The news today that Houston activist Steven Hotze has launched a project to seek opponents against incumbent Democratic legislators who might be vulnerable is another indication of how motivated Republicans are in this election cycle. No comparable enthusiasm exists on the Democratic side. Nothing motivates like a bogeyman, and Obama is to the Republicans today what Tom Craddick was to the Democrats in 2006 and 2008. The targeted members are Gallego, Frost, Homer, Ritter, Rose, Gonzales Toureilles, Heflin, C. Turner, Kent, England, Vaught, and McReynolds. Maldanado and Thibaut, generally regarded to be among the most vulnerable Democrats, are not on the list because they already have announced opposition. Homer likewise has opposition. The danger for Democrats, given the political climate in the state, is straight-ticket Republican voting. The antipathy for Obama is so great that incumbents can be wiped out with one push of a button without voters ever stopping to look at who is on the ballot. I saw this happen to my mentor, Babe Schwartz, in 1980. He had represented Brazoria County for twenty years, with strong support from labor, but he got caught up in the Reagan landslide, and Brazoria County voted 2 to 1 against him. The one thing Democrats have going for them this year is that it is not a presidential election year. Texas Democrats are caught in a nightmarish loop. Every time a Democratic president gets in the White House, the party loses ground here. It happened in the Carter years (Bill Clements was elected the first Republican governor since Reconstruction), it happened in the Clinton years, and it is happening again. It’s hard to find a parallel for the Republican antipathy for Obama, though. You have to go back to Franklin Roosevelt to find this degree of hysteria toward a president. It was the same thing then. He’s ruining the country, moving America toward socialism. Beside lack of motivation, the other problem for Democrats is that they lack party infrastructure. The party as an organization is useless. There are a few fiefdoms — the Lone Star Project in Washington, the trial lawyers, labor, that’s about it. The consultant pool is pretty shallow. The Republicans have a deep consultant pool, and they have activists like Hotze, and they have a governor who is bent on taking down Obama and Democrats generally. The members who have been targeted are a pretty talented bunch, and I hope that they survive. But it’s going to be a rough ride.
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