Data Points from the Week in Texas Politics (October 23)

The presence of Texas candidates for speaker notwithstanding, Paul Ryan decided he would take a stab at the least attractive job in American politics this week, leaving the state to make national news not by putting a Texan in the Speaker’s chair but by pushing the GOP’s ongoing attack on Planned Parenthood to a new level. Texas ideas nonetheless had their day in the Congress, as the Senate tried and failed to take up anti-Sanctuary City legislation. David Vitter at least probably appreciated the effort, but 2011 called and they want their issue back.  In the presidential arena, House Republicans teamed up with Lincoln Chafee and Jim Webb to give the Clinton campaign a good week, while over in the GOP George W. Bush is So. Over. Ted. Cruz. And wants you to know it, apparently. It didn’t seem, however, to do much good, as the GOP 2016 stories at week's end were about Carson surpassing Trump in Iowa polling while the Jeb! campaign moved to cut payroll costs. Below: Some data that illuminate, annotate, or just have a little fun with the news of the week.

1. It looks like we’ll have a new Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives next week, marking the closest Paul Ryan has ever been to the presidency (that’s third in line for those of you not up on such things). In the vacuum created by John Boehner's resignation and Kevin McCarthy's withdrawal from contention, Texas' Bill Flores and other Texans floated seemingly under-inflated trial balloons. But Ryan now says that he’s “eager”  for a job that he had initially indicated he didn’t want, but after getting endorsements – or near-endorsements – from all of the major Republican factions (in addition to a further negotiating process), Ryan emerges as the choice of the center-right, the right, and, to a lesser extent, the far right.  While this last faction has been the major question mark since Boehner announced his resignation (and certainly part of the impetus behind it), it’s important to remember that when Ryan was introduced to the country, back in 2012, he was very popular among Tea Party Republicans (84 percent of whom held a favorable opinion of him in Texas). However, and this is where the lack of endorsement makes sense, among those who identified as “extremely conservative,” 17 percent actually held a “very unfavorable” impression of the Congressman, significantly dwarfed by the 66 percent with a “very favorable” impression, but worth noting. The Texas delegation has now reportedly signed on in support, though the embrace of Ryan was not unanimous – Reps Gohmert and Ratcliffe are still holding out of other candidates.

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categoryDemocratRepublicanTea Party
Very favorable1%56%60%
Somewhat favorable8%26%24%
Neither favorable nor unfavorable6%11%7%
Somewhat unfavorable8%3%2%
Very unfavorable70%0%3%
Don't know/No Opinion8%5%4%

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categoryLeaning conservativeSomewhat conservativeExtremely conservative
Very favorable46%64%66%
Somewhat favorable24%24%9%
Neither favorable nor unfavorable16%3%4%
Somewhat unfavorable2%4%0%
Very unfavorable9%2%17%
Don't know/No Opinion3%3%4%


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Very favorable51%12%11%
Somewhat favorable26%30%10%
Neither favorable nor unfavorable14%19%15%
Somewhat unfavorable2%7%13%
Very unfavorable4%29%50%
Don't know/No opinion2%3%2%

2. The state of Texas opened a new front in the war on Planned Parenthood this week after Federal attempts to defund the organization fell flat. Early in the week, they cut Planned Parenthood out of the state’s Medicaid program, and just yesterday, they served clinics across the state with subpoenas asking for “Medicaid records, billing information and personnel information” and at three clinics for “all records, including ‘ultrasound records,’ related to Medicaid patients who donated fetal tissue after obtaining an abortion.”  We’ve pointed this out recently, but the state’s renewed moves against the healthcare provider take place in the context of attitudes toward Planned Parenthood that polarize on distinctly partisan and ideological lines. 


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Approve of sanctuary cities17%
Disapprove of sanctuary cities69%
Don't know14%

3. The US Senate this week tried to take up Sanctuary City legislation in what was perceived as an attempt to aid Louisiana Senator David Vitter in his effort to become governor. While the attempt to bring the legislation didn’t garner enough votes for cloture, “sanctuary cities” appears to be making a comeback. It’s been an issue near and dear to the conservative base’s heart in Texas – an otherwise supportive Tea Party base lobbied Governor Perry hard to call a special session on it in 2011 after the legislation died in the legislature in the face of opposition by major economic interests in the state. The concept of sanctuary cities is a deeply unpopular one in Louisiana, as in Texas, as we learned back in 2011, when 69 percent of Texans expressed disapproval of local law enforcement officials not enforcing federal immigration laws.

