Election Night: Ten Takeaways

Cruz cruises, Wendy Davis holds on, Pete Gallego scores an upset, Karl Rove gets cranky, and six other election highlights from around the state and country. 

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Associated Press | David J. Phillip

Election Day in Texas is the essence of the old newsroom saw, “dog bites man.” The Republican Party’s dominance of the state is still a given–as the Texas Observer noted, 2012 raised the GOP’s record in statewide races since 1996 to 100-0. 

So it wasn’t really news that Mitt Romney beat Barack Obama and picked up the state’s 38 electoral votes (though that fact did cause some confusion on the Texas Tribune‘s Twitter), or that Ted Cruz easily defeated Democrat Paul Sadler to become the state’s new U.S. senator.

Still, there were a few races that were up for grabs, or interesting for other reasons, plus lots of other little things on TV and the Internet, including chatter about Governor Rick Perry, Senator John Cornyn, and Austin-based consultant Karl Rove.

Here's a few highlights:

Back before the May 29 primary, Ted Cruz was held up as a sleeper candidate who just might follow in the footsteps of Indiana Republican primary winner Richard Mourdock, who rode Tea Party support to a win over longtime incumbent Richard Lugar. And while Mourdock's campaign was sunk by controversial comments about rape and abortion, Ted Cruz won.

Ken Herman of the Austin American-Statesman was quick to wonder how much Cruz would stick to his core ideology. Wrote Herman:

...with Obama still in the White House and Dems still running the Senate, Cruz expects to have limited impact on gridlock-induced frustrations, anger and fear.

In the campaign’s closing days, I tried to get a handle on the oversimplified question of whether it will be Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, or Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Tea Party. It was interesting that Cruz’s victory speech thank-yous Tuesday night went to non-Texans including Sarah Palin and Sean Hannity and out-of-state U.S. senators who are tea party leaders. There was no mention of Gov. Rick Perry, [Lieutenant Governor David] Dewhurst, [Senator Kay Bailey] Hutchison or [Senator John] Cornyn.

Even if Texas Dems can't win statewide elections, there's still an awful lot of them. The hapless, underfunded Sadler's 40.5 percent of the vote still equalled more than three million people—around twice as many votes as Claire McCaskill of Missouri and Elizabeth Warren of Massachussetts got as triumphant Democratic Senate winners in their states. 

Having originally won her seat away from a Republican in 2008, Fort Worth-area Democratic Senator Wendy Davis survived new maps that made her district more conservative by still receiving some bi-partisan support against Republican Mark Shelton.

"It wasn't uncommon to see yard signs touting Mitt Romney's presidential bid next to a Wendy Davis for Senate sign," wrote Anna M. Tinsley of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram.

Prior to the election, oft-quoted lobbyist Bill Miller told Bloomberg's David Mildenberg that if Davis were to win, "it makes her the No. 1 Democrat prospect for future statewide office."

In what Reeve Hamilton and Becca Aaronson of the Texas Tribune called "the state's closest — and most expensive — congressional race," Democratic state representative Pete Gallego won CD-23 from incumbent Republican U.S. Representative Francisco “Quico” Canseco, joining Davis as one of the two big Democratic wins. 

Gary Martin and Jason Buch of the San Antonio Express-News said that Gallego had "an insurmountable lead," though Canseco chose not to concede last night. 

During early voting, the geographically sprawling district saw Canseco getting more support in his home of Bexar County, with Gallego, who's from Alpine, doing better in El Paso and Eagle Pass.

As James Pinkerton of the Houston Chronicle reported, well-known former Democratic Congressman Nick Lampson was not as fortunate, failing in his bid to defeat state representative Randy Weber for the seat vacated by the retiring Ron Paul.

District 6 voters in Harris County came out to "re-elect" Democratic senator Mario Gallegos, who died last month after a struggle with liver disease.

As Matthew Tresaugue and Dane Schiller of the Houston Chronicle explained:

Under Texas law, [Gallegos'] name remained on the ballot because he died less than 74 days before the election.

Voters rallied around his candidacy, handing the longtime lawmaker a victory over Republican R.W. Bray in the heavily Democratic District 6, which covers east Harris County. The win by a dead incumbent was not unprecedented - in 2006, state Rep. Glenda Dawson, R-Pearland, was re-elected two months after dying from a brief illness.

Cynthia Gallegos, his youngest sister, said she had worked at polls all day and repeatedly answered the big question from people: Why vote for the late senator?

"Every person who came up to me was like, 'Didn't he die?' " she said. "I would bite my lip and explain the process. We want to keep the district Democratic."

With the posthumous win by Gallegos, Gov. Rick Perry will declare the seat vacant and call for a special election to be held within 45 days, on a Tuesday or Saturday.

These three tweets tell the tale:

As the chair of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, it wasn't a good night for John Cornyn.

As Alexander Burns of Politico reported, the state's now-senior senator issued a statement somewhat glumly summing up the night, which saw his party make no headway in the upper house:

We had many hard-fought races tonight and I’m proud to welcome several new Republicans to the Senate, particularly my fellow Texan Ted Cruz.   

But it’s clear that with our losses in the Presidential race, and a number of key Senate races, we have a period of reflection and recalibration ahead for the Republican Party.  While some will want to blame one wing of the party over the other, the reality is candidates from all corners of our GOP lost tonight.  Clearly we have work to do in the weeks and months ahead.  

"The combination of Senate losses with Romney's loss is part of what makes this election so difficult for Republicans to explain," Burns wrote. "If it had just been Romney who went down in defeat, well, that could be a problem with one candidate and one campaign. Similarly, if just one or two Republican primaries had produced weak nominees, those could have been flukes."

When Fox News joined NBC and other networks in calling Ohio, and therefore the election, for Barack Obama, former George W. Bush election guru and super PAC-er Karl Rove took great exception to his own part-time employer's decision, a position that prompted co-anchor Megyn Kelly to exclaim "That's awkward!" before being forced to bring Rove's criticisms to the network's own "decision team."

As the New York Times' Jeremy W. Peters and Brian Stelter wrote:

And so ensued the most bizarre on-air encounter of election night: a network anchor interrogating Arnon Mishkin, a member of the Fox News decision team and a respected voting analyst, forcing him and a colleague to defend their news judgment against Mr. Rove, one of the most powerful Republican fund-raisers and strategists.

Three headlines describing the segment:

"Karl Rove in Denial, Melts Down on Fox News, Attempts To Get Network To Rescind Calling Election," wrote Deadspin.

"Karl Rove Freaks Out About Fox News Calling the Election For Obama," said BuzzFeed.

"Karl Rove raving mad on Fox News Channel after his own network declares President Obama the winner," opined the New York Daily News' David Hinckley.

Given the state's rock-solid single-party dominance, we can probably forgive NBC's Brian Williams for this on-air gaffe:

It was a good night for the San Antonio mayor, who not only celebrated the Obama win and his brother Joaquin's elevation from the Texas lege to the U.S. House, but also the fact that his pre-K initiative to improve early education options passed.

Yup, you knew that this was coming:

"[W]ith Republican Mitt Romney out of the picture, Gov. Rick Perry could make another run for the White House in 2016," wrote Tim Eaton of the Austin American-Statesman

Eaton's story also ponders the question of whether Perry would run for governor in 2014, and what that might mean for all the other aspiring statewide officeholders. Such a shame there won't be anything to talk about during the legislative session. 

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