THE BLOG
03/02/2008 05:16 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Texas: Clintons Face Unfamiliar Political Landscape

I got another e-mail invitation to see Bill Clinton--again, I was asked to RSVP, and again, I was given only 24 hours' notice. This appearance was to be in Abilene. The invitation read "7:30" but the Abilene evening news broadcasts were saying, "8:15." In fact, the news anchor for the CBS affiliate went on to point out that, since this would be the last event of the day for the former president, "He might arrive late. It is possible, even," he added, "that he won't make the appearance at all."

What a way to encourage turn-out, eh?

Meanwhile, on Friday, February 29, I got an e-mail from the Clinton campaign asking if I wanted to be a "precinct captain," which is what the Obama campaign calls campaign volunteers who help to get out the vote.

I had already been invited to be an Obama precinct captain three weeks ago, yet here was the Clinton campaign, asking for my help just four days before the primary.

On the precinct captain website, the Clinton campaign offered 19 training session locations across the state, all starting on Saturday, BUT, there were many offered on Sunday evening, as late as six p.m. and some even being offered at 7:30 p.m. on the Sunday night before the primary!

So the Clinton campaign will be training volunteers as late as two nights before the vote, which will give them, basically, one evening in which to make get out the vote phone calls.

Is this any way to run a campaign?

The thing is, this ain't the same Texas the Clintons like to so fondly remember.

First, a few dry statistics from the U.S. Census Bureau:

*Texas' population has gone up 14.6% as opposed to 7.2% in the rest of the country
*Whites are now a minority in Texas: 48.3%; in the U.S., it's 66.4%
*More than a third of Texas' population is Hispanic: 35.7%; in the U.S., it's 14.8%
*Almost 16% of Texas' population is foreign-born; in the U.S., it's 12.5%
*Texas' export shipments were the largest among 50 states, with the largest market Mexico
*But NAFTA cost Texas jobs, too: 72, 257

On the surface, this would seem to benefit the Clintons, with their close ties to the Hispanic community here, but closer examination by the New York Times, points out that within the Hispanic community, the choice is more generational than ethnic, for one thing, (younger Hispanics often favor Obama) and for another, many Texas Hispanics have been here for several generations and care as much about issues such as the economy and health care as about immigration. They are not necessarily going to vote for Clinton just because she campaigned for George McGovern down here in 1972.

NAFTA, however, has benefited the Rio Grande Valley, which could favor Clinton.

But in northern, racially diverse urban areas, Obama has a strong showing, as he does in big college towns such as Austin.

However, there's another disturbing development for the Clintons, from a Texas point of view.

Recently, according to the Texas Democratic Party, the Clinton campaign made veiled threats of a lawsuit over the convoluted primary/caucus procedures down here, which have been in place for more than 20 years, and which went overwhelmingly for Bill Clinton in his 1992 and 1994 runs.

The Clinton campaign insists it was not threatening to sue, but merely to "challenge" some of the more arcane rules of the system.

But clearly, the Texas Democratic Party felt threatened.

A strongly-worded letter sent by party attorney Chad Dunn to both campaigns (though party officials said the letter was directed more toward the Clinton campaign) said that any litigation, "could prove to be a tragedy for a reinvigorated democratic process that is involving a record number of participants here in Texas and across the nation," and could, "cripple the momentum of a resurging Texas Democratic Party and ultimately the November 2008 election."

If there's one thing Texans have a long history of not appreciating, it's an outsider (from New York no less) coming down here and telling us our bidness.

Whether or not the Clinton campaign has legitimate gripes, they should have been brought up long before the primary season got underway, but since the Clinton campaign apparently only just learned the Texas rules a couple of weeks ago, then it is understandable they would be scrambling for a foothold any way they can.

Bill Clinton even told one Texas crowd that if they didn't vote again in the caucus, their votes "could be taken away from them in the night," which makes those of us who know better pretty uncomfortable.

Everything in the last-minute nature of the Clinton campaign telegraphs to Texas voters that they either (arrogantly) thought we were a sure thing for the duration of their campaign until they started getting into trouble in other primaries--or they didn't think we mattered, since they figured they'd have the nomination locked up before we voted on March 4.

Now they're scrambling to send Bill hither and yon, training volunteers two days before the primary, and threatening to sue the state party if they don't get their way.

I'm not so sure that's going to work so well, this time around.