Perry keeping door open to another run for governor

The Austin American Statesman is reporting that Rick Perry is keeping door open to another run for governor. That’s actually smart politics. As I’ve pointed out before, Perry does not want to go into lame duck status any sooner than he has to. Perry has to lead the Texas Legislature through the next session and effective leadership will be much more difficult if he has announced his departure from Texas politics.

Rick Perry might have a tough time getting reelected and new Texas Tribune poll shows that 39% of respondents said they were unlikely to vote for Rick Perry in 2014 while 51% said they were unlikely to vote for Perry (with 42% of respondents saying they were very unlikely).

51% of Texans say they are unlikely to vote for Rick Perry in 2014.The poll also found that 45% of respondents disapprove (15% somewhat and 30% strongly) of the job Perry has done as governor and 49% have an unfavorable view (14% somewhat and 35% strongly) of him.

The most surprising result from the questions on Perry was that 55% of respondents believed that Perry’s candidacy had hurt the state’s image and only 6% said he had helped our image. I’m surprised that so many Texans think that one person could do much to the state’s image in a few months time and that some Texans would vote for him even when they thought he had done our image harm.

The bottom line is that it doesn’t matter how hard the road ahead is for Perry. Announcing his departure from Texas politics will only insure that his leadership will be undermined and he needs to appear interested if he wants to remain effective.

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Is gambling a good bet?

Gambling revenue graphic with link to more informationStateline has a story (“Gambling revenue promises rarely met“) that suggests that gambling does not bring in as much money as promised. In fact, only and South Carolina met or exceeded projections with other states falling well short.

This is an important questions for Texans because we can be sure that gambling will once again be offered up as part of the solution to our budget problems.

Currently, sixteen states have legalized commercial casinos. One of the problems that Texas will face with legalized casino gambling is that casinos are now common. Las Vegas made it’s living for years by being a unique destination for gambling. Today, there are a lot of options for gamblers. Texas casinos might keep Texas gamblers at home but they’re not likely to draw in people from other states.

Of course, many Texans do not want gambling regardless of how much revenue it will bring into the state. However, we can be sure that the issue will be back on the agenda in the next legislative session.

Santorum soars in Texas

Santorum would get the votes of 45 percent, Gingrich got 18 percent, Romney received 16 percent and Paul garnered 14 percent.The Texas Tribune is reporting that Rick Santorum enjoys a huge lead in Texas (“UT/TT Poll: Santorum Crushing GOP Hopefuls in Texas“).

I was a little surprised by the size of the lead, but I predicted a Santorum to win Texas at a panel last week.

Here’s why I expect Santorum to win Texas. It’s not my endorsement (not that I think anyone wants my endorsement):

  1. The theory that Gingrich would automatically do well in Texas because he is from the South was misguided. Some Texans may call themselves southerners, but southerners are not Texans. We may all seem the same to some analysts, but Texans know that Gingrich is not one of us and will not get our votes automatically. The baggage that Gingrich carries from his time as Speaker and his marriages leaves him with a lot to overcome with the kind of social conservatives that populate the Texas Republican party.
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  2. Rick Santorum claimed the mantle of consistent social conservatism that has eluded Gingrich and Romney. Texans like loyalty in the candidates (and their dogs) this why Santorum is the only Republican candidate who got favorable ratings than unfavorable ratings from Texans. Gingrich and Romney are unpopular among Texas voters and approach President Obama’s unfavorable ratings. That’s pretty grim results in a survey where 50% of respondents identified themselves as conservative and 49% describe themselves as Republican or leaning Republican.
    Romney was rated favorably by 27 percent of voters and unfavorably by 48 percent. Gingrich's numbers were 33 percent favorable and 49 percent unfavorable, and Paul's were 30 percent favorable and 41 percent unfavorable.
    Ron Paul has been very consistent with his libertarian version of conservatism. However, the Texas GOP is dominated by social conservatives. Texans have libertarian leanings, but they generally don’t buy the whole package. If the libertarian movement was that strong in Texas Debra Medina would have done much better in the GOP primary two years ago.
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  3. Romney’s religion hold him back. I’m not saying that a lot of Texas voters will vote against Romney because he’s a Mormon. However, the Tribune’s poll suggests there are some Texans would not vote for a Mormon candidate who agreed with them on issues.58% of Texans said they would be willing to vote for a Mormon presidential candidate who agrees with them on the issues. 21 percent said no and another 21 percent said they didn't know or preferred not to answer
    While 58% of Texas report they would be willing to vote for a Mormon presidential candidate who agrees with them on the issues, 21 percent said no and another 21 percent said they didn’t know or declined to answer. In another question, 40% of Texans said they don’t consider Mormons Christians and another 29% did they don’t know.
    Even if the number of people who will never vote for you is small, it’s hard starting off an election by losing 10-20% of the vote.
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Rick Santorum is surging nationally and he is well positioned to win in Texas since Gingrich, Romney, and Paul are not good fits in Texas. However, most voters are just beginning to learn about him and he is new to most Texans. He and his record as a U.S. Senator are just beginning to face scrutiny. I think he’ll continue to do well in the Texas primary–if we ever get it scheduled.

