Thursday PM

Beto is having.a(nother) moment, but will it matter?


The Haps went to print, so to speak, on this Texas primer just moments before the candid airport shots began to unravel the Cruz-in-Cancun story.

ICYMI, the loathsome Cruz got caught taking a family vacation in Cancun as Texas was grappling with an historic winter storm and resulting mass power outages.

Cruz rushed back to the state, holding a presser whereupon he effectively blamed his kids.

It's impossible to miss the vivid contrast with Beto O'Rouke who, despite being a private citizen, has been frenetic on the ground.

As s for whether this harms Cruz, I'm pessimistic. For one thing, Cruz being a total arsehole is well and truly baked in, and it's clear enough Republicans were willing to look the other way as recently as 2016 when he was runner-up to Trump in the race for the GOP nomination, and 2018 when he defeated O'Rourke for Senate. For another, he doesn't face voters again until 2024 in the event he runs for President again – or 2026 in Texas. That's would test the shelf-life of any scandal. Cruz single-handedly caused a government shutdown in 2013 and didn't seem to pay a price, either with GOP primary voters, or the Texas general electorate.

That said, his humiliation, as long as it lasts, is unquestionably gratifying.

Kia ora and G'day

Some years back, Texas, the nation's biggest energy producer, opted out of the national power grid to evade federal regulators. And now, in the face of a fierce winter storm, power outages are crippling the state. 2.5 million households and businesses are without power during some of the coldest weather in decades.

After twenty years of uninterrupted, unified Republican control in Texas, and all the attendant infrastructure underinvestment and industry-friendly deregulation, the Governor of the State, Greg Abbott (R-Tx) is bizarrely blaming the Green New Deal.

Even in the midst of a emergency of this magnitude, today's Republican leaders can't break the two-step habit of spewing disinformation and blaming Democrats. The GOP has abandoned science and governing in favour of “own the libs” memes and red-hot animus. Abbott didn't quite repeat Trump's claims that windmill causes cancer, but he may as well have.

Governors often thrive during emergencies and natural disasters because it's an opportunity to exhibit their compassion and can-do chops. Abbott, though, isn't interested in any of rhat. For him, it's a chance to probe MAGA erogenous zones with culture war non sequiturs, Dem-bashing, lies and gaslighting.

That can only mean one thing: Abbott wants to be President.

But he needs to win reelection as Governor first – and Beto O'Rourke, former Congressman, Senate and presidential contender, may have other ideas.

O'Rourke hasn't announced, but most insiders tell me he's likely to seek the Democratic nomination to take on Abbott, who's up in 2022. Makes a lot of sense to me. He's a fantastic grassroots campaigner and organiser whose hands-on style is a better fit for Governor than Senator.

Beto's parading his wares impressively durung this crisis, splitting his time between phone-banking freezing seniors and delivering hit after hit on cable like this one:

But can any Democrat beat Abbott next year?

Look, I wouldn't bet the house on it. It's just a tough state for Democrats, even if demographic trends have long offered the alluring prospect of Texas coming into serious play sometime soon.

But let's be real. Beto ran the best Senate campaign of anyone at the very blue-friendly 2018.midterms – and still lost, albeit narrowly, to Ted Cruz, whom everyone famously hates.

In the post-Civil Rights era, Texas was slower than most southern states in abandoning the Democratic brand – but when they broke for the GOP, they broke hard. The House of Representatives delegation consists of 36 members, with 22 Republicans, 13 Democrats and 1 Vacancy. No statewide office is held by a Dem. There hasn't been a Democratic Senator from Texas since Lloyd Bentsen, whom you might remember from this:

And the last Democratic Governor, Ann Richards, lost to George W. Bush in 1994, although not before she tore his Dad a new one during the 1988 DNC:

Richards, who died in 2006, wasn't the greatest orator among her generation of Democrats – that prize goes to former NY Governor Mario Cuomo – but she was easily the funniest.

Speaking of New York, Mario's son Andrew, the current Governor, is in some deep shit. But that's for another day.

Keep well.