The official response from the speakers office to the McCall-Pitts alliance is that nothing has changed. I just talked to a former member who had talked to a current Craddick pledge, and the message the member had gotten from Craddick was, “It’s not true, don’t worry, we have 83 votes.”

And that is what the Craddick forces ought to say. Their message should be: “This is all smoke and mirrors, it’s a desperate attempt to stampede members into switching to Pitts/McCall, and they don’t have the votes.” And, while I think that Pitts and McCall are straight-up guys, and Craddick is drawn to the dark arts of politics, ambition has been known to do strange things to good people, and members at least ought to consider that the McCall-Pitts alliance is a play to create a stampede.

Why would they make the play now? Because time is not on their side. Craddick and his spokespeople have been saying for days that McCall should lay out his votes. The longer he went without doing it, the more it would be interpreted by fence sitters as a sign of weakness. I don’t think he could have held out until next Tuesday without losing pledges. If, as an article on the American Statesman web site suggests, McCall has only 70 pledges, that is at least seven less than his supporters were claiming a few days ago. Thus the alliance with Pitts, who claims to have 20–and most of them had to have come from Craddick’s 83. We’re all operating in the dark here, but this thing is coming to a head, and by 4:30 tomorrow afternoon we will know Tom Craddick’s fate. I think it’s 2 to 1 that he’s gone.

A lobbyist just called–a very canny guy who knows better than to get anywhere near the speakers race–and he told me, “Here’s a sure sign. Clients are calling lobbyists and wanting to know who is close to Pitts. I think it’s a done deal, and the other members have until tomorrow to get on board.”

Even if it turns out that Pitts has 90 votes, though, I wouldn’t bet that the speakers race is over. The Craddick team may still try Plan B, which would be to (a) dump Craddick and (b) endorse Jim Keffer. If the rationale of Pitts’ candidacy was to split Craddick’s Republicans, the rationale of Keffers’ candidacy would be to split Pitts’ Democrats that he inherited from McCall. Suddenly we would have a speakers race in which neither of the original candidates, Craddick and McCall, were involved. Isn’t politics amazing? Don’t you love it? But if the stampede occurs, I don’t think Plan B works.

I suspect that McCall and Pitts may have been in cahoots all along, playing rope-a-dope with Craddick. Craddick had every reason to be confident: McCall couldn’t win because he had too many Democrats and Pitts couldn’t win because he entered the race too late. The idea that they could join forces, and perhaps had already joined forces, may never have occurred to the Craddick strategists. We’ll know tomorrow. It’s put up or shut up time.