It’s Still Time for a New Republican Party That Talks Like Adults

gop likesHeckuva job with that rebranding, Republicans. They started 2013 hoping to rejoin modern America but ended it once again on the wrong side of history. By embracing Phil Robertson’s prejudice against gays and blacks and rebuffing Pope Francis’ call for economic justice, Republicans have made it clear that they would rather hold onto unchristian religious views than make the changes needed to win national elections again.

Almost a year ago, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal smacked his own party upside the head.

“We’ve got to stop being the stupid party. It’s time for a new Republican Party that talks like adults,” he said at the Republican National Committee’s winter convention. “We had a number of Republicans damage the brand this year with offensive and bizarre comments. I’m here to say we’ve had enough of that.”

Republicans quickly made it clear that they had not had enough of that. Apparently expressing views abhorrent to most Americans has become a bedrock Republican value. Jindal has since walked the “stupid party” comments back. He’s walked so far back, in fact, that he has reached a time when open expressions of prejudice were not considered socially unacceptable.

In his interview with GQ, Robertson debated the comparative sexual merits of different orifices, called homosexuality a sin, and predicted that equality for homosexuality will lead directly to a broader acceptance of bestiality. That, and he remembered all the happy black folks picking cotton during segregation.

About the same time, Pope Francis criticized the “idolatry of money” and called “trickle-down” economics an “opinion, which has never been confirmed by the facts, [that] expresses a crude and naïve trust in the goodness of those wielding economic power.”

If you think that your religion teaches you that homosexuality leads to bestiality, I question your relationship to your God and to your horse. And I don’t have time to teach remedial economics to those who still believe cutting taxes for the wealthy leads to greater tax revenue, job growth, and shrinking income disparity. Homophobia and supply-side economics are political faiths with no basis in science or the Bible I studied in Sunday school.

Republicans think otherwise. Noted moral exemplar Rush Limbaugh called the Pope’s views “pure Marxism.” Sarah Palin, whose Nobel Prize for Economics got lost in the mail again this year, said the Pope’s analysis was “kind of liberal.” And Rep. Paul Ryan, who was raised on Social Security survivor benefits before he proposed turning Medicare into Groupon for Grandmas, condescendingly said, “The guy is from Argentina, they haven’t had real capitalism in Argentina.” Yes, he called the Pope “the guy.”

Republicans have to attack the Pope’s views lest anyone notice that they have just cut off long-term unemployment insurance when there are three applicants for every job. What would you rather do? Call the Pope names, or explain why you cut food stamps for 47 million Americans—that’s 1 out of every 7 of us—during the worst long-term unemployment crisis since World War II?

Instead of taking a clue from a recognized churchman, Republicans treated Robertson’s anatomical analysis as if it were an expression of religious doctrine. When A&E briefly suspended Robertson, Republicans treated L’Affaire Duck as if U.N. troops had barricaded church doors. They compared him to Rosa Parks and hailed Robertson “as a hero for courageously revealing his self-truth and Christian ideals.”

“If you believe in free speech or religious liberty, you should be deeply dismayed over the treatment of Phil Robertson,” said Sen. Ted Cruz on his Facebook page.

And Jindal, the oracle who inveighed against stupidity at the beginning of this year that celebrated it, completed his redemption when he said, “The politically correct crowd is tolerant of all viewpoints, except those they disagree with.”

Robertson can say whatever he wants, and Republicans are free to say that a reality TV star—and a fried chicken franchise, for that matter—represent their religious views better than the Catholic Church. But Republicans will never rebrand their party until they become more like Pope Francis and less like Phil Robertson

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Jason Stanford

Jason StanfordJason Stanford is a Democratic political consultant and opposition researcher based in Austin. He served as 2006 Democratic gubernatorial candidate Chris Bell's campaign manager and chief spokesman. As the head of Stanford Research, he leads opposition research for various candidates and interest groups across the region.

Stanford moved to Texas in 1994 to work as a Deputy Press Secretary for the Ann Richards Committee. Jason and a former colleague founded Stanford Ryan Research & Communications, Inc. in January 1997. The firm became Stanford Research in 1999.

He’s the co-author of “Adios, Mofo: Why Rick Perry Will Make America Miss George W. Bush”, and has a degree in Russian from Lewis & Clark College.

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The Paul Ryan Story Everyone Missed

Photo courtesy of Gage Skidmore

Potomac Fever doesn’t just affect the politicians in Washington. The journalists get infected, too. When reporters get jobs inside the Beltway, they start valuing process over substance and sometimes miss the real story entirely. D.C. reporters are much more likely to write about what someone said about what is happening than what is actually happening. The Sunday morning political talk shows are veritable quarantine zones for what I’m talking about.

