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

Monday | August 12, 2002

Kirk's got the mojo

Quite simply, there is no more compelling race this election cycle than the Texas Senate race. Democrat Ron Kirk has galvanized a level of excitement missing from just about every other race currently underway. And the media, knowing a winner when it sees one, has been fawning. The latest is this week's Time Magazine:

Kirk's candidacy poses a real threat of Election Day humiliation for the President on his home turf. Some polls this summer have given Kirk an edge, and all show an extremely tight race. He has mobilized heavy political backing from Dallas' conservative business elite and raised more money than Cornyn in Bush's old Dallas zip code. One contributor is Bush's own media consultant, Mark McKinnon, who counts Kirk among his former clients.

The Wall Street Journal showers Kirk with good vibes:

A business-friendly moderate with a megawatt personality, Mr. Kirk has deep ties to the city's GOP establishment that date back to when he held the nonpartisan office of mayor in the Republican stronghold. He smoothed over racial tensions, cut taxes and delivered two business priorities: a downtown professional-sports arena and a riverside development project. The city's Republican elders were impressed, and many so far have stuck with Mr. Kirk, helping him to raise slightly more money than Mr. Cornyn in the most recent fund-raising cycle. "There are a lot of Republicans who have done business with him for years, and so they are conflicted," says David Hill, a GOP pollster working for the Cornyn campaign.
Demographic trends in Texas resemble those of California ten years ago. The massive growth of the Latino community spells trouble for state Republicans, no doubt. But the following paragraphs portend an even more serious problem for the Texas GOP:
Lucy Billingsley, a Dallas developer who hosted [a Kirk] fund-raiser, has been a friend of Mr. Kirk's for years. The daughter of real-estate magnate and GOP donor Trammell Crow, she is a Bush supporter. But the GOP's case for Mr. Cornyn -- that he would help to usher Mr. Bush's agenda through the Senate, while Mr. Kirk would thwart it -- makes no impression on her. "I don't approach these things in a strategic way," she says.

For her friend Donna Rohling, supporting Mr. Kirk signals a shift in her political thinking, away from the rock-ribbed Republicanism of her upbringing, to more nuanced ground. "I'll take his common sense any day," she says. It is a notion Mr. Kirk says he has detected across Texas, and it could be his ace in the hole.

Fact is, the Texas GOP has been taken over by the wingnuts. While white Texans have traditionally been averse to the Democratic Party, that aversion has been whittled away the past several years. Now Kirk offers them the chance to break free from tradition and support a centrist, moderate Democrat. And once they cross that taboo, it'll be easier to continue voting Dem, and could even benefit Dem gubernatorial candidate Tony Sanchez and the rest of the Democratic statewide candidates (important because Texas will do its congressional redistricting in 2003).

While on the subject of Sanchez, check out MYDD's look at the first negative ad in the Texas governor's race.

Posted August 12, 2002 01:46 PM | Comments (4)


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