Daily Kos
Political analysis and other daily rants on the state of the nation

Friday | July 05, 2002

Kirk gives Bush Texas-sized problem

There are few uncontroverted truths in the world. One of those is, there are 24 hours in a day. In Bush's world, after you subtract nap time, and beauty sleep time, and excercise time, and playing with the dog time, and watching baseball time, and eating pretzel time, you are left with about 6 good hours a day. Try to give him more time, and he turns into a raging lunatic (witness his press conference performance in France).

Why do I bring this up? Because it highlights one of the major problems the Republicans face in retaking the Senate. The GOP must defend 20 seats to the Dems 15. The GOP threatens in roughly four states, while the Dems have strong chances in at least seven. Simply put, the GOP's faces uphill chances to retake the Senate, and they need as much of Bush's help as they can get.

Now, it is widely expected that Bush will spend plenty of time campaigning in the Fall. But his time is limited, what with governing the free world and all (not to mention the naps and everything else I mentioned above). So, news last week that the Texas Senate race is a free-for-all was most unwelcome news for the Bushies.

The last few independent and Democrat surveys have all shown Democratic challenger, former Dallas mayor, and African-American wunderkind, leading Republican Cornyn. The latest, a University of Houston poll, has Kirk up 36-28 (with a third undecided). Another mid-June poll had Kirk up 46-42. A poll taken in lat May, had Kirk up 43-39.

There are obvious differences in methodology (the latest poll clearly only counted solid support for either candidate in its numbers, not "slight leans"). However, they all point to the same thing -- the Republicans are poised to lose a Senate seat from the president's own state. And regardless of the outcome, the GOP loses. Why?

Two things are now certain to happen. Bush will spend a lot of time in Texas, and a flood of party money will fill Cornyn's coffers. Indeed, expect a disproportionate amount of time and money to flow into Texas as Bush frantically tries to avoid an embarassing Texas loss. So, even if Cornyn eventually wins, that's time and money that could've been spent in MO, NH, MN, TN, or IA. Not to mention that the national press has latched on to this story, further emphasizing the appearance that Bush is weak. (The press gave Al Gore the same treatment when polls in TN suggested he would lose his home state.)

The irony is that it seems that Cornyn's problem isn't lack of money or the president's time. It's that voters like the affable and charismatic Kirk. And despite the Texas GOP's efforts to make this campaign about race, it looks like Kirk is getting strong support from whites in conservative northern Texas, as well as from blacks and Latinos. It seems the more voters get to see of Cornyn, the less they like him.

The GOP also faces a problem in Texas' gubernatorial campaign. In that race, Latino candidate Tony Sanchez is slowly creeping into striking range of Gov. Rick Perry. That U of Houston poll has Perry up 43-32, with a quarter undecided. The fact that an incumbent is under 50 percent is always trouble. And, it's definite progress for Sanchez, who was down 20 points early in June.

This poses a dilemma from Bush, Rove and Co. Losing Bush's old governor's seat to a Democrat would be a huge prestige blow for Bush. But, his efforts to woe Latino voters could take a serious hit if he openly campaigned against a Latino candidate. Thus, it looks like Perry is on his own for now. Still, if Sanchez can continue to close the gap, it might force Bush into another one of his lose-lose situations. More time and money may have to be sunk into what should've been a safe seat, while at the same time offending Latino voters.

Should be interesting.

Posted July 05, 2002 09:42 AM | Comments (1)


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