March 10, 2008
A taste of Republican pessimism

As we see in this blog post by the Chron's Alan Bernstein, Rep. John Culberson is now officially worried about Michael Skelly and his fundraising prowess. But what really caught my eye was this rather amazing admission by Harris County GOP Chair Jared Woodfill at the end of the piece:

U.S. Rep. John Culberson, whose west Harris County district is one of the most Republican in the nation, has become the latest high-profile GOPer to acknowledge that local Republican candidates, including himself, face special challenges this year. (County Judge Ed Emmett, former Rep. Tom DeLay and others have done likewise).

The congressman said in a recent campaign fund-raising letter that "a variety of factors will make this election the most difficult I have faced since 2000," which was the first time he ran.


In presidential elections, George W. Bush carried the district with 69 percent of the vote against Al Gore in 2000 and 64 percent against John Kerry in 2004.

County GOP Chairman Jared Woodfill said he thinks Culberson will win by 5 to 10 percentage points and that, as for the "problems" Culberson mentioned, "If he wasn't talking about that I would be surprised."

I can't resist pointing out that strictly speaking, CD07 isn't even one of the most Republican districts in Texas, at least going by the 2006 numbers. According to the RedViewer, here are the most Republican districts based on the Hutchison/Radnofsky numbers:

Dist KBH %
11 77.5
19 76.6
12 76.3
08 71.8
01 70.8
17* 70.5
04 69.4
03 68.4
05 68.3
06 68.0
12 68.0
14 67.8
24 67.1
31 67.1
21 66.8
26 65.8
02 65.7
07 65.1
22* 64.7
32 63.4
10 62.5

Districts with an asterisk are Democrat-held. CD07 is 17th among 19 GOP-held districts in terms of Hutchison's performance. It does better if you take the overall Democratic/Republican performance index:

Dist GOP %
11 73.2
13 70.9
19 70.9
08 68.1
01 66.8
03 65.0
17* 64.6
21 64.4
05 63.7
07 63.7
04 63.6
31 63.0
14 62.9
24 62.9
06 62.8
12 62.3
26 61.5
22* 61.1
32 59.6
10 59.3

A more respectable middle-of-the-pack tie for eighth-most Republican district.

I point all this out for a couple of reasons. One is simply to note that CD07 isn't quite the red monolith it once was. That's partly a result of the 2003 re-redistricting, which made almost all Republican-held districts less red so as to make other Republican-targeted districts more so. CDs 05 and 23 were the two exceptions to this, with CD23 ultimately being mostly undone by the Supreme Court. But it's also partly a result of the same demographic and partisan trends we're seeing across Harris County and the rest of the state. CD07 isn't as Republican as it used to be because Harris and Texas aren't as Republican as they used to be, either.

Even with that, it's amazing to see Jared Woodfill talk in terms of a "five to ten point win" for Culberson this year. That is to say, Woodfill thinks his best case showing is 55-45 over Skelly. Let me ask you a question: How well do you think the Republicans will do in Harris County this year - or statewide - if a generally reliable and high-turnout district like CD07 is only performing at a 55% level for them? How about if it's performing at a 52 or 53% level, which by Woodfill's admission is within the realm of GOP thought? Probably not too well, I'd say. In fact, had CD07 been this purple in 2006, we wouldn't be talking about a judicial breakthrough for Harris County Democrats, because we'd already have achieved it. By my calculation, a 55% showing in 2006 would have swung about 20,000 votes towards the Democrats, enough to put Robert Voigt, Chuck Silverman, Mary Kay Green, and Bill Connolly on the bench, while also electing Andrew Burks to the HCDE (and thus keeping Michael Wolfe out) and Richard Garcia as Harris County Treasurer. And here I'm being generous and using that 55% as the average countywide level instead of statewide, which was friendlier to the Republicans by three points in '06 (in other words, a 58-42 performance for GOP statewides). Think about that.

Now of course, Woodfill may simply think that only Culberson will see his performance drop by that much, while the rest of the Republicans in CD07 do just fine. Seems like an awful lot of ticket-splitting to get Culberson down to almost ten points below average, but that could be what he has in mind. Me, I'd be willing to bet that the Republican performance index drops and that Culberson comes in beneath it. Regardless, if that's how Woodfill sees CD07 this year, I say great. His view coincides with a very robust outlook for the Dems everywhere in the county. I'm glad to hear we see eye to eye on that.

The West U Examiner has more, including a reference to the Skelly poll from earlier. And finally, former independent candidate John Truitt, who dropped out of the race a few weeks ago, has now formally endorsed Skelly.

In a statement on his web site, Truitt describes Skelly as "one of the most impressive men I've met in quite a while". He goes on to say, "When it comes to creative thinking and finding solutions to the problems that face our country today, Michael Skelly is light-years ahead of the encumbent John Culberson. I think Michael will do a good job for us, and I am urging all my supporters to vote for and do whatever you can to elect him as our US Representative in the Congress from the 7th District."

Nice. And I expect to hear a lot more of that in the coming weeks, too.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on March 10, 2008 to Election 2008

The issue of financing for these campaigns will be interesting. A little over 40% of Culberson's money has come from PACs, while over half of Skelly's money has come from out of state donors.

Posted by: Patrick on March 10, 2008 9:10 AM
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