The latest example of this frustrating malady is the kerfuffle over Paul Ryan both opposing the $787 billion stimulus bill as a “wasteful spending spree” and then repeatedly asking the Obama administration to send some of that sweet stimulus money to a few of his constituents. It is a pretty run-of-the-mill example of political hypocrisy, even for someone like Ryan who casts himself in the bronze of ideological courage.

This already came up in 2010 when Ryan denied to a Boston radio host that he would “write to the government to ask them to send us money” after he opposed the stimulus bill. “I did not request any stimulus money,” he added, telling a lie on par with Sarah Palin‘s boast that she said “Thanks but no thanks’ on that bridge to nowhere.”

When this came up last week in Ohio, Ryan went once more to the well of mendacity, first denying that he had requested stimulus funds from the Obama administration for constituents and then adding ludicrously, “I don’t recall.” Ryan tried to inject some unreasonable doubt by blaming his staff, but the liberal blog Daily Kos pointed out that he had personally signed the letters he sent to the Energy Secretary.

“After having these letters called to my attention I checked into them, and they were treated as constituent service requests in the same way matters involving Social Security or Veterans Affairs are handled,” Ryan said. “This is why I didn’t recall the letters earlier. But they should have been handled differently, and I take responsibility for that.”

Unlike his lies about requesting stimulus funds, saying, “I take full responsibility” after blaming staff is a Washington lie. The words contradicted the facts but lacked the intent to deceive. In this context, it’s almost an admission of guilt, and it served to put the press hounds off the scent.

So what did we learn after Ryan lied in 2010 and essentially repeated the lie in 2012? To paraphrase Captain Renault, should we be shocked, shocked to find that hypocrisy is going on in Congress? As fun as it is to watch a politician squirm in the spotlight, I would argue that the journalists forgot their Prime Directive: Follow the money. Therein lies the treasure of meaning in politics, and we even have a map leading right to it. They’re called campaign finance reports, and anyone can look them up at the Federal Election Commission‘s website. Even you. In fact, especially you.

While the Washington press corps was documenting hypocrisy, it ignored the possibility that Ryan was guilty of far worse: corruption, albeit the legal variety.

Three of the letters Ryan wrote to the Energy Secretary sought money for the Energy Center of Wisconsin, a nonprofit that promotes more efficient energy use of energy. Wisconsin utilities belong to the Energy Center, including Alliant Energy and Xcel Energy. Together, Alliant and Xcel’s political action committees have donated $32,900 to Congressman Ryan since 1998, including $10,000 after he wrote those letters. And you don’t need to be Woodward and Bernstein to think that’s probably why he wrote the letters in the first place and why he lied about it later.

Thanks to Ryan’s three letters, the Energy Center received a $20 million grant from the Energy Department, funded by the stimulus bill he voted against. And that’s the story they missed while the Beltway gang was more focused on what Ryan said than what he did, and why.

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Jason Stanford

Jason StanfordJason Stanford is a Democratic political consultant and opposition researcher based in Austin. He served as 2006 Democratic gubernatorial candidate Chris Bell's campaign manager and chief spokesman. As the head of Stanford Research, he leads opposition research for various candidates and interest groups across the region.

Stanford moved to Texas in 1994 to work as a Deputy Press Secretary for the Ann Richards Committee. Jason and a former colleague founded Stanford Ryan Research & Communications, Inc. in January 1997. The firm became Stanford Research in 1999.

He’s the co-author of “Adios, Mofo: Why Rick Perry Will Make America Miss George W. Bush”, and has a degree in Russian from Lewis & Clark College.

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Stop Comparing Paul Ryan to Sarah Palin

Photo courtesy of Gage Skidmore

The charm of Sarah Palin as a vice presidential pick is she set the bar incredibly low for her successors. As long as a nominee can name a newspaper and their foreign policy experience isn’t living next to a foreign country, the press can dub them better than Sarah Palin. More qualified. More gravitas. More ready to lead than Palin was…

A Palin standard for being fit for public office is like a Donald Trump standard for public humility. Basically, no standard at all.

It’s really not fair to compare Paul Ryan to Sarah Palin. Sure it makes Ryan as a VP nominee seem less cynical——less Hail Mary——less desperate than if Palin had never word-souped the nation four years ago. If John McCain would have picked Tim Pawlenty in ’08, the Ryan pick would look pretty irresponsible. But now the GOP has the “Palin Standard.”

