different tune these days, but I don't see any reason why we shouldn't have caught up to the national mood at least as it existed then.

As for Fero's prognostication, he's a bit more optimistic than I am - I can imagine a 12-seat pickup on the top end, if everything goes really well, but I think the floor is lower than five. It's not out of the question to me that the Dems could lose ground, though I think that's pretty unlikely. Dems are in about as strong a position as you could want, and unlike 2006 I think a lot more people will see it coming, but it's still going to take a few things to go well to capture the House. I feel pretty good about those things happening, but you never know.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on October 16, 2008 to Election 2008
Post a comment

(If you haven't left a comment here before, you may need to be approved by the site owner before your comment will appear. Until then, it won't appear on the entry. Thanks for waiting.)