Texas Politics

Texas has several dogs in GOP presidential battle



Texans can look forward to having at least four possible competitors for the 2016 presidential ticket with Texas connections.

Obviously, there’s outgoing Gov. Rick Perry, and freshman U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz.

Less obvious, but nonetheless connected to Texas is Houston-born former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush.

The fourth is another United States senator — though from Kentucky, not Texas — Rand Paul.

The connection is dad Ron Paul is a congressman from Lake Jackson, who was the Libertarian Party presidential nominee in 1988, and sought the Republican nomination in 2008 and 2012.

The first of the four to come close to declaring their candidacy was Jeb Bush.

“I have decided to actively explore the possibility of running for president of the United States,” he posted on Facebook on Dec. 16.

Of course, the other three are exploring, too; they just haven’t said it as directly. Jeb Bush probably did it to tell potential backers to keep their powder dry, rather than commit to someone else.

Bush’s Texas connections include his dad, former President George H.W. Bush, and brother, former President George W. Bush, who both held elective office in Texas before being president.

And, his son, George P. Bush, just breezed to nomination and election as Texas Land Commissioner, without serious opposition.

Perry, and to a lesser degree Cruz, have spent enough time in Iowa and New Hampshire, the two earliest states in the nomination process, to almost establish residency. Paul is not an infrequent visitor.

Paul gets interest in his candidacy, and may owe his presence in the Senate, to being viewed as the heir to and torch-bearer of his dad’s free-market and somewhat isolationist political views. That strikes a chord with voters who share those convictions. Sen. Paul was asked by the Associated Press about another Bush running for president.

“It may well be a huge benefit or it could also be a liability,” Paul replied. “The question is whether people will tire of having one family in charge of things.”

Paul, who was elected to the Senate in 2010, hopes to run for the presidency and re-election to the Senate in 2016. But current Kentucky law forbids being on the same ballot for two different offices.

Democrat Lyndon Johnson faced that dilemma of seeking re-election to the Senate and running for president in 1960, but got the Texas Legislature to change Texas law. It allows running for president or vice-president while seeking re-election. Paul will have to see if he can get Kentucky lawmakers to do the same.

(The LBJ example of double candidacy was followed by Democrat Lloyd Bentsen in 1976 for president and 1988 for vice-president, and by Republican Phil Gramm for president in 1996. Neither became president; both were re-elected to the Senate.)

The confrontational Cruz won’t have to rely on the LBJ law, because his Senate seat doesn’t come up until 2018.

He warned two months ago that the Republicans can’t win with a relative moderate as their standard bearer in 2016. After Bush’s “exploring” comment, he stepped up his argument.

Republicans must “paint in bold colors and not pale pastels.” he told Sean Hannity on Fox News – meaning, of course, his outspoken self. “If we continue to run to the mushy middle,” Cruz said, “the same voters that stayed home in 2008 and 2012 will stay home again, and we will not win.”

Cruz, who helped cause a $24-billion shutdown of the government in 2013, and forced the Senate to stay in session over a recent weekend, has managed to produce some bipartisanship in the Senate.

Most of the Republicans and most of the Democrats agree in thinking that he’s a self-important hot dog.

Cruz’s antics have, inadvertently, allowed Perry to seem more reasonable.

Perry is working to repair his image from his disastrous campaign for the 2012 nomination – including his “Oops!” comment in a 2011 debate, following his inability to recall the third of three federal agencies he said he’d shut down if elected.

The longest-serving governor in Texas history shelved his trademark cowboy boots for more conventional dress shoes, and now wears large darkframed glasses, apparently to look more thoughtful.

And, he’s been doing the equivalent of graduate school in federal and world government, and being coached on dealing with media.

He’s had hundreds of biggies from around the country for dinners at the governor’s mansion. He’s also dropping hints about running.

In a commencement speech Thursday (Dec. 18) at Texas A&M University, Perry joked he’s got more in common with them than his own Aggie degree in 1972.

“(I)n the next 30 days, I’m going to be in the same situation you’re in,” Perry said. He said he’s prepared a resume, seeking “a position as chief executive of a large enterprise with good benefits and a really large personal jet.”

DAVE MCNEELY is a political columnist. You may contact him at davemcneely111@ gmail or (512)458 2963.

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