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The run and hide strategy

Where’s Danno?

Sen. Leticia Van de Putte

Sen. Leticia Van de Putte

Texas voters [were] treated to a peculiar sight Friday evening: a one-candidate debate.

Leticia Van de Putte, the Democratic nominee for lieutenant governor, [answered] questions in a Spanish-language television event without Republican rival Dan Patrick. He’ll be meeting with industry trade groups, his campaign says.

There may be no better illustration of the status of this year’s race for one of the most powerful positions in the state.

Van de Putte, a state senator from San Antonio but little-known statewide, has spent 31/2 months doing everything possible to gain attention for her underdog campaign.

She has inundated reporters with near-daily news releases and has invited some media to watch Spurs playoff basketball on television.

Her campaign has rolled out policies on education, jobs and health care. Last week, it started airing television ads.

Patrick, by contrast, has not yet run ads or held a news conference since winning the Republican runoff in late May. His campaign has put out an advance announcement about exactly one event in that time.

The Houston state senator has done many campaign events, particularly with tea party groups, but has not amplified his message beyond the room.

It may seem like an unusual strategy for a flamboyant radio show host who overwhelmed incumbent Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst this spring in part with pastorlike speaking talents.

To political analysts, however, it’s a familiar dynamic for a race with a clear Republican frontrunner in a state that has not elected a Democrat to statewide office in two decades.

There’s nothing mysterious about it. As I said about Ken Paxton, Dan Patrick has already talked to all of the voters he’s interested in talking to. He doesn’t think he needs to talk to anyone else, and he’s not interested in what anyone else thinks. I don’t see why this would be a surprise to anyone. It’s how Republicans have run statewide since 2002. No one noticed in 2006 because other than the bizarre, four-headed Governor’s race there weren’t any competitive races to discuss, and no one noticed in 2010 because it was the year of the teabagger. It’s only noticeable this year because we have a brand new (deeply flawed and thoroughly undistinguished) slate of Republicans and the strongest set of Ds top to bottom since 2002 that anyone has noticed the avoidance strategy. Until such time as Republicans think they might actually lose unless the actively engage voters outside of their primary, this is what we’re going to get.

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