Fort Worth businessman and former Ambassador Tom Schieffer announced his exploratory committee for the Democratic nomination for Texas governor at a Capitol press conference this morning, and here’s the “take away message” he’d like us to seize on:
He’s a successful businessman and former elected Democratic elected official, who voted for Obama in both the primary and general election. He likes Obama’s intellectual capacity and his message that government has become too partisan and divisive. He leans conservative, in that he understands the importance of creating a healthy business climate; but he believes you do so by investing in higher education, a la John Connally, to compete in the world’s “knowledge-based economy.”
As for Gov. Rick Perry’s reluctance to take federal stimulus package money, he says, “I just don’t understand. Texans are going to have to cover the check. Why would we not want to get that money?” Not taking the stimulus money means Texas will “leave a billion dollars on the table because somebody want to prove they are more conserative than somebody else in the Republican Primary. I don’t think most Texans would think that is fair.”
Sounds great, so far, for a Democratic candidate, right? Unfortunately, what the press corps wanted to know – and what most Democratic voters will want to know – concerns George W. Bush, Schieffer’s longtime friend and partner in the Texas Rangers, who appointed him ambassador to Japan and Australia. What’s Schieffer’s assessment of the Bush Presidency?
After a telltale stutter, Schieffer responded that he understands that the Bush Presidency came under lots of criticism, both home and abroad. He tried to serve the Administration well and do a good job as ambassador. Bush is his friend and will remain his friend.
So far so good. Then the the follow-up question: Did he have any regrets about voting for Bush? No.
Most Texans, I predict, will respect Schieffer’s loyalty to a long time friend. But his exploratory committee provides a test case: Can a Texas Democrat with good credentials and good ideas – and connections to George W. Bush — get elected?
Let’s state the obvious: That’s pretty heavy baggage in this election cycle. Memories are way too fresh.