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More on Obama and the downballot races

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.

Is it just me, or does anyone else think Baselice is protesting a wee bit too much? Obama himself is a big part of the reason for the enthusiasm gap between Democrats and Republicans. It’s not just that Democrats see a great chance to take back the White House, not to mention the Texas House and all the offices in Harris County, it’s that they see it happening with a candidate that’s broadly acceptable to them, unlike the Republicans and John McCain. The contrast between the two, the forward-looking nature of Obama’s candidacy versus the stuck-in-the-past McCain, it all contributes to that higher level of excitement. And the best way to build on that is for Obama himself to make it clear that Texas matters, to him and to Democrats everywhere. That’s why those staffers matter, whatever it is they wind up doing. It’s a tangible sign that Texas is being taken seriously, and I believe it will have a payoff at the end.

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.

Not so much, it would seem. So far, Agris has raised almost no money, with Cohen having nearly 100 times as much cash on hand. There’s no buzz about this race, no indication that Agris is doing anything resembling the massive door-to-door campaign Cohen ran in 2006 when she ousted Martha Wong. I hesitate to say that the Republicans have written this one off, since Agris could still drop a chunk of his own money on TV ads if he wanted to. But not including it in a list of Republican opportunity districts is very telling, and more than a little amazing given that most Republicans on the ballot in 2006 won a majority of the votes there.

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One Comment

  1. becky says:

    Probably not a such a good person to associate with during election time…..

    “Former housing secretary Henry Cisneros was indicted by a federal grand jury on 18 felony counts of conspiracy, obstruction of justice and making false statements to the FBI involving more than $250,000 in payments he made to an ex-mistress.”