Dewhurst no-showing candidate forums a dangerous strategy

Robert Garrett of the Dallas Morning News and Jason Embry in the Statesman picked up a post from the North Texas Tea Party blog on Lieutenant Governor David Dewhurst skipping candidate forums across the state. I tweeted out the same thing at the Austin EmpowerTexans/9-12 candidate forum last Saturday night. I was surprised not to see Lt Governor Dewhurst there. It seems to me like a strange strategic decision to skip candidate forums.

They’re playing a dangerous game by letting a narrative take hold that could be quite dangerous for them. When Dewhurst is absent, people get a chance to repeat all the things that they might otherwise just whisper: Dewhurst is…establishment, aloof, moderate, out-of-touch, elitist, not a man of the people, thinks he can buy the election, etc. Some of those might not be fair, but that’s not the point — when you don’t show up, people say them. Then they get repeated and become conventional wisdom.

My sense is that Dewhurst and his team probably see these forums as an annoyance. Many of the candidate forums include straw polls, and it is very unlikely that Dewhurst would win any of the straw polls among party activists. Many of the folks there have already picked a candidate, and it’s usually not Dewhurst. If Dewhurst showed up, he might even be the target of attacks from the other candidates (right now the candidates seem to be aiming their barbs at Ted Cruz, the other perceived front runner), but that is essentially the nature of the race.

Contrast Dewhurst with Tom Leppert. The former mayor of Dallas consistently shows up. He never does well in the straw polls — frequently getting just a solitary vote or two — but at least he is there. If the race were to end up Dewhurst v Leppert in a runoff, I imagine plenty of activists will remember who showed up at their forum and said the right things.

Will it matter? Only time will tell.

Dan Patrick and his not-very-persuasive Texas Senate poll

You’ve probably seen the news that Dan Patrick released a poll purporting to show him being the frontrunner in the Senate race. Pretty much everyone I talk to scoffed at the numbers regardless of who they work for or whether they like Patrick. I sorta agree, although I probably take them a bit more at face value. That doesn’t mean I think they have any predictive power whatsoever. Quite the contrary.

Here’s Patrick’s numbers, which they basically released without any supporting information:

Dan Patrick 19%
Tom Leppert 11
Roger Williams 6
Elizabeth Ames Jones 4
Ted Cruz 2
Not sure/Refused 58

1. It’s a name ID poll against carefully selected opponents with less name ID. I would expect that Dan Patrick’s name ID is right about there, followed by Leppert’s. After years of a radio show and years as a big suburban state senate district, Patrick has good name ID in Houston, Leppert in Dallas.

2. A name ID ballot test is close to worthless when you exclude Lt Gov David Dewhurst…who has significantly more name ID over the better part of a decade and a few downballot primaries. If Patrick takes his poll and he shows up higher than Dewhurst, that might be news. We can be pretty sure that Dewhurst beat him however, or they would have released that.

3. Also, what’s Patrick’s fav/unfav? What’s his name ID? For example, if Patrick has ~30% name ID compared to < 10% for every other candidate in that poll (possible), then that means only 2 out of 3 pick him even if they probably haven't heard of the other candidates. Not great for him. Dan Patrick accompanied the release with, "This poll confirms that I would be the conservative front runner if I announce for the United States Senate." Well...not really. He's proved that he may have more name ID (highly concentrated in Houston) than others, but most of the folks who might have supported him have already lined up behind other candidates. So if Patrick enters the race, he's probably decreasing the chances of someone winning (whether him or another candidate) that he considers conservative. So I'd be surprised if the release of this poll has the effect that his camp hopes. He's floating the trial balloon and seeing how people respond. But my guess is that more people will tell him that they don't think he should run. And that includes, I believe, all the members of Texas Iconoclast. (As you probably already know, I support Ted Cruz.)