A better comparison for Paul Ryan is former Republican presidential candidate Congresswoman Michele Bachmann. Both are from mid-western cheese-heavy states. Both are high-profile tea party Republicans in the lowest-rated Congress in the history of percentages. Even when Bachmann is causing international incidents with her xenophobic race baiting about the Muslim Brotherhood’s alleged infiltration of the U.S. government——she sounds as pleasant as someone selling orange juice on television.

If the 1980′s Michael J. Fox sit-com character——the beloved Reagan-idolizing Alex P. Keaton——were a self-hating public employee who cherry-picked all the worst parts of Ayn Rand, the Bible and the Heritage Foundation’s reading room, he’d be Paul Ryan! Quirky, young and clearly trying to fill a larger man’s suit——the rightest of Republicans love Paul Ryan.

Well they kind of love him. Both Paul Ryan and Michele Bachmann are guilty pleasures for Republicans. They like listening to them beat up on President Obama and spout their cheery condemnations of liberalism, but they don’t want to admit it too loudly lest they get stuck defending ALL their ideas. Bachmann won the Iowa straw poll but now she’s not even invited to introduce anyone, let alone speak, at the upcoming Republican National Convention.

Obama tried to campaign against the Ryan Budget plan this past spring since the House GOP voted for it, but that was declared out-of-bounds. Now? It’s in play and Republican politicians are not thrilled about explaining their vote to give future senior citizens coupons for chemotherapy.

Bachmann and Ryan also share the distinction of being ineffective lawmakers. According to, in her nearly six years in office “Bachmann has passed three rhetorical bills with no force of law, and one amendment that asks an Inspector General to conduct inspections.” Paul Ryan has been an incumbent for twice that time and has only introduced two bills that have become law: One renaming a post office in his home town, the other changing how arrows are taxed (how very 21st century).

Bachmann at least gets to distance herself from the Republican Congressional blank check given to the big-spending Bush administration. Under Ryan’s allegedly hawkish eye, his party started two unpaid-for wars, cut taxes during said wars, grew the government, exploded the national debt and then bailed out unregulated banks with taxpayer money. Paul Ryan voted yes for all of it and doesn’t ask for a correction when he’s called a small government conservative.

Both Bachmann and Ryan are also at the extreme end of the spectrum when it comes to gay rights and reproductive freedoms. They both have consistently voted for any anti-abortion/anti-contraception bills that came before them. Ditto with expanding martial rights to same sex couples. Ryan, with all his libertarian billing, has voted to take away liberties from his fellow citizens. He is the government he’s warned us about: Freedom is for corporations, and regulations are for our private lives.

If Ryan is now the Republican mainstream, Bachmann is now the Republican mainstream. If Ryan is getting the full embrace of his party——Bachmann should be getting that same welcome into the fray.

Or in the case of Republicans in 2012, the fringe.

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Tina Dupuy

Tina Dupuy Tina Dupuy is a native New Yorker born in exile.

The daughter of biblical brimstone hippie revolutionaries, her parents were members of a splinter sect so fringe it makes normal cult apologists shudder. This has given her a rather unique take on life. “My parents were missionaries, not to be confused with ‘mercenaries’ because that would actually be cool.”

Tina’s childhood was spent as glorified luggage, living in several countries on two continents and eventually attending nine elementary schools. The most stable home she had was an adolescent all-girls group home in Northern California where she made few friends by being an (alleged) stuck up nerd who “thought she was better than everyone else.”

Tina’s life long ambition of being a paleontologist was thwarted by the siren call of freelance journalism. An irreverent yet unassuming humorist, Tina is a natural for the work. ”Prostitutes are known for their hearts of gold, you never hear anyone say that about satirists,” she laments.

Sometimes a reporter, sometimes a comedian – always a wedge-issue enthusiast and devout skeptic – Tina is anaward-winning writer, investigative journalist, the former managing editor of Crooks and Liars . Tina appears frequently on MSNBC, Current TV, RT and BBC, and all over the radio frequencies via KCRW’s To The PointThe Stephanie Miller Show and The Leslie Marshall Show. She writes for Mother JonesThe AtlanticSkeptic, Fast CompanyAlternetLA Weekly, Los Angeles Times and Newsday among many others. Her weekly op-ed column is nationally syndicated through Cagle Cartoons.

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How Ted Cruz Did It

Photo courtesy of Gage Skidmore

Tea party insurgent Ted Cruz‘s thrilling and improbable victory over Texas Lieutenant Governor David Dewhurst in Texas’s GOP Senate primary provides a model for future long-shot candidates to follow, though repeating what Cruz did will be difficult.

