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Craddick’s fate

While I don’t quarrel with the basic premise of this Chron article that the fate of House Speaker Tom Craddick will largely be determined by the primaries, I do have a nit or two to pick.

“It’s 50-50, roughly,” said Craddick confidant and Capitol consultant Bill Miller. “I think it’s going to be in play right through the fall election.”

Kelly Fero, a Democratic campaign consultant, contends Craddick’s fate largely will be cast by the election results in both the GOP and Democratic primaries.

“Craddick’s future is all about March 4, and he’s going to have to run the table,” Fero said. “Every one of his allies is going to have to survive, and every one of the challengers is going to have to lose.

“And even then, his survival will depend on a few key allies having the political courage to stick with him.”

I think Fero is overstating just a tad. There are only four Craddick Dems on the firing line, and of them I think only Kevin Bailey is in deep trouble. Nathan Macias on the Republican side is also likely to go, and maybe Phil King, if ParentPAC can maintain its magic. But Craddick is also playing offense, and he seems poised to score a win over Pat Haggerty in El Paso, though the Dems may make that a short-termed victory in November. He’s also playing in several Democratic primaries, some of which are not listed in this story’s sidebar: HD37 (Rene Oliveira), HD77 (Paul Moreno, whose opponent seems to be eminently suited for life as a Craddick D), HD147 (Garnet Coleman), and HD148 (Jessica Farrar). I think Craddick just needs to break even to still be in contention next session.

That said, note that the underlying assumption in this story is that Craddick won’t make up enough ground in November to make up for his losses so far.

A combination of GOP defections, retirements and key primary races imperil his re-election for speaker.

Craddick survived January 2007’s challenge on an 80-68 vote.

He has since lost at least eight supporters — dropping his likely votes to about 72. It takes at least 76 votes to win the speaker’s job.

Republicans have lost a net nine seats since Craddick took over and would lose control of the House if Democrats pick up five more in the November election.

The 2008 election cycle “is shaping up to be a good Democratic year, so it is clearly possible that the Democrats pick up the seats they need to take the House,” said Cal Jillson, a political science professor at Southern Methodist University. “Even if they fall a couple of seats short, Craddick is toast.”

“Only if Republicans expand their majority in the House and Speaker Craddick is credited with that success does he hold his speakership. The latter scenario seems unlikely,” Jillson said.

All things being equal, there are more vulnerable Democratic seats this year than there are Republican ones, as the Democrats have done an excellent job in recent years winning in swing districts. But I think it’s clear that all things are far from equal this year, and it’s a question of how many seats the Dems can pick up. If that really is the case, then what happens this month almost doesn’t matter for Craddick and his hold on the Speakership. I’m certainly not going to operate on that assumption, because I know Tom Craddick will never surrender, but it’s hard not to see this as his last stand. One can only hope, that’s for sure.

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