10/28/2012 08:30 pm ET Updated Dec 28, 2012

Hell Just Froze Over!: Why Even Many Texas Conservatives Turned on Ted Cruz and Endorsed... the Democrat

Some of the staffers expressed surprise when wave after wave of endorsements came into the Paul Sadler Senate campaign offices. Paul Sadler was not surprised and while he is far too polite to say "I told you so," he is also not amused. Texas Democrats have sent 20 million dollars out-of-state to elect House and Senate candidates and in support of President Barack Obama. Donations to his campaign have been dismal. Here he is favored by even the most conservative newspapers in the state and yet he has no war chest with which to vanquish his wounded opponent Ted Cruz. Paul Sadler could have told you this would happen.

Why was he certain all along that the Ted Cruz' five minutes of fame would be so fleeting? Two reasons. One: he knows Ted Cruz and believes that the things he says are either politically unpopular or just too extreme for Texas. Two: He knows the endorsement process involves in-depth interviews during which even the most right-leaning editors would conclude that indeed the things Ted Cruz says are if not nuts, then highly suspect.

The left-leaning Austin American Statesman which endorsed Ted Cruz in the primary is now disturbed by some of the more outrageous claims he has made. Here is what their editors had to say:

We appreciate that he will never apologize for wanting to protect U.S. sovereignty, freedom and property rights, but when he sides with those who fear the United Nations will take away golf courses and roads, he's exploiting territory best left on the political fringes.


Almost every newspaper has taken exception to Cruz' assertion that we should abolish the Departments of Commerce, Energy and Education. There are good Texas reasons for this. Each of these benefits our state in important ways. The Department of Commerce supports the National Weather Bureau. One has only to look at the headlines warning of the coming "Frankenstorm" to deduce that this is an essential service for our businesses, agricultural interests and our citizenry. The Department of Energy helped to develop the fracking technology for extracting natural gas that is making many Texans rich while providing others with the neat parlor trick of being able to set the running water from their faucets on fire. What's not to love? Then there's the 6 billion dollars that Texas would lose should we abolish the much maligned Dept. of Education. There goes early childhood development, college student loans and adult education and training services. Needless to say this gives one pause.

There are other, less obvious reasons why so many of Cruz' former supporters have jumped ship and they have to do with style.

The conservative-leaning Dallas Morning News put it this way:

Like many Texans, we have been concerned about the lack of civility in the public square. That's why we have advocated for greater respect in politics, as well as for leaders who can find solutions that amount to more than advancing their party's agenda.

Here, too, Sadler is more aligned with our priorities. His efforts are issues-based, solution-oriented and underpinned by coalition-building principles. Cruz, by contrast, campaigns by attack. As we wrote about the staunch conservative before the GOP primary:

He's more about fighting and defending and toppling than bringing people together, building coalitions or solving problems -- skills that lie at the heart of good governing." This newspaper is left with the feeling that he is pushing his personal star more than the star of Texas.

During the debates Paul Sadler pressed Mr. Cruz on some of his extreme positions prompting Mr Cruz to complain "You have called me crazy three times in the last few minutes." Mr. Sadler recalls this with a wistful smile saying, "There was a reason for that. Texans have a right to know what they are going to be embarrassed about if they send this guy to the Senate."


I think all of us can agree that it would be nice if in the spirit of Lloyd Bentsen and Kaye Bailey Hutchinson, we sent an experienced person who is moderate and reasoned to represent this state. This is what prompted many of the other endorsements.

The very conservative San Angelo Standard Times made their decision based on the good old common sense notion that having some legislative experience might come in handy in the U.S. Senate. Here is how they put it:

When lawmakers decided to tackle the complex issue of school funding, they tapped Sadler to lead the effort. He was so effective he was named to Texas Monthly magazine's 10 best legislators list four times. Cruz, by contrast, is former Texas solicitor general and by all accounts an accomplished litigator but has no legislative record.

So why have Texas Democrats passed up this opportunity to back a very qualified candidate in what could have, should have been a winnable race? When they faced a Republican candidate who is not qualified and clearly not engaged on the issues of importance to voters of every political persuasion? Because the common unwisdom is that no Democrat can win statewide office in Texas. We have to ask ourselves who is beating whom. Is it possible that we are defeating ourselves?

Paul Sadler is a smart guy and he did not enter this race as some sort of sacrifice to the greater good. He ran because he believed that he could win. I will leave you with his thoughts about the experience:

My opponent in this race was not Ted Cruz. I rightly determined that he was vulnerable on the issues and that Texas would come to see him as inexperienced and unreasonable. My opponent was our own party's disbelief that they could overcome the odds. Eight million people will vote in Texas this month. Three and a half million of them will vote for a democrat and they deserve the option of good leadership. If I had the backing and the financing to make my case we could have easily persuaded some of the others. I am a Texan through and through and I believe that there are plenty of good folks out there who are not so ideological that they cannot choose the best candidate no matter what party he represents. You just can't make me buy that.

In an ironic twist, Ted Cruz won the primary with funding from Jim DeMint and other Tea Party activists from out-of-state, while Paul Sadler's would-be donors sent their cash to candidates far and wide and gave little here. I am all for supporting our party on the national level. Texas Democrats need to know when to 'fold 'em' to be sure -- there are some battles that we cannot yet win -- but we also need to be able to recognize a good bet and Paul Sadler was and is a good bet. Sometimes common wisdom or not, we need to have the courage and the insight to go 'all in.'