Don't believe the hype. Even though Republicans are already popping their champagne corks in hopes of making big gains this year, Democrats are quietly laying the groundwork for a strong fall. Just this week, we took another step toward winning the elusive Texas governor's mansion. Popular former Mayor Bill White won a resounding victory in the Democratic primary and will face right-wing seceder-in-chief Governor Rick Perry. We know it will be a tough race, but we have the best shot we've had in a generation. In fact, just yesterday the Cook Report upgraded this race from a "Lean Republican" to a "Toss-Up."
Check out the memo I wrote just before the election and sent to political reporters:
From: Nathan Daschle, Executive Director, Democratic Governors Association
To: Political reporters, interested parties
RE: Why Democrats Can Win Texas
Texas conjures up all sorts of bad associations for national Democrats. Land of George W. Bush. Tom DeLay's gerrymandered Congressional map. No statewide wins for more than a decade. So what makes us think that our party has an unparalleled opportunity to strike deep in GOP territory?
Bill White is an ideal candidate.
In a toxic climate for incumbents, former Houston Mayor Bill White will run as an outsider who can bring people together. In a tough economy, his business background and proven record creating jobs appeal to Democrats, independents and moderate Republicans alike. He's a conservative fiscal manager who cut tax rates five times while in office and balanced the budget. Politically, he scores high on the most important factors: He is polling within single digits of the incumbent governor, despite relatively low name ID. He has the resources to change that, with $5.4 million in the bank and fundraising that outpaced both Perry and Hutchison. He's very popular and won his re-elections with an average of 88 percent of the vote.
Rick Perry is strikingly vulnerable.
During his long, brutal primary, Perry has sprinted to the far right - going so far as to suggest that Texas secede from the United States. No incumbent governor in the country has experienced a primary as long or expensive as Perry. Polling in the days before the race showed that if Perry emerges without a runoff, it will be only by the skin of his teeth. If there is a runoff, Perry will have to spend millions more and be further damaged. In fact, while Perry has solidified his support among the far right, his support among general election voters has significantly eroded in the last year. In a PPP poll from a year ago, Perry's fave/unfaves were 41/48. This month, PPP showed he's down to 33/50.
Last time Perry won, more than three out of five Texans wanted someone else as governor. There is good reason that Texas voters are rejecting Perry, a career politician, who for the past 25 years who has failed to notch any major accomplishments. To the contrary, he has failed to make life better for the millions of hardworking families trying to get ahead, whether it's because tuition rates at state colleges are going up by 82 percent, because Texas has one of the highest high school dropout rates in the country or because the unemployment rate is higher than it's been in decades.
The DGA will play in Texas.
The Democratic Governors Association is expanding the playing field deep into Republican territory in this election cycle. For the first time in our history, the DGA is committed to Texas - a commitment we have already demonstrated with a $500,000 contribution to the White campaign. In fact, Texas joins the four other biggest states in the country - California, Florida, Illinois and New York - as a place where Democrats have good odds of delivering a victory in November.
The stakes are high in Texas.
It's hard to overstate the long-term ramifications of the Texas gubernatorial race. Texas is poised to pick up four Congressional seats in redistricting, and the governor has a major role to play in drawing the lines. We know in painful detail how Texas Republicans will approach redistricting because Tom DeLay's gerrymandering last decade was just a warmup. In a stunningly frank admission, national Republicans have stated that they believe they can gerrymander 30 House seats by winning governors races, and Texas is the biggest prize of all. The significance of the Texas gubernatorial race is layered. While Texas could be in play in the 2012 presidential race, the changes that will take place this November in Texas and around the country will shape our national political landscape for a generation to come.