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Can you feel the McCaul-mentum?

You know what the race for the Republican nomination for Senate is missing? Another rich old white right-winger.

Four-term U.S. Rep. Michael McCaul, one of the wealthiest members of the U.S. House, is burnishing his conservative credentials and taking stock of fundraising prospects as he mulls a bid to succeed retiring U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison.

McCaul, a Republican whose district stretches from Austin to the Houston suburbs, would face a daunting task: The Texas political landscape is littered with hopefuls who lost attempts to parlay one of the state’s 32 House seats into a Senate seat.

The last lawmaker to achieve the rare transition was Republican Phil Gramm, who served three terms in the House before winning a Senate seat in 1984.


McCaul has a trump card that could help offset some disadvantages: a family fortune worth an estimated $294 million, thanks to holdings by his wife, Linda Mays McCaul, daughter of Clear Channel Communications founder Lowry Mays.

According to allies familiar with his deliberations, if McCaul decides to enter the race, he initially would rely on a sizable personal check to demonstrate his seriousness to prospective donors. McCaul has self-financed parts of past congressional campaigns, contributing $2.2 million of the $7.7 million raised for his four House campaigns.

“McCaul’s entry would dramatically change the dynamics of the Senate race,” says Rice University scholar Mark Jones. His wealth would enable the latecomer to quickly match Dewhurst in statewide television advertising and campaign organization, “neutralizing Dewhurst’s principal advantages – his large war chest and high-level of name recognition,” Jones says.

Okay, mcCaul is only 49, so it’s a little unfair to call him old. I’m sure he’s at least as qualified to empathize with ordinary Texans, the kind who don’t have nine-figure wealth, as the rest of the rich guys in the race.

Snark aside, I think Professor Jones is overstating the likely effect of McCaul’s millions. The universe of voters that McCaul would have to court is relatively small, probably no more than a million. Quite a few of them are probably already committed to, or at least leaning to, a candidate. I don’t know how much running nonstop ads on TV will do to move the needle for him. The irony is that McCaul won the primary for CD10 in 2004 against an opponent who saturated the airwaves for weeks on end. I have no idea why he’d want to give up a safe seat in Congress for the chance to play million dollar craps for the Senate, but whatever. He’ll have plenty of money to console himself with if he loses.

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