A long line of dominoes had to fall, in the precise order that they did, for Cruz to overcome an opponent who had every advantage a political candidate can have.

Dewhurst had unlimited financing (he spent at least $19.9 million of his own money), universal name recognition, unanimous support from the Austin political establishment and massive political power as the leader of the Texas Senate.

Ted Cruz had courage, wisdom and a hunch.

When Cruz’s eventual campaign manager told me in early 2011 that the former Texas solicitor general would likely run for retiring U.S. Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison‘s Senate seat, I scoffed at the idea. The race was beyond his reach, he couldn’t raise enough money, he had never been on the ballot before, other likely candidates possessed statewide name recognition and Cruz’s Hispanic surname would hurt him in a Republican primary.

But Cruz and his team were undeterred by the naysayers. They went to work.

In Texas, if a primary candidate wins less than 50 percent of the vote, the top two primary candidates advance to a runoff. Cruz’s biggest insight was that he could win a runoff against Dewhurst; the hard part would be making it to the runoff.

Cruz set out to build the largest grassroots army in Texas history, believing that passionate supporters would act as force multipliers.

But first he needed help.

In politics, the shape of the field determines the race. Cruz needed to become the consensus conservative candidate in order to make it a one-on-one race against Dewhurst, so he could nationalize the campaign. When it began, four candidates sought the conservative mantle: Cruz, Railroad Commissioners Michael Williams and Elizabeth Ames Jones and former Secretary of State Roger Williams. Cruz came out ahead by outworking and outperforming his competition.

Early on, Cruz won the support of the Club for Growth and FreedomWorks (and later the Tea Party Express), whose outside efforts would prove critical later. He unexpectedly raised significant money (about $1 million every three months), a task made more difficult by the large, unsettled field.

Conservatives gradually lined up behind Cruz, giving him momentum and forcing the other conservative candidates to drop out. By the filing deadline, Cruz was the only tea party candidate in the race.

Traditionally, Texas has March primaries. But wrangling and a court battle over the state’s redistricting map forced election officials to move the primary to late May, with a runoff in the dog days of summer in late July, ultimately reducing turnout and giving Cruz more time to raise money and build momentum.

And Cruz’s momentum kept building. National Review put him on its cover, just as it had put Marco Rubio on its cover two years before. Syndicated columnist George Will wrote a glowing column in which he described Cruz as a candidate who was “as good as it gets.”

The five strongest conservatives in the U.S. Senate — Jim DeMint, Rand Paul, Mike Lee, Pat Toomey and Tom Coburn — all endorsed him. Talk radio followed, with Mark Levin, Glenn Beck and eventually Sean Hannity endorsing Cruz.

This momentum forced two other potential candidates — Rep. Michael McCaul (R-TX) and State Senator Dan Patrick — not to run, keeping Cruz as the only movement conservative in the field.

But there may have never been a runoff between Cruz and Dewhurst were it not for two crucial late developments. Ten days before the runoff, Ron Paul endorsed Cruz, which brought Paul’s supporters into the fold. Then former Governor Sarah Palin (R-AK) endorsed him, bringing in a wave of invaluable earned media, small donor contributions and momentum. Those endorsements helped Cruz get enough votes in the May 29 primary to force a runoff. At that point, the race’s ultimate result was inevitable.

Two months later, on runoff election night, Cruz’s rabid volunteer base, outside support and huge momentum carried him to a crushing 13-point win.

Cruz is a once-in-a-generation candidate who ran a nearly flawless campaign in a favorable political environment. But he never should have been able to win. Indeed, as he has said to his supporters, “I alone could not win this race. But with your help, we could not lose.”

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Matt Mackowiak

Matt MackowiakMatt Mackowiak is a Republican political consultant and pundit. He is the founder and President of Potomac Strategy Group, a political consulting firm based in Washington, DC, and Austin. He worked on the Bush-Cheney campaign during the 2004 presidential elections.From 2005-2007. Mackowiak was the Senate Press Secretary to U.S. Sen. Conrad Burns, R-MT. From 2007 until April 2009, he performed the same job for U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, R-TX. Mackowiak is an Austin native. He graduated from the University of Texas at Austin in 2003 with a B.S. in Communications Studies, with a concentration in Political Communications.

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Palin Jabs at Perry While Rallying for Cruz

Sarah Palin and her husband, Todd Palin, stopped by Chick-fil-A in The Woodlands after Friday's rally. Photo courtesy of Sarah Palin / Facebook.

Standing on a stage in the middle of a park facing a crowd of more than a thousand supporters of former Texas Solicitor General Ted Cruz, former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin smiled and pointed at the black boots on her feet.

