Good morning Austin:
Texans have an Alamo complex. It is a heroic and inspiring story.
But, as a political rallying cry, Remember the Alamo, has its limits, because, in the very short term, it didn’t really end well.
Nonetheless, here was Ted Cruz yesterday, at a homecoming rally in Houston before an adoring crowd where he was endorsed by Gov. Greg Abbott, reading from William Barret Travis’ Letter from the Alamo, on the 180th anniversary of its writing.
“You know,” Cruz said, “when it comes to leading the fight for freedom, there are no words more powerful than those penned by William Barret Travis.”
Commandancy of the Alamo
Bejar, Feby. 24, 1836
To the People of Texas & All Americans in the World
Fellow citizens & compatriots
I am besieged, by a thousand or more of the Mexicans under Santa Anna I have sustained a continual Bombardment & cannonade for 24 hours & have not lost a man The enemy has demanded a surrender at discretion, otherwise, the garrison are to be put to the sword, if the fort is taken I have answered the demand with a cannon shot, & our flag still waves proudly from the walls I shall never surrender or retreat. Then, I call on you in the name of Liberty, of patriotism & everything dear to the American character, to come to our aid, with all dispatch The enemy is receiving reinforcements daily & will no doubt increase to three or four thousand in four or five days. If this call is neglected, I am determined to sustain myself as long as possible & die like a soldier who never forgets what is due to his own honor & that of his country VICTORY OR DEATH.
William Barret Travis,
Lt. Col. comdt.
Cruz didn’t read the P.S., but it is good too:
P.S. The Lord is on our side. When the enemy appeared in sight we had not three bushels of corn. We have since found in deserted houses 80 or 90 bushels and got into the walls 20 or 30 head of Beeves. Travis
Of course, if Donald Trump had been at the Alamo, everything would have been cool and the Texians would have survived, protected by a wall that the Mexicans, for obscure reasons lost to the mists of history, had paid for.
As Cruz finished reading the letter, the crowd erupted in chants – TED, TED, TED, TED!
“With those words, William Barrett Travis captured the essence of Texas,” Cruz said.
And then he launched into a story with even more ominous overtones for his prospects.
You know former Texas Sen. Phil Gramm tells a story from the 1980s when he was a conservative Democrat when he was rounding up support for Ronald Reagan’s tax plan, and he was talking to other conservative Democrats in Texas, saying, `Come on guys, this is what you stand for.’ And he drew the analogy of Travis drawing the line in the sand and said `this is the opportunity to step across that line.’ And he said those other Democrats said, `Well Phil, everybody who stepped across that line died.” And Phil’s response was, `Well yes they did, and everybody who didn’t step across that line died too, and nobody remembers their names.’
The Alamo. Phil Gramm. I was half expecting Cruz to invoke the memory of John Connally.
From Sam Howe Verhovek’s Feb. 15, 1996 report in the New York Times. Dateline, Houston.
HOUSTON, Feb. 14— He peaked too early.
A year ago, Senator Phil Gramm of Texas was assembling a campaign juggernaut. He declared for President before anyone else. He raised $4.1 million at a dinner in Dallas, one of the largest takes for a single campaign event in American political history. He spent a fortune winning dozens of straw polls, all nonbinding but all intended to bring an air of momentum and inevitability to Mr. Gramm’s bid for the White House.
And while several big G.O.P. names like Kemp, Cheney, Quayle and Bennett skipped the race, bemoaning the logistical and gastrointestinal demands of the chicken-dinner circuit, Mr. Gramm said he just loved asking people for support.
But today, barely a week after voters started selecting actual delegates to the Republican convention, Mr. Gramm’s $21.1 million offensive came to a screeching halt, in perhaps the most spectacular collapse of a Presidential campaign since Mr. Gramm’s fellow Texan, John B. Connally, famously spent $12 million to capture one delegate to the 1980 Republican convention.
The owlish, drawling Mr. Gramm delighted in telling audiences that his own wife’s first reaction to him was “Yuck!” — the real point being that in time, she came to discover his virtues and the American people would too. But voters spent far less time with him than Wendy Lee Gramm did.
“I don’t think he could ever overcome the ‘Yuck!’ factor in this campaign,” said Richard W. Murray, a political science professor and longtime Gramm observer at the University of Houston.
Invoking Gramm was all the more peculiar for Cruz because Gramm has said he prefers Rubio, but thinks Trump will win.
Former Texas Sen. Phil Gramm thinks Donald Trump will win the Republican presidential nomination, but he prefers Marco Rubio.
Gramm, who ran for president in 1996, told U.S. News and World Report, “If I was going to invest my money I’d invest it with Trump, but my vote would go to Rubio.”
“I just think he’s got a Reaganesque quality to him. He can state strong positions and still smile. His optimism shines in an era where people are not very optimistic,” Gramm continued.
Gramm said that while he may not agree with Trump, he believes the Manhattan billionaire has made constructive contributions to the political debate.
“I disagree with a lot of what Trump is saying. Looking back on it now I have to give him his due. He has spoken to a lot of frustrations that people like me weren’t paying attention to,” Gramm said. “At the end of the day, I think he will have contributed to our process. I wouldn’t have said that six months ago, but I believe it now.”
OK. It’s been a very long, rough week for Cruz. Third place in South Carolina was not what he wanted or needed.
On Tuesday morning, Joe Scarborough on Morning Joe, declared, “Ted Cruz’s campaign is over … Mark it down. He’s not going to win the nomination. He may win Texas. It’s over.”
