Thursday, March 20, 2008

TX 22: A Study In Base Appeal

Coming off of yesterday’s post on how my superdelegate, Nick Lampson of Texas Congressional District 22, should cast his uncommitted vote for the Democratic presidential nominee, I decided to take a re-look at what the Dark Side is doing in their runoff race.

It made the KTRK news (ABC Houston), with the story’s news clip and text found here. The race is building in contentiousness as Republicans Shelley Sekula Gibbs and Pete Olson are in an elbow contest to convince the Republican base voters just who is the most conservative of the two.

“She’s a flip-flopper,” is what Pete Olson seems to be saying when he points to a Planned Parenthood questionnaire that exposes Sekula Gibbs as a flaming baby killer. When confronted with the fact that she was once “pro-choice”, Sekula Gibbs attests to a “conversion in [her] heart”, pointing to that part of her anatomy. This is just the right thing to say when appealing to the evangelical neoconservatives that form the base of Dark Side Republicanism in CD 22. A veritable “Come to Jesus” line if ever there was one.

“He’s a carpetbagger,” is what Sekula Gibbs seems to be saying when she points to the fact that Olson is “residence challenged”. Olson, who has family roots in the Bay Area, was sent to CD 22 by the Washington establishment to put up a strong and well-funded opposition to Sekula Gibbs, who put on quite an embarrassing show in her 3-week stint in Washington at the close of 2006.

“I've been here for over 20 years. I've raised my family here, paid taxes here. I have a small business here, medical practice in Webster for over 20 years, and I'm very committed. I have very deep roots in the community and he just got here about six months ago.”
Not that that wouldn’t be an easy charge to duck. It really surprises me that Olson hasn’t beaten Shelley over the head with the fact that one can’t very well live in-district for 20 or so years AND be a naval aviator. Yes, while Shelley was expressing her teenage patients’ blackheads in Houston, Pete Olson was flying a P-3C Orion off of carriers in the Persian Gulf, looking for enemy submarines.

Or something like that.

That notwithstanding, Shelley’s death grip on Olson thus far is his carpetbagger status, something that didn’t work very well against Nick Lampson in 2006, either.

So in the main, what is going to matter in this runoff election in April is not who has lived here longest, but who is the most conservative. Because that is what is going to rile up the faithful neoconservative voters who will go out to the polls during what is arguably an historic year for Democrats to retake the country. Only those who have not been disillusioned by their own party, the true hard core activist Republicans who have not, nor would ever, vote in a Democratic primary are going to show up at the Republican voting booths this April.

Contrast that to Nick Lampson. Nick is sitting in the catbird’s seat. Unopposed in the primary, Lampson did not have to appeal to the Democratic base, or any base for that matter. Nick’s center aisle politics allow him to throw bones to either side at will. While Olson and Sekula Gibbs confine themselves to the courting of the right wing extremists of the Republican Party in CD-22, Lampson can concentrate on his appeal to independents, centrists, and moderate Republicans and Democrats, leaving the left wing of the Democratic Party to watch on and participate, or not.

The one thing that gets in the way of all of this is presidential politics. As Miya Shay concludes in her piece, the one external thing that is going to affect this race in November, despite the outcome for Republicans in April, is what happens in the Democratic Party on the run-up to the convention. Who the Democratic presidential nominee is will play heavily in this race, as well as in other heavily contested toss-up districts across the country.

Which candidate will be of the most help to Nick Lampson to defeat his Republican opponent in November? Indeed, to help any Democratic candidate in a close election? We’ve all heard about “Hillary’s negatives”. About how a Hillary Clinton nomination will polarize the country and draw Republicans out of their holes and hides to vote straight Republican tickets in November. Clinton’s partisans have written that there is no proof that this scenario is valid, and up to a couple of weeks ago, I’d have given them points on that argument. But not after March 4th. Not after hearing about registration changes in Pennsylvania. Not after there is documentation that Republicans cross over to vote in Democratic primaries for two conflicting reasons: 1) to get rid of “the Clintons” forever by voting for Obama, or 2) to vote for the weaker of the two candidates, Clinton, in their view, to face John McCain in November.

This is solid evidence for an anti-Clinton backlash that is primed to strike in November, should Hillary Clinton defy the current math, and become the Democratic presidential nominee.

This is food for thought for superdelegate Nick Lampson. Does he appease the Democratic party moderates and opt for Clinton? Especially now that so many in the media are saying that Obama made the wrong “Wright decision”? In doing so, does he stack the deck against himself in November? Or does he go with the progressive wing’s Obama candidacy, a move that is also supported by voter preference in his own congressional district, after what can only be called an Obama oratory coup?

Fun times for Nick Lampson.


Anonymous said...

Yeah, but he was only a naval aviator for a very brief period.

Most of his time has been as an inside-the-beltway staffer to two US Senators.

Pete left his roots behind and settled in the DC area for many years -- let him try to get elected there.

And yeah, the carpetbagger charge did work against Slick Nick -- so much so that he refused to run in the special and had to fight hard against a write-in and a llibertarian to win the seat.

Hal said...

How short is "a very brief period"? Would that be 5 years? Yes about 5 years. Contrast that to the period of time that GW Bush spent in the Texas Air National Guard, 5 years 4 months.

A very brief period.

John McCain was imprisoned in Vietnam for a very brief period.

Odd that your website finds itself on the the list of Blogger Friends of Cornyn yet you so vehemently oppose his former senior staffer and support wacky wacky Shelley. I know, hard to break old habits.

Anonymous said...

Yes, a brief period relative to the time he has been out of the district. It's not like the man retired from the Navy six months ago after a 20 year career. And the reality is that Olson maintained no significant connection to the district during his time on the staff of Phil Gramm and John Cornyn, which constituted the bulk of his career outside of CD22.

And it may shock you to hear this, but just because i support the reelection of John Cornyn, whose work in the US Senate I consider to be quite good, does not mean that I accept his every political endorsement as if it were divine revelation.

I'll take the candidate I know and trust.