“You know who gave me these boots?” she asked sweetly. “Your governor.”

The crowd cheered. Then Palin delivered the punch line.

“At least in that one case he made a good decision,” she said.

It was the most overt reference to what has emerged as the dividing line in this intense July 31 Republican runoff to replace U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, who is retiring.

A large swath of Republican leaders in state government are backing Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, while a bevy of the country’s most well-known conservatives are rallying around Cruz.

The two factions have traditionally been on the same side. Palin even spoke at a similar rally in favor of Gov. Rick Perry’s re-election bid in 2010.

Now members from each side are openly dismissing each other as politically irrelevant in Texas.

Sarah Palin's gift from Rick Perry. Photo courtesy of Dr. Melissa Clouthier via Twitter.

As the laughter subsided, Palin qualified her jab at Perry, who is backing Dewhurst, by adding, “We’ll be a team after this is all over again.”

Other speakers at the rally reinforced the notion, insinuated by Palin, that those opposed to a Cruz victory in the runoff were also at odds with the Tea Party movement as a whole.

U.S. Sen. Jim DeMint, a South Carolina Republican and a Tea Party favorite, listed Senate race upsets of the past two years, including the victories of Pat Toomey in Pennsylvania, Rand Paul in Kentucky and Marco Rubio in Florida.

“We the people have taken back our government and you’re seeing it in this election too. … The establishment picked their candidate — Austin, Washington. It was a done deal,” said DeMint, who predicted a “landslide victory” for Cruz that could only have happened under “the new political reality.”

Cruz spent most of his speech criticizing President Barack Obama but briefly referenced Dewhurst.

“My opponent thinks a big, big checkbook can buy this race,” Cruz said. “Let me tell you, nobody is going to buy this U.S. Senate seat. This race has been a testament to the power of grassroots.”

Hours before the rally, the Dewhurst campaign released an endorsement letter signed by 18 of the Texas Senate’s 19 Republican members. The letter described Dewhurst as “the right conservative to bring the Texas model to Washington, and get America back to work.” The campaign also released a new web video called “Welcome to Texas” that highlights Dewhurst’s record, and spokesman Enrique Marquez issued a statement accusing “Washington insiders” of coming to Texas to “rewrite Texas’ history of conservative values and principles.”

While many attendees at the Cruz rally said they prefer how the Texas government is run compared to the federal government, no endorsement could get them to strongly link Dewhurst to the state’s success.

David Maudlin, from the town of Cut and Shoot, called Texas “a solid state” but remained suspect of Dewhurst’s role in keeping it that way.

“I think he’s been in a good position to take credit, but he hasn’t really effected the change,” Maudlin said.

This article originally appeared in The Texas Tribune at

Texas Tribune donors or members may be quoted or mentioned in our stories, or may be the subject of them. For a complete list of contributors, click here.

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Aman Batheja, The Texas Tribune

Aman Batheja, The Texas TribuneAman Batheja worked for eight years at the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, most of that time covering state and local politics. A native of Cedarhurst, New York, he has an undergraduate degree in journalism and psychology from New York University and a master's in economics from the University of Texas at Arlington.

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Competitive Senate Race Draws to a Close

Photo courtesy of Bob Daemmrich

What has become a battle was supposed to be more of a coronation for Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, who has run the Texas Senate for the last decade. He has a vast personal fortune to spend on the race. And he was the favorite of just about every establishment Republican in the state, including Gov. Rick Perry.

“David’s the one candidate best prepared to make conservative change happen in Washington,” Perry said in an ad for Dewhurst. “Don’t let anyone tell you different.”

Audio: Ben Philpott’s story for KUT News

Even Dewhurst’s opponent, Ted Cruz, the former state solicitor general, will tell you that when he entered the race, it was Dewhurst and the eight other guys.

“You know, when we started this campaign a year and a half ago, there wasn’t anybody in the state that thought I had a prayer,” Cruz said. “I was at 2 percent in the polls, and the margin of error was 3 percent.”

And many believe that if the election had been held in March — Texas’ traditional primary month — Dewhurst would have easily gotten the 50 percent needed to win the GOP primary without a runoff. But thanks to a lawsuit over legislative redistricting, the primary was pushed back to late May. Republican strategist Ted Delisi said that changed the race.

“I think there was always a potential for a competitive race,” Delisi said. “But it has become very competitive. And the reason for that is, the non-Dewhurst candidates, and in this case Ted Cruz, have had the time to make their case.”

There was time for Cruz to meet more voters and time to build his name recognition across the state. Will Lutz, former editor of a prominent Texas conservative newsletter, said Cruz used his time doing the equivalent of walking door to door to meet voters.

