Tom Leppert’s pitch was that when he became the mayor of Dallas, the biggest problem was crime, and he brought it down by 31%. “I’ve been there, I’ve done it.” Good talking point, but not what is uppermost in the minds of primary voters. Craig James kept saying that he lived on “Real Street.” In a comment that I presume was leveled at Dewhurst, he said, “I don’t trust anyone who has been a politician.” Ted Cruz had the most enthusiastic following. He staked out a position on the far right. “When the next senator gets to Washington, there is going to be pressure to compromise on Obamacare. I’ll throw my body in front of the train to stop it.” Cruz also promised to co-sponsor Ron Paul’s bill to audit the Federal Reserve Bank. “There is no reserve,” he said, “and it’s not a bank.” Glenn Addison, a school board member from Magnolia, handled himself pretty well. He couldn’t resist going after the Federal Reserve too, calling it an “outrageous, outlandish, unconstitutional institution.” And David Dewhurst, ever the wonk, attempted to explain that the Fed uses its balance sheet to buy bonds. I had no idea what he was talking about. His main argument was, “Some of us have led and balanced every single budget.” It’s true, but in Texas, the budget has to balance or the comptroller cannot certify that it meets our pay-as-you-go requirement. To call this a debate is something of a misnomer. The candidates got to make opening and closing remarks, and they answered some broad questions from moderator Michael Quinn Sullivan. I think the format hurt Leppert the most. He really didn’t have a lot of chances to deal in issues. Cruz got in the best shot when he asked, “Who do you trust?” — the point being, if you are a conservative, it shouldn’t be Dewhurst. James sounded more like a football coach than a politician. He talked about how he was given athletic talent and how hard he had worked to improve himself. “I was driven to succeed, it didn’t just come to me.” Then he tried to crack a joke, but it fell flat: “I won’t go with three points because I might forget the third one.” “The United States gave a guy like me who grew up in an apartment a chance. I was driven to excel, it didn’t just come to me. I coached my kids, I raised a family, now it’s time for me to become a public servant.” It may be unfair to blame James for being an amateur in a pro’s game, but he talked too much and strayed too far off topic. Even Addison was more comfortable talking about issues than James. He was really quite engaging for someone who hasn’t spent a lot of time in the public eye. If I had to name a winner, it would be the Dew. He was the favorite going in, and nothing changed the expectations. Cruz had an opportunity to hit him for not being a “real” conservative but the shot missed the target. In the end, I see no reason to change my belief that Dewhurst is going to win this race. He has the edge in money and in name identification. The fact that it is now a five-candidate race does raise issues for Dewhurst, because the bigger the field, the greater the likehood of a runoff. The worry for Dewhurst is a runoff between him and Cruz, in which conservative voters come out to vote but the mainstream Republicans stay disengaged.
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