Keyword: Primary Election
With Donald Trump seemingly headed toward big wins in both the South Carolina and Nevada primaries and Texas’ proportional representation primary less than two weeks away, the magnitude of Ted Cruz’s strength in Texas, and its geographic distribution, loom as major factors on Super Tuesday. Technically, Super Tuesday actually got underway in Texas on Monday, when early voting for the primary election started. Guns were back in the news this week as another private university took advantage of the campus-carry opt-out privilege accorded private institutions even as the University of Texas at Austin begrudgingly announced its policy, which reflected the legislature’s concerted effort to force public universities to allow guns in classrooms. The legislature continued its vision of protecting Constitutional guarantees Wednesday when the Senate State Affairs Committee held a hearing on their interim charge to protect sincerely held religious beliefs from the depredations of government. At several points in that hearing, the testimony flared into the kind of vituperative opposition to gay and lesbian rights that would have pleased Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, who died over the weekend near Marfa. The stakes of choosing Scalia’s successor on the high court couldn’t be higher, including among Republicans whose faith in the court was shaken by the court’s decisions affirming gay marriage and the Constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act – decisions from which Justice Scalia dissented with characteristic color.
The post-New Hampshire exits of Carly Fiorina and Chris Christie are unlikely to cause major movements in Texas, but the struggles of Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders to expand their appeals to young people and racial and ethnic minorities, respectively, will be major factors in the Texas Democratic Primary. Down ballot in Texas, this week saw the factional conflicts in the Texas GOP continue to approach the boiling point as candidates released videos and oppo hits as March 1 approaches. Attorney General Ken Paxton, of course, isn’t worried at all about the indictments piling up against him, but nonetheless is probably glad that he’s not on the ballot right this minute. Amidst all the complex cross currents in Texas right now, The New York Times op-ed page is pretty clearly not very concerned about the details. Proceed for relevant Texas data and a few thoughts on the week in politics.
The Texas political world is all in a tizzy this week after Ted Cruz won the Iowa caucuses, using a combination of evangelical support, streamlined political science, crack campaign organization, and, of course, charm. Seems a sure thing that Marco Rubio will make a play in Texas, and to this end he announced his “Texas Leadership Team". Speaking of wanting to lead, aspiring Texas GOP-chair Jared Woodfill announced while on his day job that his client, the fake fetal tissue dealer David Daleiden of Planned-Parenthood-sting-gone-wrong fame, would not take a plea deal offered by the Harris County DA, presumably at least in part to use the trial as a forum to air his views on abortion (after all, he’s an activist). For those who really want the inside baseball on abortion politics, theDallas Morning News took a good look at the competing anti-abortion groups in Texas, pegging the story of dueling defenders of all things life to their taking sides in the fight between Pro-Straus and anti-Straus forces in the GOP primary. Their struggle inspired us to include a bonus video.
In the aftermath of Sen. Ted Cruz's narrow first place finish in the Iowa Republican caucuses, we've gathered up some different survey results capturing attitudes toward Sen. Cruz in the most recent University of Texas / Texas Tribune Poll. Start with the trend graphics of his favorability ratings between May 2012 and November 2015, then have a look at his favorability ratings and job approval numbers from the most recent poll in November. There are 58 graphics – and you can download them in different formats, too.
When Comptroller Glenn Hegar assured the Senate Finance Committee that he would “much rather be in this state than the other 49 states in this nation,” Dallas Senator Royce West captured the underlying tension in the Senate’s engagement with the economy, budget prospects, and taxes when he cracked back, “I just don’t want to be in a state of denial.” The finance committee’s worry about what the budget might look like was little in evidence the next day when the Select Committee on Property Tax Reform and Relief convened in San Antonio to wave a red flag on local taxation. The Senate State Affairs Committee explored how the state is muddling through implementation of the state’s new gun laws, while over on the House side, Republicans flipped a seat in the HD118 special election, triggering Democratic dismay and some public self-loathing. A Houston grand jury propelled Texas into the national headlines after reviewing the case of the surreptitiously filmed attempt to buy fetal tissue from Planned Parenthood and indicting the fraudulent would-be tissue peddlers rather than anyone at Planned Parenthood. Way back at the beginning of the week, Rick Perry also got back in the national news for about half a news cycle after leaking to Politico (take that, state press corps) that he would be endorsing Ted Cruz. Perry revealed that he apparently doesn’t know Cruz real well, but he former governor reported that the endorsement comes after they “spent some very appropriate time together."