“What Ted Cruz did is for the past year and a half at least, he’s been going to every conservative Republican group that would listen to him,” Lutz said. “He’s got a stump speech that those audiences find attractive.”

So bit by bit, Cruz moved up in the polls. In a crowded primary, he was able to solidify the anti-Dewhurst vote. Then came a late endorsement from Tea Party favorite Sarah Palin. And finally, he got a couple million dollars in ads from the Washington, D.C.-based conservative group Club for Growth.

“Dewhurst backed wasteful earmarks and pushed for new wage taxes and a statewide property tax,” a Cruz ad says. “Big-spending, tax-raising David Dewhurst: wrong for Texas.”

That ad support, coupled with Cruz’s emphasis on reaching out to conservative bloggers across the country, gave him national attention. Lutz said that dramatically affected Cruz’s fundraising efforts.

“You will see people from all over the country giving money to Ted Cruz,” Lutz said. “He has made a splash in national conservative circles. Being on the cover of National Review magazine, which is a conservative commentary publication, is a real coup for somebody running for office in one state.”

All that — the money, the endorsements and the extra time to campaign — led to a second-place finish in the May primary. He only got 34 percent of the vote, but his supporters are mostly from the grassroots/activist/Tea Party branch of the GOP. And neither rain nor sleet nor July Texas heat will keep those voters from the polls. The Dewhurst campaign has failed to generate the same emotional fire, which leaves him hoping his supporters won’t skip the runoff.

“We have polled and polled, and there are substantially more David Dewhurst voters in Texas that we’ve been able to identify then Ted Cruz voters,” Dewhurst said. “But again, it’s a question of turnout.”

Recent polls show the race is a dead heat, which has led to a bloody July on TV. The Club for Growth has hammered away at Dewhurst, calling him a moderate who wants to raise taxes. Dewhurst paints Cruz as a D.C. insider, a corrupt lawyer and someone who can only talk about what he’d do in office, whereas Dewhurst has a record of already doing it.

“I have cut spending,” Dewhurst said. “I have cut taxes. I have balanced budgets. I have fought against ‘Obamacare.’ I have fought to secure our borders. I am the only literal fighter. Being in the debate club is not a fighter.”

Cruz is ending his campaign by doubling down on his Tea Party support. Tonight in The Woodlands, Palin and the Tea Party Express are hosting a rally and fundraiser on his behalf.

This article originally appeared in The Texas Tribune at

Texas Tribune donors or members may be quoted or mentioned in our stories, or may be the subject of them. For a complete list of contributors, click here.

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Ben Philpott, The Texas Tribune

Ben Philpott hosts Agenda Texas for KUT-FM. He has been covering state politics and dozens of other topics for the station since 2002. He's been recognized for outstanding radio journalism by the Radio and Television News Directors Association, Public Radio News Directors Incorporated, the Texas Associated Press Broadcasters and twice by the Houston Press Club as Radio Journalist of the Year. Before moving to Texas, he worked in public radio in Birmingham and Tuscaloosa, Ala., and at several television stations in Alabama and Tennessee. Born in New York City and raised in Chattanooga, Tenn., Philpott graduated from the University of Alabama with a degree in broadcast journalism.

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Palin Coming to South County for Ted Cruz

Photo courtesy of Gage Skidmore

In the final days of the Republican primary runoff between Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst and former Texas Solicitor General Ted Cruz, major conservative leaders are coming to Texas to rally support for Cruz.

FreedomWorks, a Washington, D.C.-based conservative group chaired by former Texas Congressman Dick Armey, will hold a rally in Dallas on Thursday evening featuring Cruz, Armey, radio pundit Glenn Beck, and U.S. Sens. Rand Paul of Kentucky and Mike Lee of Utah.

The next day, the Cruz campaign has scheduled a get-out-the-vote rally in The Woodlands featuring former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin and U.S. Sen. Jim DeMint, R-South Carolina.

Former U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania is also planning to campaign with Cruz over the weekend ahead of Tuesday’s runoff, according to ABC News.

The Dewhurst campaign was quick to point to Cruz’s out-of-state supporters as proof that Washington, D.C., insiders are trying to decide the race for Texans.

“Contrast clear. @DavidHDewhurst campaigns with @GovernorPerry. @teDCruz campaigns with non Texans,” Dewhurst spokesman Mark Miner tweeted. Miner was previously the spokesman for Gov. Rick Perry, who welcomed Palin’s support in his 2010 re-election bid.

