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Obama to do something in Texas

I like the sound of this. Mostly, anyway.

Barack Obama will focus his resources largely in 14 states George W. Bush won in 2004, his chief field operative said Tuesday, hoping to score upsets in places such as Virginia, Indiana and Georgia.

But winning the White House won’t be his only goal, deputy campaign manager Steve Hildebrand told Politico: In an unusual move, Obama’s campaign will also devote some resources to states it’s unlikely to win, with the goal of influencing specific local contests in places such as Texas and Wyoming.

“Texas is a great example where we might not be able to win the state, but we want to pay a lot of attention to it,” Hildebrand said. “It’s one of the most important redistricting opportunities in the country.”

Texas Democrats are five seats away in each chamber from control of the state Legislature, which will redraw congressional districts after the 2010 census.

In Wyoming, Democrat Gary Trauner, running for the state’s sole congressional seat, lost narrowly against an incumbent in 2006 and is now seeking an open seat.

“If we can register more Democrats, if we can increase the Democratic performance and turnout, maybe we can pick up a congressional seat,” Hildebrand said.

“Texas is a great example where we might not be able to win the state, but we want to pay a lot of attention to it,” Hildebrand said. “It’s one of the most important redistricting opportunities in the country.”

Texas Democrats are five seats away in each chamber from control of the state Legislature, which will redraw congressional districts after the 2010 census.

In Wyoming, Democrat Gary Trauner, running for the state’s sole congressional seat, lost narrowly against an incumbent in 2006 and is now seeking an open seat.

“If we can register more Democrats, if we can increase the Democratic performance and turnout, maybe we can pick up a congressional seat,” Hildebrand said.

Hildebrand’s plans underscore the unusual scope and ambition of Obama’s campaign, which can relatively cheaply extend its massive volunteer and technological resources into states which won’t necessarily produce electoral votes.

In Texas, for instance, Obama’s three dozen offices were overrun with volunteers during the primary; the campaign’s challenge is, in part, to find something useful to do with all that free labor. But, while Hildebrand said Obama is unlikely to pay for television advertising outside a core of about 15 states the candidate thinks he can win, he will spend some money on staff. Obama’s chief strategist, David Axelrod, reportedly told donors in Houston that he would send 15 staffers to Texas, and the campaign has committed to having some staff on the ground in all 50 states.

Julie Pippert was at an event in Houston that featured Axelrod, and I don’t see any mention of a promise of staffers, so either that’s new (and encouraging) or he just wasn’t saying it publicly then. Either way, it’s not as good as spending money here on advertising, but it’s more than what we’re used to getting. Now maybe if Obama uses some of the fundraising trips he’ll be taking to Texas to help out a few of our fine downballot candidates – such as, oh I don’t know, maybe Rick Noriega – then I think I’d be as happy as I can be with this arrangement. Of course, my wish list item here is unlikely to happen unless some of the people who’ll be getting hit up for Obama donations at those future events make a little wealth-spreading a condition of their donations. For what it’s worth, let me use this opportunity to recommend that course of action to these folks. Let’s please invest some of that dough in Texas, okay? Thanks. Greg has more.

UPDATE: Naturally, as soon as I draft this, I see a Chron story on the same topic.

Obama’s aides told the Houston Chronicle that the Texas expenditures could increase party turnout in targeted races such as Harris County district attorney, sheriff and county judge.

The national campaign’s presence in the state also could help Democrats in closely watched Houston-area congressional races for the seats of incumbent Democrat Nick Lampson and Republican Michael McCaul.

“It’ll help us create a government majority,” said [campaign manager David] Plouffe. “In a state like Texas, there’s House races, there’s state Senate races, and we’re going to encourage people to get involved in their local elections.”

The campaign, Plouffe said, intends to tap into the grassroots organization it built during the primary season, eventually using some of its volunteers to help in more competitive states such as Colorado, New Mexico, Virginia and Ohio.

“We have got a lot of volunteers from these states and want to make sure we have a way to use them,” he said.

At a June 12 meeting of contributors in Houston, Obama’s top strategist, David Axelrod of Chicago, said the campaign first would deploy 15 staffers to help with voter registration, according to Harris County Democratic Party Chairman Gerald Birnberg.

Among the many reasons for the deployment, Axelrod explained, is that the campaign wants to demonstrate its national appeal and presence.

[…]

Obama spokesman Josh Earnest said a staff director had not yet been selected for Texas.

A spokesman for the state Democratic party, Hector Nieto, said the decision by the Obama campaign is “obviously good news for us.”

Cal Jillson, a professor of political science at Southern Methodist University, said that by sending professional staffers to Texas, the Obama campaign can supplement what he said was an improving Democratic party organization in the state.

“I think that the reason the National Democratic Party would be putting money into Texas is to continue the Democratic resurgence” in the state, he said.

The Democrats, he said, are not likely to win statewide contests but could prevail in areas where the party is on the upsurge, such as Harris County.

Again, good to hear. It could be better, but I know well it could be much worse.

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3 Comments

  1. WOScholar says:

    Texas is doable for Obama. Did you see the turnout at the primaries? Besides, if Perry starts campaigning for McCain, then Obama has an advantage.

  2. Charles, Axelrod did say they were going to “support voter registration aggressively” in Texas. I was a little underwhelmed, frankly.

    I had two people/contacts to get confirmation of staff and office, and detailed plans. I will let you know. 🙂

    I asked Bill Kelly if he’d heard anything or had any contact from there at that lunch we had and he had not.

    IMHO they are waiting and seeing a bit, just in case Texas appears strategic, after all.

    I think Axelrod was hesitant to address it too much after the ATM accusation.

    He did admit TX was on the fence.

  3. Kenneth Fair says:

    Someone I know who had worked for Obama during the primaries has gotten a call to come work on voter registration. So that at least will be happening.