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Approve of sanctuary cities31%22%4%
Disapprove of sanctuary cities49%63%88%
Don't know20%15%8%


4. Many are calling this Hillary Clinton’s best week of the 2016 campaign (especially if you include last week). She was generally considered the winner of the first Democratic debate, then, yesterday, Clinton testified in front of the House Select Committee on Benghazi, and given the possibility that those hearings could have lead to a major revelation or a Clinton misstep (neither of which occurred), coverage of her performance has ranged from disinterest to slightly positive reviews for Clinton. Over the same period, her chief rival for the coalition of moderate Democrats, Vice President Joe Biden, announced that he would not seek the presidency. Prior to that, Jim Webb dropped out of the race, and not that it matters too much, but today, another “Democratic” “rival,” Lincoln Chafee, dropped out of the race, perhaps after no one noticed that he was even in it. Needless to say, when we look at Clinton’s poll numbers in the next UT/TT poll, expect her support to increase significantly (by roughly 9 points if we consider all of the second choice support for candidates who either eventually decided not to get into the race – like Biden and Warren – and those who got in but recently left – like Webb and Chafee).

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Hillary Clinton53%
Bernie Sanders15%
Elizabeth Warren8%
Joe Biden8%
Jim Webb1%
Andrew Cuomo1%
Martin O'Malley1%
Lincoln Chafee1%
Haven't thought enough about it to have an opinion12%


Democratic Presidential Primary Vote Choice from June 2015

Despite all of this positive news for Clinton, don’t expect this to change attitudes towards the former first lady, Senator, and Secretary of State too much. For the most part, the expectation should be that the good news shores up her position among doubting Democrats but does little to alter Republicans’ views of her. Here in Texas, attitudes toward Clinton among the state’s GOP are overwhelmingly negative, and they obviously make up most of the the state’s voters (88 percent of Republicans hold a negative opinion of the Democratic front-runner). On the bright side, she looks presidential (90 percent of Texas Republicans hold a negative opinion of President Obama).

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Very favorable39%6%2%
Somewhat favorable35%18%5%
Neither favorable nor unfavorable11%21%5%
Somewhat unfavorable10%21%7%
Very unfavorable4%31%81%
Don't know/No opinion2%3%1%


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Very favorable42%9%2%
Somewhat favorable33%21%2%
Neither favorable nor unfavorable11%16%5%
Somewhat unfavorable8%12%10%
Very unfavorable4%38%80%
Don't know/No opinion2%4%1%



5. George W. Bush doesn’t like Ted Cruz (any more?), while Cruz gets a decent Iowa poll. Amidst this moderately good news for Cruz – the Bloombergy/Des Moines Register poll found Carson leading Trump 28 percent to 19 percent, with Cruz in third place at 10 percent – Jeb! Bush ended the week with the negative story that his campaign was reducing campaign payroll costs by 40 percent. On the ground in Texas, familiar names and faces were put on the ever-throbbing intra-party tension in the Texas GOP between the new guard of conservative insurgents and the old guard of first-wave Republicans they are increasingly challenging. Such conflicts are brewing in GOP legislative primary races ramping up across the state, but you couldn’t ask for a more archetypal manifestation of the deep structure of this division than former-governor George W. Bush telling a group of fundraisers in Denver “I just don’t like that guy” and characterizing the Texas Senator and former Bush presidential campaign staffer has having “hijacked” the Texas and national GOP. Cruz played it cool and didn’t punch back. The sweetest bit: “I met my wife Heidi working on his campaign, and so I will always be grateful to him."  And people say he’s mean! As far as the affections of Texas voters go, in all the Texas polling so far, Texans are a lot sweeter on Cruz than they are Bush’s younger brother. There’s not much nostalgia for the Camelot days of the Bush years in Texas politics, it would seem, though maybe if there had been a Clements dynasty…?

GOP Presidential Primary Vote Choice, with Ted Cruz and Jeb Bush highlighed


Republican Presidential Primary Vote Choice June 2015