Speaking to reporters after an event in Fort Worth on Wednesday, Dewhurst said the senators supporting Cruz are “all from states that are not as conservative as Texas, all from states that have not done as well as Texas is doing,” according to the Houston Chronicle.

A Dewhurst campaign spokesman declined to discuss Dewhurst’s campaign schedule.

This article originally appeared in The Texas Tribune at

Texas Tribune donors or members may be quoted or mentioned in our stories, or may be the subject of them. For a complete list of contributors, click here.

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Aman Batheja, The Texas Tribune

Aman Batheja, The Texas TribuneAman Batheja worked for eight years at the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, most of that time covering state and local politics. A native of Cedarhurst, New York, he has an undergraduate degree in journalism and psychology from New York University and a master's in economics from the University of Texas at Arlington.

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Rubio’s Time Will Come

“Rubio, Rubio, Rubio.”

You hear the chants all across the country. On talk shows, on cable TV, on blogs and in op-ed columns, everyone with a conservative bone in his body is urging presumptive GOP nominee Mitt Romney to choose the smart and dashing Marco Rubio as his vice president.

The conservative crowd’s clamor for Rubio is beginning to worry me. It could backfire. For one thing, it’s setting up Romney for a disaster.

If he doesn’t choose Rubio — and I would agree with that decision — it’s going to disappoint a lot of Republican voters who think Rubio is the key to de-electing President Obama. And when voters are disappointed, they don’t show up to vote.

Don’t get me wrong. Rubio is great, maybe the best young talent in the Republican draft pool. The first-term Florida senator is already a superstar and ready for the big leagues — and that’s the biggest problem I have with picking him.

When you’re trying to get elected president, you don’t pick a superstar for your running mate. You pick someone boring, someone who is not going to eclipse you the way Sarah Palin outshined John McCain just four years ago.

I admit it wasn’t hard to outshine McCain. But if he hadn’t been so desperate to put some life into his lackluster campaign, he would have done the wiser thing and chosen someone even more boring than himself.

Photo courtesy of Gage Skidmore.

It was Reagan and Bush I. Bush I and Quayle. Clinton and Gore. Gore and ????? Whoever it was, he or she was so boring I can’t remember their name. Was it Kerry? Biden?

Just joking, but you get the point. In 2000, the Bush II-Cheney ticket turned out to be a mini-mistake. Dick Cheney was so experienced and such a strong personality that he acted like a co-president for eight years, which only caused trouble for George W. Bush.

There’s only room for one star on the ticket. Romney doesn’t need Rubio or Chris Christie or Condi Rice, or even Paul Ryan. He needs a Tim Pawlenty, a Rob Portman or a Bob McDonnell — a non-star.

He needs someone who’s a virtual unknown to the voting masses, but nonetheless experienced in governing and ready to do the VP’s thankless jobs of attending funerals and waiting for the chance to break a tie vote in the Senate.

Nobody ever votes for a president because they like the VP. Romney has to be the only star. Period. He has to be the focus of the Republican ticket.

Unlike McCain, who had to appear with Palin most of the time just to draw a crowd, Romney needs to have a VP who can campaign for him elsewhere without attracting all the media attention or showing him up.

That might be hard. Mitt is not exactly known for his star power. But he doesn’t need to be exciting to win the White House. He needs to show voters that he has the ideas and the governing skills to pull the economy out of the deep ditch Mr. Obama’s got us stuck in.

Rubio will have his day. So will future Republican all-stars like Christie, Ryan and Bobby Jindal. The GOP has a deep bench.

But Mitt’s the GOP’s QB now. He’s got to ignore the crowd of conservatives who want him to throw the long bomb to Rubio. He’s got to call his own play for VP — and make it good but boring.

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Michael Reagan

Michael ReaganMichael Reagan is the son of President Ronald Reagan and a political consultant. He is the founder and chairman of The Reagan Group and president of The Reagan Legacy Foundation. Look for Mike’s books and other information at

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The Evening Brief: Texas Headlines for May 21, 2012

Photo courtesy of Gage Skidmore

New in The Texas Tribune:

  • Texas Among Top 3 States in Total Exonerations: “Researchers at two law schools Monday released an unprecedented listing of all the exoneration cases from the last 23 years. Only two states had more exonerations than Texas, according to the report. We have a graph breaking down the exoneration cases in Texas by types of crimes, and we have a list of all the Texas exonerees.”
  • State’s Medicaid Chief Retiring: “Billy Millwee, who oversees the state’s giant Medicaid and Children’s Health Insurance programs, will retire in August. He has directed the health coverage plans, which account for nearly a quarter of the state’s total budget, since early 2010.”