The saga of sanctuary city politics continued in Texas this week, with the issue being used to attack candidates in at least three Republican primary races in the Texas House: the HD-8 contest between incumbent Byron Cook and challenger Thomas McNutt, and in the races in the districts of both Speaker Joe Straus and Rep. Charlie Geren. Friday afternoon, a story in the Texas Tribune suggested that Texas cities account for only a tiny share of undocumented arrestees not held in custody for deportation nationally. You’d never know it by these campaigns – or by looking at either the Texas Legislature or public attitudes on sanctuary cities, for that matter. Nationally, the president gave a State of the Union Address that was part victory lap and part attempt to shape the tone of the 2016 campaign season, with some taunting thrown in for sport (mainly his). And there was another GOP presidential debate, in which Ted Cruz and Donald Trump went at like they were scrapping for the One Ring. We’ll leave it to you to figure out who the other candidates were in that reference.
The holidays were definitely over this week with the primary contests heating up and President Obama making a big push on gun safety and earning a swift, even preemptive responses from Republicans in Washington and Texas. Speaking of Washington Republicans in Texas, Marco Rubio made his first campaign visit to Texas this week in an effort to break into the top tier here. The DPS officer who pulled over and arrested Sandra Bland, who later died in custody in Waller County, is out of the job and in legal trouble, while federal law enforcement officials are taking a MUCH more measured approach to the constitutionalist occupation of a building on national park land in Colorado – perhaps following a little-noticed Texas precedent. As we were gathering material for this post, Greg Abbott called for a Constitutional Convention – U.S., not state, so if you’re a Texas legislator, it’s ok – and 9 new amendments broadly aimed at reasserting state authority vis-a-vis the federal government and putting new checks on the U.S. Supreme Court. He seems sort of fed up! To borrow a phrase.
The immediate question about the mutually reinforcing phenomena of Cruz’s recent success in the polls and the attendant media attention he has received is whether Cruz is emerging from the pack to become a real contender for the GOP nomination.
The prominent role of a Syrian who was likely never really a refugee, but masqueraded as one to reach Paris in order to play his terrible role there, has created the rhetorical space for a new variation on the immigration and border security trope that appeals to a broad section of Republican voters. The Paris attacks will clearly make national security and counter-terrorism more salient for now – and there was a significant portion of the GOP that saw terrorism as salient before the attack. But the quick incorporation of immigration as a central component of the national GOP response to Paris makes it unlikely that counter-terrorism will gain enough intensity to dislodge immigration in the gut reactions of GOP primary voters. The speed with which this incorporation has occurred suggests that, in fact, it may reinforce these reactions – and their impact on the GOP presidential race.
Halloween is upon us, but it's already been a scary week for Jeb Bush and homeowners thinking about their property tax bills – but Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump are trying their best to calm everyone down. Calm by nature, Dr. Ben Carson started the week off early causing a stir with his proclamation that he's against abortion in cases of rape and incest, while two of Texas politics' more animated politicians – Dan Patrick and Ted Cruz – essentially endorsed each other. Both Patrick and Governor Abbott also endorsed the legislature preventing so-called sanctuary cities in Texas, but not enough to require legislators to haunt Austin in a special session. Finally, President Obama followed the lead of Texas in pressing for a reduction in standardized testing – a treat for kids and their parents, who increasingly told pollsters they find frequent high stakes testing pretty ghastly.