Ricardo Sanchez for Senate?

I had three main thoughts to the news that Gen. Ricardo Sanchez is the choice of Democrats in Washington, DC to run for Senate in Texas:

1. Gen. Sanchez is probably about as strong a potential pick as Texas Democrats can make
2. Texas Democrats continue to think candidate recruiting is about checking boxes.
3. Can he survive a primary?

Over the past decade, Texas Democrats have had a tendency to recruit candidates by checking off demographic boxes. That led to the 2002 “Dream Team” disaster. Frankly, until Sanchez, Texas Democrats really had no one who looked to be even near a strong enough nominee to beat any generic Republican even in a good Democratic year (which 2012 may or may not be). The alternative to Sanchez is probably John Sharp, who has lost a few races in a row now and thus whose current name ID is probably neither particularly high nor favorable.

In this case, Sanchez checks off the “military,” “stature,” and “Latino” boxes. Let’s not underplay those in a state which is increasingly Latino and more pro-military than average. Rising to be the commander in Iraq gives a certain stature as well that previous Democratic Senate candidate and military officer Rick Noriega didn’t have.

And yet one has to wonder whether Gen. Sanchez will be a strong candidate. He was commander in Iraq while the insurgency took root and military casualties began to spike upward, culminating in one of the 2 most deadly months of the war at the height of the Abu Ghraib prison scandal. Gen. Sanchez also got the surge completely wrong, saying about the surge in October 2007 that “the best we can do with this flawed approach is stave off defeat.” Not exactly good judgment in what should have been his area of expertise.

But beyond that, let’s go to more technical issues. I’d guess that most high-ranking military officers are not the type of people willing to do the dialing for dollars necessary to be a successful Senate candidate. He also may not have firm stands on some domestic issues. And while he’s had some experience appearing on cable news shows, he’s perhaps not the most polished candidate.

Or watch here, where he implicitly accepts that he let torture happen on his watch:

Questioner: How did [torture] happen? How did it happen on your watch?
Sanchez: Well, I think it’s fairly simple. You had the torture memorandums as we now clearly understand them, how they came about, what they authorized and those were transmitted to the different entities that were operating in these wartime environments . . .

My point is not to impugn General Sanchez’s integrity, but to point out that being a candidate is much harder than it seems. He authorized things that he now calls torture — that’s something that will make people pause and go hrm?.

Many national Democrats — including those who recruited him — were quite vocal of Sanchez when he was the commander in Iraq. Almost all of them called for Secretary Rumsfeld’s dismissal — and yet they now want Rumsfeld’s commander in the field in the Senate? Perhaps not surprisingly, there are already liberal Texas blogs crying out against Sanchez.

Finally, Sanchez will have to explain his candidacy. Why now? What’s his motive for running? He can’t run against the Bush administration — which has been the point of most of his media appearances since retiring from office. He can’t run on the Iraq war. He will have to talk about the Obama administration’s wars — which will probably put him either at odds with the president or with the liberal base. What does he know about economics, solving America’s debt crisis or creating jobs?

For all those reasons, I remain somewhat skeptical that Sanchez will “do better than any other Democrat could,” as Paul Burka wrote yesterday. I think that he probably has the potential to do better than any other Democrat could, if he is decent at being a political candidate. But I’m not sanguine about that. Sanchez probably has just as equal potential to run behind Obama in Texas, even if he is able to survive what might be a probable primary.

So will Sanchez decide to run? He sounded a bit noncommital, and I think most retired generals would probably think it’s not worth it to invest a year and a half into a race that will very likely end in defeat. But only time will tell.

2 Responses to “Ricardo Sanchez for Senate?”

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  1. Tracy Clinton says:

    There is already a Democrat who has filed to run in Texas for this open seat. Sean Hubbard is a born and bred Texas Democrat, a local activist in the Dallas area, and you can find out more about him at:


    He welcomes Sanchez’s addition to the discussions in the coming year on the issues that Texas faces.

  2. Joe Escobar says:

    I am sure you already know, he is going to run for the Senate. My opinion is that you say, will he know this or that. I can see where your vote is going. I will tell you this, even the newbies Republicans or Democrats may not know nothing at all either, but they will learn. Some are followers and some leaders or become puppets of other old representatives that have been there to long just sucking of the American’s. He will win because Latinos who don’t vote will vote now because they are Latino and he represents that. He comes from poverty to a General in the Army. Some of you people need to realize that we are here to stay and we will start to fill more seats as we grow bigger. Give him a chance, plus the knowledge you say he lacks about this or that is a pretty stupid observation. Remember I am sure he reads and watches TV and has his on opinions about war and social events and the way our government is screwing us just like any other Senator, they are human. And when he votes he will vote with a true heart. My family knows his family and he is a good man and will serve the Senate and Latinos very well. “Senator Sanchez”, it has a spicy sound to it, I like that.

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