Is time on Craddick's side?
Wed December 17, 2008 1:28 pm

The following is an interesting post from a reader who identifies himself as "Yellow Armadillo," in response to my post on Speaker's Math 101.

No one yet has mentioned something I believe is a procedural issue that would favor Craddick. As one of its first orders of business, the House adopts rules for the selection of Speaker (HR1 last session, but generally HR2). Those rules provide that if no candidate has a majority, the two candidates receiving the most votes proceed to a runoff. I think it is perfectly conceivable that the candidate with the best chance to beat Craddick would not finish second, thus making the choice for Speaker a vote between Craddick and a moderate Republican, or perhaps even a Democrat. If a Democrat remains in the race, wouldn’t many Democrats feel pressured to vote for the Democrat on the first ballot? Don’t you think a freshman Democrat might not want the pressure of defending why he or she voted for a conservative Republican from Eastland when a liberal Democrat from Houston was on the ballot? Even if a Democrat did not come in second, doesn’t it provide cover for Craddick D’s, who can defend their vote by stating that they voted for a Democrat when the option was available, but the choice ultimately came down to a vote between two Republicans, and they voted for the member that had empowered them to represent their district by appointing them to key committee?

These are interesting scenarios. I would think that Craddick is proceding along the same line of thinking, that the best-case-scenario for him is to be one-on-one against a Democrat. I can envision the ABCs voting for a Republican speaker in coalition with the Democrats. That was the point of the above post, "Math 101." But I can't envision them casting a kamikaze vote for a Democratic speaker. The Democrats, however, can vote for a Republican speaker. They could split their vote so as to ensure that one of the ABC Republicans comes in ahead of the Democrat. So I don't think that Yellow Armadill0's strategy works.

What about the Craddick D's? Yellow Armadillo argues that they are free agents if the choice comes down to two Republicans. In theory, he's right. In practice, you know that the Craddick D's are worried about retribution. I'm told by a Houston Democratic operative that a group of Democrats in Al Edwards' district--the Meyerland Democrats--has already let him know that if he votes for Craddick, they'll work to get him beat. I think Turner, Dutton, Giddings, and Guillen are pretty safe when it comes to reelection. Edwards and Dukes are not, and Flores will be lucky if he is still in the Legislature in 2010. I don't have enough information to evaluate the situations of Tracy King, Pena, and McClendon.

Yellow Armadillo is assuming that the rules resolution will cut the field to two after the first ballot. That is not a valid assumption. The rules resolution, if it is seen as favoring the Craddick forces, will not get by without a fight. There undoubtedly will be votes on secret ballot and other procedural issues.

A related issue is whether time is on Craddick's side. The argument against the proposition is that with each passing day after the election--42 days now--it is apparent that he doesn't have the votes. The lobby is already skeptical that he can win reelection, and so are some of the Republican consultants. But I think that changes after the end of the long holiday break on Monday, January 5. If the insurgents do not a viable alternative to Craddick by then, recalcitrant Republicans will start to panic about being left behind. Remember, the average House member has the backbone of a chocolate eclair. They will start to drift back to Craddick.

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