A lesson in political language

There is an excellent lesson in political communication in a recent National Journal story on Mitt Romney’s trouble in Michigan (“The Headline That Haunts Romney“). As Tim Alberta notes, Romney’s problem from a 2008 op-ed pieces in the New York Times demonstrates how framing an issue shapes how voters will respond to you.

The problem in Romney’s article (“Let Detroit Go Bankrupt“) goes beyond a headline that implied a lack of concern about the survival of the auto industry:

In Romney’s boardroom vernacular, “bankruptcy” represents a fresh start — the chance for a failing company to shed excess weight and emerge leaner, stronger and better prepared for long-term success. But in living rooms and kitchens across middle class America, “bankruptcy” means something totally different — it represents rock bottom, the worst case scenario, that losing turn of “Monopoly” or “Wheel of Fortune” where everything is taken from you.

For most Americans, bankruptcy reflects a person or business hitting its lowest point and walking away from responsibility. Many American feel uneasy about the idea of “managed bankruptcy” and language turn failure into an opportunity is alien.

American accept that sometime we have to leave people or entire industries behind. However, our loyalties to one another function at such a deep level that Romney’s business calculus seems foreign.

Romney’s failure to communicate may not reflect fairly on his approach to problem. Still, his choice of words have come back to haunt him and the case makes an excellent example of how carefully candidates need to frame their arguments and find ways to relate to voters. In some ways, it reminds me of Jimmy Carter who had a way of spelling out what the American people knew was true in ways that citizens just couldn’t relate to.

Cover of Words That Work: It's Not What You Say, It's What People Hear  by Frank I. LuntzIf you’re interested in some good reading about political language, check out Frank Luntz’s book, Words that Work.

Arlington and UTA work together

Hats off to the City of Arlington and UTA for a plan that brings together the needs of the city and the university (“UT Arlington and the city join forces to revive downtown.”).

More fun with the Texas Constitution

The San Antonio Express-News is reporting (“Senate candidate Jones defends residency in two places“). Elizabeth Ames Jones’ candidacy for Texas Senate is being challenged her current job (Texas Railroad Commissioner) carries a constitutional mandate that she live in the “Capital of the State.”

Article 4, Section 23: of the Texas Constitution says:

The Comptroller of Public Accounts, the Commissioner of the General Land Office, the Attorney General, and any statutory State officer who is elected by the electorate of Texas at large, unless a term of office is otherwise specifically provided in this Constitution, shall each hold office for the term of four years.  Each shall receive an annual salary in an amount to be fixed by the Legislature; reside at the Capital of the State during his continuance in office, and perform such duties as are or may be required by law.

The problem? The term “Capital of the State” is not defined anywhere in the document. In fact, “capital” is used mainly in reference to expenses and punishment.

The Texas Constitution may effectively create a ban on a certain state officers running for the Texas Legislature (unless they want to represent Austin). Was that anyone’s intention? What does living in the Capital of the State include Round Rock? The Texas Attorney General gets to try to sort this out.