Texas Data Points from the Week in Texas Politics - June 10, 2016

The Democratic Presidential Nominating contest is over; Donald Trump is less offensive to people when he reads what he's going to say; Rick Perry won't be Trump's running mate but he still wants to be in his administration; and Ken Paxton tries his best to do Gov. Abbott a solid over Trump University, but only makes him look more suspicious by association. 

1. Hillary Clinton is the “presumptive Democratic Nominee,” so now what? After a week in which the AP called the democratic nominating race over on Monday, and a loss in the last big state that might buttress Sanders’ claim to momentum in California on Tuesday, the Vermont Senator met with President Obama on Thursday morning with analysts opining that Obama would put the hard sell on Sanders to gracefully exit the race. While there’s no reason to think that Sanders won’t compete through Washington D.C.’s primary on Tuesday, history indicates that he will cede to reality soon thereafter, but only so long as he receives some tangible influence at the party convention. One of the big floating questions (in my mind at least) is whether he truly intends to force a rules change that would require state parties to allow independents to participate in Democratic Primaries in the future. Seems like a big ask. The remaining question is whether, with some tangible accomplishments, Sanders will work to turn his supporters towards Clinton. And maybe more importantly, will they be amenable to such an overture? We’ll have a lot more to say about this soon, but looking back at February 2016 polling, Sanders' supporters expressed ambivalence about Clinton, with 40 percent holding a favorable view, 36 percent holding an unfavorable view, and 24 percent having no opinion. The bright side for Clinton is that when it comes to rating her as a potential president, among Sanders' supporters, 62 percent thought that Clinton would make a "Great" or "Good" president, 21 percent thought she would be "average," and only 12 percent thought that she would be "poor" or "terrible." At the same time, only 14 percent said that their support for Sanders was based on giving the Democrats a good chance to win in November.

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categoryBernie Sanders Supporters
Give the Democratic Party a good chance to win in November14%
Improve the American economy14%
Work to guarantee equal rights for all groups in society12%
Address economic inequality in the country22%
Shake up politics-as-usual17%
Reform immigration policy10%
Fight terrorism6%
Improve America's standing in the world5%
Defend my faith and religious values1%

2. Donald Trump reins it in, at least for now. After being taken to task by Speaker Paul Ryan and to a lesser extent by Majority Leader Mitch McConnell over his numerous, racially tinged comments over the past few weeks, Trump was relatively calm on Tuesday evening during his victory speech, even reading from a teleprompter – for the most part. While there’s some new data showing that the electorate might be whiter and older than many have come to believe based on narratives linking Barack Obama’s two general election victories to a coalition of the ascendant, Trump is still going to have to deal with the fallout and potential mobilizing impact that his comments could have come November – not to mention the vibrations that they send throughout every GOP campaign. While Texas Hispanics tend to be more conservative than their national counterparts, Trump may be bringing a whole new generation of Latinos into the electorate in a way that will have long-term consequences for the state and national party. It will definitely be interesting to watch Trump’s favorability numbers among minority groups as new polls start being released over the next few weeks with the contests finally wrapped up.

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Very favorable16%6%9%
Somewhat favorable19%11%10%
Neither favorable nor unfavorable10%9%9%
Somewhat unfavorable18%8%12%
Very unfavorable35%62%57%
Don't know/no opinion2%5%3%

3. You've got to admire Perry's persistence. It was announced this week, almost gratuitously, that Donald Trump won't be tapping Rick Perry to be his vice presidential nominee. This news about our former governor is possibly only interesting to those of us here in Texas, but their whole relationship is rather curious – in particular, Perry’s strong desire to secure an executive branch role – given his openly critical comments of Trump during the primary campaign. With no need to fret over which party Texans will prefer in the White House, there was never any reason to think that Trump would turn to the the state's former governor, especially given that there’s no reason to believe that Trump would ever pick so-experienced a politician as his running mate (*though of course, he could do anything). For someone who has railed against government for so long, and the federal government in particular, Perry seems like he may miss the life.

Rick Perry's Life in Public Office
Office Start Date End Date
Texas House of Representatives January 8, 1985 January 8, 1991
Agriculture Commissioner of Texas January 15, 1991 January 19, 1999
Lieutenant Governor of Texas January 19, 1999 December 21, 2000
Governor of Texas December 21, 2000 January 20, 2015

4. Governor Abbott was also brought into Trump’s orbit this week through the issue of higher education…oh wait, I mean Trump University. It’s hard to decide whether this is really a story about Greg Abbott or Attorney General Ken Paxton. The tenuous link between the dropped fraud investigation into Trump U., with what seems to be an at least plausible explanation that Trump U. packed up and left, and $35 thousand in campaign contributions from Trump to Abbott three years later for a race in which he spent over $46 million is a bit of a stretch. But AG Paxton kept the story alive by publicly silencing the former employee who raised the issue for the media. There are at least two story lines here: one in which Trump’s long business and political history is used to tie him to GOP officials and candidates around the country like an albatross; but in another more local angle, how much of this is about Ken Paxton’s toxicity? It’s becoming hard not to wonder whether or when Paxton becomes too problematic for the Texas GOP, and for Gov. Abbott in particular, to remain on the sidelines. Abbott has remained relatively quiet about Paxton, not jettisoning him, but certainly not going to bat for the man occupying his former office. The same cannot be said, for example, of Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller, whose own Texas Rangers investigation Abbott was quick to endorse. Should either or both be forced from office prematurely, Abbott would get to appoint their replacements, and with this in mind, at what point might Abbott decide that he’s better off taking a side on Paxton? My guess would be that Paxton’s alleged transgressions would have to reach a point of actually permeating the public consciousness, and so far, there’s no indication that they have, even though he has become a lightning rod for negative media attention.

5. We didn’t hear anything about bathrooms this week! Knowing that we’ll hear a lot more about this, that’s all I’m going to say right now.