No Time for Tom
Mon December 29, 2008 4:58 pm

Everyone wants to attend Craddick's funeral, but the corpse is still breathing—barely. One more nail in the awaiting coffin: The Democrats  published their names. It's vital, as January 13 approaches, that the insurgents do everything possible to bolster their credibility, and the best way to do that was lay out the names. The most important thing about this list is that the D's won over the five members whom I had previously identified as the most likely new recruits for Craddick: Heflin, Marquez, Olivo, Quintanilla, and Rios Ybarra. The pool of members from which Craddick can plausibly seek votes has shrunk. The bad news for the insurgents is that the Democratic leadership has not been able to win over any of the Craddick D's. Why should they commit to either side now? Sylvester Turner is playing his cards well. At the crucial moment, he may be the kingmaker.

But events may have overtaken the Democrat-ABC coalition that has 75 votes against Craddick. Gattis's candidacy for speaker provides members with a chance to realign in coalitions FOR someone instead of merely against. Suddenly the timing is off for the ABCs. Their announcement of a candidate won't come until the end of the week, and in the meantime Gattis can be adding to his list of supporters, currently reported to be three (Kolkhorst, Hamilton, Harless).

Those who have said that Gattis's announcement gives the insurgents 76 votes against Craddick are wrong. Gattis is not an ABC. He is a mainstream Republican. I would bet a hundred bucks that he is not committed to be the 76th vote.

Is it too late for Gattis? (or Smithee, who says he will decide in the next 48 hours?) Not necessarily. I think there is a constituency out there for a coalition of the uncommitted--the members on both sides of the aisle who make the process work and know that Craddick has lost the ability to govern. It's the R's and D's who aren't comfortable with the current leadership of their parties and want to move on beyond Craddick. It's Kolkhorst and Hamilton, Branch and Madden, Anchia and Eiland, Hochberg and Strama. Some will view Gattis as a stalking horse for Craddick. I don't believe it. Nobody who went to stand at the back microphone on the day of the local calendar rebellion is going to go back to the House as it was. That was the crossing of the Rubicon.

But it's risky. It means asking the insurgents to give up the hand they hold and reshuffle the deck. Will the Democrats remain in their coalition with the ABCs, or will some of them follow Gattis? What about the ABCs? Will they continue to stick together, or will some break away? A redeal could mean new opportunities for Craddick. But I think he's out of opportunities. He's drawing to deuces now. The only question left is whether he plays out a losing hand—or folds.

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