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This article originally appeared in The Texas Tribune at

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David Muto, The Texas Tribune

David Muto writes and copy-edits for the Tribune. While at the University of Texas, where he earned degrees in journalism and Spanish, he headed The Daily Texan's copy editing department for a year. A Richardson native, he has also interned for The Austin Chronicle.

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2012 Veepstakes

Photo by Gage Skidmore - used by permission

Since Gov. Romney has sewn up the nomination tighter than one of Chris Christie‘s old suits, the only remaining Republican election drama is which name the Bairn of Bain Capital intends to place on the bottom of his bumper sticker. Yes, friends, it’s once again time to play that quadrennial game sensation sweeping the nation: Let’s Guess Mitt’s Vice Presidential Pick!

Usually the question of the presumptive nominee’s prom date doesn’t play out until June or July, but this year, the mushrooming punditocracy has chewed on the fat, tasty, rancorous primary for so long they bloated up like a poisoned toad. And are hungry. Which is why “running mate” is currently chalked atop the media blackboard menu. “Feed Me!”

The vice presidency is an odd job interview. Best way to apply is to deny desiring the position. Saying exemplary things about the candidate never hurts. Neither does fund-raising. Disguising any interest in 2016 — all good. But the choice ultimately depends on whether Willard decides to excite his base, gravitate towards the middle, or make a game change. Here’s a couple contenders.

Texas Congressman Dr. Ron Paul: 1,000 to 1. Less chance than a snail hauling a piano has of qualifying for the 100-meter dash at the London Summer Olympics.

Texas Gov. Rick Perry: 10,000 to1. Same thing, only the snail is dead.

Former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich, pizza CEO Herman Cain, former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, and Minnesota Congresswoman Michele Bachmann: 100,000 to 1. The snail is dead and the piano is made of uranium, heaviest element on Earth.

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie: 100 to 1. Spends much time bringing many things to the table but, alas, New Jersey is not among them.

Former Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty: 10 to 1. Only problem is, two guys so white, might become known as the Albino Ticket.

Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal: 25 to 1. President Barack. Vice President Piyush. Totally possible.

Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush: 50 to 1. Too soon. People need more time to recover from Bush Fatigue. Another two decades should do it.

New Hampshire Sen. Kelly Ayotte: 50 to 1. Would help nail down that crucial Northeast vote.

Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels: 25 to 1. Bland and boring. A victory party guaranteed to cure insomniacs.

Wisconsin Congressman Paul Ryan: 30 to 1. More polarizing than a linear accelerator. Makes Romney look liberal.

Former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman: 200 to 1. Two Mormons? That’s a Broadway musical, not a presidential ticket.

South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley: 80 to 1. Hybrid of Sarah Palin and Bobby Jindal with associative perks and potholes.

Former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum: 10 to 1. Good Christian mudder. Especially helpful should Mitt need Old Testament righteousness to counter squishy-conservative charges.

Ohio Sen. Rob Portman: 100 to 1. Dubyah’s old budget director could make Romney’s economic argument fuzzier than peach season in Georgia.

Former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice:. 1,000 to 1. More dead snails and immensely heavy pianos.

Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell: 60 to 1. Fading fast. Broke unwritten “don’t speak of wanting it” rule. Blatantly airing image ads even though he’s not running for office.

Florida Sen. Mario Rubio. 3 to 1. Catholic Hispanic AND state of Florida. Fits together like seashores, lemonade and halter tops.

Former Vice President Dick Cheney: 300 to 1. Relieved to leave D.C., but could be convinced to work on behalf of country again. After all, he’s already had one recent change of heart.

The New York Times says Emmy-nominated comedian and writer Will Durst “is quite possibly the best political satirist working in the country today.” Check out the website: to buy his book or find out about upcoming stand- up performances.

Copyright ©2012, Will Durst, distributed by the Cagle Cartoons Inc. syndicate. Call Cari Dawson-Bartley at 800-696-7561 or e-mail Will Durst is a political comedian who has performed around the world. He is a familiar pundit on television and radio. E-mail Will at Check out for the latest podcast. Will Durst’s book, “The All American Sport of Bipartisan Bashing,” is available from Amazon and better bookstores all over this great land of ours. Don’t forget to check out his rooftop comedy minutes at:

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Will Durst

Will Durst is a political comedian who has performed around the world. He is a familiar pundit on television and radio. E-mail Will at Check out for the latest podcast. Will Durst’s book, “The All American Sport of Bipartisan Bashing,” is available from Amazon and better bookstores all over this great land of ours. Don’t forget to check out his rooftop comedy minutes at:

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