Here's another story about the campaign Barack Obama will be running in Texas, which is more about getting downballot Democratic candidates elected than it is about Obama carrying the state. It doesn't break any new ground, but it does give an interesting insight into the Republican view of the strategy.
A lot of the strategy is about voter excitement. Consultants from both parties admit that Democrats are generally more excited about the presidential race than Republicans. And, they said, down-ballot races may actually help boost turnout in the presidential contest.
Democrats in Texas "are very much energized, pretty much across the state," said Democratic political consultant Dan McClung of Houston. "It's not just national politics. It's state politics and county politics that have Democrats energized."
Texas Republican Party Political Director Hans Klingler said fights over partisan control of Harris and Dallas counties are as exciting for party activists as the presidential contest.
"As important as to what happens at the presidential races at the top of the ticket is what the Republican Party and the Democratic Party are going to do at the bottom-of-the-ticket races at the courthouse level," Klingler said.
Republican pollster Mike Baselice believes Obama's plans to put 15 people in Texas -- a state with 19 expensive media markets -- is a waste of money for his campaign.
"There's dumb and real dumb and invading Russia," Baselice said. "If you're a Democrat, you don't want to get caught in a land war in Texas, when you've got all those states in the Midwest to win."
Baselice said the problem for Republicans is not what Obama is going to do but a belief by GOP voters that the nation is on the wrong track.
"Half, if not more than half, the Republicans think the country is off-track. That is more concern to me than Obama sending 15 people to the state," Baselice said.
Now of course, there's plenty more that can be done. It would be nice if Obama himself made a trip here for a real campaign event or two, and not just for money-sucking fundraisers. Going overseas was great, and lent a ton of stature to the man and his campaign, but we have more voters here than they do there. If that's too much to ask, then send some high-profile surrogates, like Henry Cisneros, or the Clintons. The publicity alone will be worth the investment in time and effort. How about it?
On a tangential note, the most interesting thing to me in the sidebar piece about what races are hot is the omission of any mention of HD134, where State Rep. Ellen Cohen will run for re-election for the first time against a fellow named Joe Agris. There was a time when some experts thought this would be a top-tier battle. Look at what Paul Burka wrote back in January:
Agris was a close friend of the late Marvin Zindler and wrote an authorized biography of the flamboyant Houston newsman best known for closing down the La Grange "chicken ranch". In 2004, after Saddam Hussein had imprisoned a group of Iraqi businessmen for trading in dollars and then had their right hands amputated, Agris and Zindler arranged for seven of the victims to come to Houston and receive prosthetic hands. This is a real race.