Monday, March 10, 2014

Why Lt. Gov Dewhurst Will Not Drop Out. (For now at least)

You can't blame State Sen. Dan (Goeb) Patrick from trying however.

Patrick Aides: Patrick's lead over Dewhurst "insurmountable". Robert T Garrett, Dallas Morning News
Dewhurst is in big trouble, chief Patrick strategist Allen Blakemore told reporters.
He noted that while Dewhurst is a 16-year statewide officeholder, 72 percent of Republicans who cast ballots Tuesday for lieutenant governor voted for someone else.
“The situation for Mr. Dewhurst is rather hopeless,” Blakemore said. 
Forgetting, for a moment, that this metric has no value. (After all a majority [58.55%] also voted against Mr. Patrick and there's little evidence that even half of these votes will fall his way in the run-off) There's little reason for Dewhurst to do anything until this:

Blakemore said Patrick is scheduled to participate in a televised, two-man debate of immigration issues with San Antonio Mayor Julián Castro in the Alamo City on April 15.

It's reasonable to think that the Dewhurst camp is hoping this debate is a disaster for Patrick, a man whose debating chops are relatively untested. Until now he's been known for brow-beating his opponents on his radio show, shutting them off when they start scoring points.  By all accounts he did not win the Republican Primary debate but neither did Mr. Dewhurst. Most non-campaign affiliated observers felt Jerry Patterson won.  Of course, Mr. Patterson ended up finishing well out of the run-off and ended his campaign in embarrassing fashion. That debate was between 4 Republicans and was lightly followed by voters in the Republican primary.  The April 15th debate stands to be much more high profile, on a hot-button topic to which Sen. Patrick has tethered his campaign. A failure here probably won't hurt him much within Senate District 7 (his base of support) but it might cause Dallas, San Antonio and other TX Republicans to wonder if they're backing the right horse in the race.

Mr. Dewhurst needs nothing short of a total disaster for this to move the needle.  Castro needs to make Patrick look small and ineffective, ignorant of reality even.  He needs to make Sen. Patrick appear unfamiliar with the basic facts.  In other words, it's going to take more than snark and pink tennis shoes for Mayor Castro to do any harm to Patrick's chances of election.  If Patrick barely loses, holds his own or wins, he's going to be your next Lt. Governor. Despite that Mr. Dewhurst should hang in until at least that debate because you never know. When it's over he's going to know whether he has a chance or if he's going to be looking for a cushy private sector position in order to cash-in.

All that being said, this debate is a silly political move by Team Patrick. He's got nothing to gain (Mayor Castro is not on the ballot) and everything to lose. There's nothing more at play here than Mr. Patrick's ego.  It's worth noting that stunts like this are why several Republicans have great heartburn about Patrick taking over as Lt. Governor.  The man is less a politician than a carnival barker whose signature legislative achievements have been getting "In God We Trust" added to the TX House and Senate tote boards and a sonogram bill that was only partially upheld by the right-leaning 5th Circuit Court of Appeals.  Befitting his political career, he's an empty suit.

What this means for Texas Democrats is that they are still in a deep hole. Even an empty suit will probably best Letitia Van de Putte by 30 percentage points. While a Patrick-led State Senate will certainly be further to the right (at least socially) than a Dewhurst-led one, it's not the ideology that worries me.

What I'm really worried about is that Patrick's own need to self-promote and grandstand is going to rub many independents and moderates the wrong way. I worry that, if Patrick becomes the "face" of the Texas GOP, that the fiscal good is going to be washed away with the pandering bad.

And which one do you think the Texas Lock-Step Political Media (and the news-ish agencies) are going to focus on?