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April 1st, 2017:

Saturday video break: Paradise

Let’s start with the Bee Gees:

Not one of their better-known songs, I suppose, but you can never go wrong with those vocal harmonies. The Bee Gees’ disco era was so big, it tends to overshadow how good they were overall. Not that their disco stuff wasn’t good, of course, just that they were more than that. Now here’s Bruce Springsteen:

That’s from “The Rising”, which is why you probably don’t know it. Lots of acts from the 70s and 80s are still actively touring thirty-some years later, but not many are still recording quality new music that much later. Which reminds me that I need to buy some of those more recent albums, as if I didn’t already have more Springsteen music than anything else in my library. You gotta do what you gotta do, though.

Here comes Beto

He says he’s going to run a different kind of campaign. We’ll see what that means.

Rep. Beto O’Rourke

No Texas Democrat has won a U.S. Senate seat in nearly thirty years or any statewide office since 1994. It is hard to find a political operative in Washington or back in Texas who would bet money – or professional credibility – on O’Rourke winning this race.

But the El Paso Democrat is earnestly bullish that he will go to the Senate through a strategy of bringing retail politics to a state of 27 million people.

He has no pollster and no consultants at this point, and said he has no interest in hiring operatives of that ilk.

“Since 1988, when Lloyd Bentsen won re-election to the Senate, Democrats have spent close to a billion dollars on consultants and pollsters and experts and campaign wizards and have performed terribly,” he said.


How in the world does he plan to beat Ted Cruz?

“Tactically, strategically, I don’t know,” O’Rourke said. “It’ll come from Texas, and I have faith and trust the people of this state will make the best decision in the interest of their families and their kids…I just trust that. My challenge, I guess, is to meet enough of them so that they can make an informed decision.”

His aim, he said, is to campaign beyond urban strongholds in a case-by-case basis.

In a 38-minute long interview the day before his official announcement, it was apparent that O’Rourke was not going to make his campaign all about Cruz – a temptation given the senator’s polarizing image among even some in his own party. O’Rourke never once mentioned Cruz by name or directly criticized his potential rival. Instead, he focused on topics like immigration, the border, and advocacy for his hometown.

The approach brought to mind the discipline Cruz has shown in his campaigns for U.S. Senate and president.

And then there is money. Traditionally, the best way to build name recognition has been through television advertising, and a statewide buy runs at least $1 million a week.

Cruz begins the race with $4.2 million in campaign money. And the early signs amid O’Rourke’s run is that tea party groups and establishment organizations will line up with tens of millions of dollars to back Cruz at the slightest sign of trouble.

Nationally, Democrats have no appetite at this point to spend serious money in Texas, and O’Rourke is not accepting money from political action committees. He, like all federal candidates, has no control over whether a super PAC opts to get involved.

But anyone opposing Cruz is a likely magnet for angry liberal dollars. And O’Rourke could have the makings of a Bernie Sanders-type fundraising operation. He is one of the most adept politicians when it comes to social media and was an early adapter of building a following with Facebook Live, a means of broadcasting events through that website.

The results of those efforts are often viral frenzies. Most recently, his bipartisan road trip with U.S. Rep. Will Hurd, R-Helotes, earned both men a storm of positive publicity. So much so, that a handful of Republican operatives in Washington began to sit up and watch O’Rourke more closely.


The 2016 election gave Democrats cautious hope for Texas. Trump’s margins were narrower than other recent GOP standard-bearers and Democrats made enormous headway into urban centers.

O’Rourke, however, spent much of his time in the lead up to Friday’s announcement in mid-sized towns, including: Wichita Falls, College Station, Killeen, Lubbock, Midland, Waco, Corpus Christi and Odessa.

O’Rourke said he had expected a few dozen attendees at each of these events. Oftentimes, over a hundred people showed up, having heard of the event through word-of-mouth or Facebook.

The larger aim is to look beyond the cities and take his case to rural voters. The idea is not to win those regions, but to lose less-badly.

Here’s the Beto for Texas website, if you haven’t seen it yet. O’Rourke has some things going for him. He has already generated a fair amount of excitement on the progressive side, partly for who he is and what he’s done in Congress and partly because he’s running against Ted Cruz, and I do think that will help him raise money. In particular, it will help him raise money in a way that frees him up from the time-sucking drudgery of dialing for dollars, which in turn will mean more time for the mind of retail politics he wants to do. He’s fluent in online communication. Most of all, he’s genuine and comfortable in his own skin, which presents a good contrast to a giant phony like Cruz.

In short, I think if people get to know Beto O’Rourke, they will generally like him. The question as always is will he be able to make himself known to enough people? I don’t think he needs to run a standard high-priced media campaign, which he may or may not have the funds for anyway. He’ll get the votes of the Democrats who show up. But if that’s all he gets, he’ll receive 1.7 million votes or so and lose by 15 or 20 points. As I said before, he’s going to need a lot of votes from people who don’t normally show up in these elections. I’d say he’ll need a minimum of 2.5 million votes if it’s a down year for Republican turnout, and upwards of 3 million otherwise. It’s getting those 800,000 to 1.3 million other votes that will be the real challenge. (All of these numbers will be somewhat lower if indeed Matthew Dowd gets into the race, but until he takes a concrete step towards doing so I consider that to be primarily a theoretical concept.)

To that extent, the retail strategy and the visiting places outside the usual Democratic sweet spots makes sense. I have no doubt that there are plenty of people in those places that will show up and vote if they feel they have a reason to do so. Not enough of them to win, of course, but it’s a start. Spend some time in the suburbs – Fort Bend, Williamson, Collin, Brazoria, you know the drill – and the formerly rural places that are becoming increasingly suburban – Hays, Bastrop, Guadalupe, Comal – and I think you’ll be on to something.

As for whether O’Rourke waltzes to the nomination or has to win a contested primary, I’ll say this: Even if the primary is just O’Rourke and one or more no-names, possibly including the likes of Grady Yarbrough, I say O’Rourke should campaign hard and do everything he can to win convincingly and with as big a turnout as possible. In 2014, I basically shrugged off the lackluster Democratic primary and argued that the low turnout and 22% of the vote that Ray Madrigal got against Wendy Davis meant nothing. I still don’t think it was that big a deal, but it wasn’t nothing. Right now, O’Rourke is a positive, scrappy-underdog-with-a-history-of-beating-expectations story. A lackluster showing in the first opportunity that people will have to vote for him will not look good and will not keep that story going. And if he winds up with a more high-profile primary opponent, like Joaquin Castro, then the primary will give us all a chance to see how he does on the big stage. Until he has a March opponent, he has the limelight to himself. I hope he uses it for all he can and begins to build something that will grow and accelerate towards next November. RG Ratcliffe has more.

Paxton stands by that Muslim ban

Till the bitter end.

Best mugshot ever

Attorney General Ken Paxton on Monday led a coalition of 13 states in filing a brief with the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals defending President Donald Trump’s revised immigration order.

In the brief, Paxton and representatives from 12 other states argue that the Trump administration’s new order is legal and falls under the president’s power over foreign affairs and national security.

Federal judges in Hawaii and Maryland placed nationwide blocks on the order two weeks ago.

The revised order would place a 90-day ban on travelers to the United States from Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen. It exempted green card and visa holders in an effort to resolve the reasons that courts blocked Trump’s initial ban. It would also block the entry of refugees into the country for 120 days and limit refugee admissions to 50,000 in the fiscal year.

“Rather than leaving national security in limbo while litigation dragged on, President Trump issued a revised immigration order that addresses the 9th Circuit’s concerns and is a vital step in securing our borders,” Paxton said in a written statement. “It is imperative we find a way to better screen refugee applicants to maintain national security. The president is fulfilling his solemn duty to protect Texans and all Americans.”


The brief says the order does not discriminate against religion because it classifies those seeking entry into the U.S. by nationality, not religion. The president, the brief argues, is allowed to suspend the entry of “all aliens” or “any class of aliens” if their entry would be detrimental to the country.

Texas is joined in the brief by the attorneys general of Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Kansas, Louisiana, Montana, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota and West Virginia, as well as Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant.

Paxton did file a brief in support of the first Muslim ban, so this is hardly a surprise. I’ll leave it to you to read Dahlia Lithwick and Rick Hasen to assess the legal merits of the order and the legal action against it. I’ll just note that the state of Texas is heavily dependent in many ways on foreigners – from business and agriculture to cities that depend on international visitors to colleges and universities that enroll overseas students, often at full tuition. My point here is that while Paxton is being a good apparatchik for Trump, he is very much not acting in the best interests of the state whose interests he supposedly represents. The lurid claims about “national security” are directly contradicted by the Department of Homeland Security. The rational action by a Texas Attorney General would be to oppose the travel ban. Unfortunately, we have Ken Paxton. Note to the Texas Association of Business – I hope you’re paying as much attention to this as you have been to SB6. Rick Casey, who notes some familiar arguments in the lawsuit over the ban, has more.

Video fraudsters in trouble again

In California this time.

Right there with them

California prosecutors on Tuesday charged two anti-abortion activists who made undercover videos of themselves trying to buy fetal tissue from Planned Parenthood with 15 felonies, saying they invaded the privacy of medical providers by filming without consent.

The charges against David Daleiden and Sandra Merritt of the Center for Medical Progress come eight months after similar charges were dropped in Texas.

State Attorney General Xavier Becerra, a longtime Congressional Democrat who took over the investigation in January, said in a statement that the state “will not tolerate the criminal recording of conversations.”

Prosecutors say Daleiden, of Davis, California, and Merritt, of San Jose, filmed 14 people without permission between October 2013 and July 2015 in Los Angeles, San Francisco and El Dorado counties. One felony count was filed for each person. The 15th was for criminal conspiracy to invade privacy.


Daleiden and Merritt had previously been indicted in Texas on similar charges in January of 2016, but all of the charges were eventually dropped by July as prosecutors said a grand jury had overstepped its authority. The grand jury had originally been convened to investigate Planned Parenthood, but after finding no wrongdoing turned around and indicted Daleiden and Merritt instead.

The California charges stem from recording people without their knowledge, which is a crime in some states but not in others. The charges here were the result of creating phony drivers licenses to back up the aliases they used. The circumstances under which the Harris County indictments were dropped remain somewhat fishy, but I suppose it was just a matter of time before these two clowns got into trouble again. It’s what happens when everything you do is based on a lie. Think Progress, the Current, and Slate’s Mark Joseph Stern, who has a thorough and nuanced look at the California law in question, have more.