Scarborough said he could identify the moment that Cruz’s candidacy died. When he lost the evangelical vote in South Carolina to Trump, even after Trump praised Planned Parenthood.
Later that day, Cruz suffered another third-place showing in Nevada, and there was cascading coverage counting the Cruz campaign as dead or dying. The long knives of all those who didn’t like, who hated Cruz, were out.
Yuck, they said of Cruz. Yuck, and good riddance.
But yesterday was the equivalent of a cleansing breath for Cruz and his campaign.
Abbott’s endorsement might have seemed inevitable and pro forma.
But it mattered.
As I wrote yesterday:
Rice University political scientist Mark Jones said that Abbott’s endorsement was perfectly timed for both the governor and the presidential candidate.
“The Cruz campaign is at a critical juncture facing a must-win situation in Texas on March 1. He needs all the help he can get,” Jones said. ‘If he could ask for only one endorsement in Texas, this is the endorsement he would want.”
Jones said that Abbott’s endorsement may be especially important in persuading more mainstream Republicans not to jump ship for Rubio in their desire to stop Trump.
Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick is chairing Cruz’s campaign in Texas and has campaigned for him in Iowa, South Carolina and Nevada. Politically, Jones said, Abbott could not afford to sit out the race and risk alienating Cruz supporters and emboldening a potential future challenge from Patrick.
But it would have been awkward for Abbott to endorse Cruz while former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush was still in the race, in a state in which the Bush family continues to count on the loyalty of key political figures and donors. It was also Gov. George W. Bush who named Abbott to the Texas Supreme Court. Jeb Bush’s withdrawal from the race after yet another disappointing showing in South Carolina cleared the way for Abbott to back Cruz, Jones said.
The political establishment in Texas is with Cruz
Patrick has been working it hard.
A lot of local officials have skin in the game.
He remains the love of the tea partiers who turn out to vote, though they will be joined by a lot of other voters in what appears to be a big turnout election.
To the extent that a voter wants to be with a winner in Texas, Cruz remains the safest bet.
And I don’t think the love/yuck balance for Cruz is as vulnerable to recent events in Texas, where feelings about Cruz were already better-formed, as it is elsewhere.
I ran into Steve Munisteri at the Harris County Republican Party 2016 Reagan Lincoln Dinner, at which Cruz spoke.
Munisteri was the Texas Republican chairman until he left last year to be a senior adviser to Rand Paul’s presidential campaign. Munisteri was the architect of the Texas primary this year – its date and modified proportional rules. He is as smart an observer of what’s going on here as there is.
He thinks Cruz will win, but without reaching the 50-percent-plus-one threshold statewide that would render the contest for at-large delegates winner-take-all.
This is my logic. I don’t think Rubio gets to the 20 percent. I could be wrong. Which means that the only division of the at-large would be Trump and Cruz, so if Cruz is even a little bit ahead of Trump, it means he gets over 50 percent (of the 47 at-large delegates) That puts him at 27 delegates there, and if Cruz wins the districts but doesn’t win by a majority, he gets 72 delegates there. You put that together with the 27 and that’s 99 (out of the state’s 155) delegates.
I think a good rule of thumb is I’m expecting about two-thirds for Cruz and one-third for Trump, unless there’s some big erosion of Cruz’s support that no one has picked up on.
Working in Cruz’s favor is that probably a third of the vote was already cast in early voting before the Nevada results were in and would have been unaffected by any discouragement in its aftermath.
Cruz already has a lead in the bank, so that would mean Cruz would have to erode to a point where Trump not only caught him, Trump has to beat him by a few points just to be even with Cruz, who already has a lead.
So, I’ve been going out on a limb saying that Cruz will win in Texas, and I’ll look like an idiot if he doesn’t, but I do think he’ll win.
If you really want to understand how all this works, read this from the Green Papers, explaining how the delegates are allocated in Texas. Otherwise jump ahead.
Tuesday 1 March 2016: All 155 of Texas’s delegates to the Republican National Convention are bound to presidential contenders in today’s Texas Presidential Primary. [General Rules for All Conventions and Meetings. Rule 38.]
- 108 district delegates are to be allocated to presidential contenders based on the primary results in each of the 36 congressional districts: each congressional district is assigned 3 National Convention delegates. These delegates are allocated to the presidential contenders as follows:
- If a candidate receives a majority of the vote (more than 50%), that candidate is allocated all 3 of the district’s delegates. [General Rules for All Conventions and Meetings. Rule 38. Section 8.a. and 8.b.]
- If no candidate receives a majority of the vote and at least 1 candidate receives 20% or more of the vote, the candidate with the most votes (plurality) receives 2 delegates and the candidate receiving the next highest number of votes receives 1 delegate. [Rule 38. Section 8.b.]
- If no candidate receives 20% of the vote then the top 3 vote getters each receive 1 delegate. [Rule 38. Section 8.c.]
- 47 at-large delegates (10 base at-large delegates plus 34 bonus delegates plus 3 RNC delegates) are to be allocated to the presidential contenders based on the primary results statewide. These delegates are allocated to the presidential contenders as follows:
- If a candidate receives a majority of the vote (more than 50%) that candidate is allocated all 47 at-large delegates. [Rule 38. Section 9.a. and 9.b.]
- If no candidate receives a majority of the vote and at least 2 candidates receive 20% or more of the vote, the 47 at-large delegates are allocated proportionally among those candidates receiving 20% or more of the vote. Rounding rules: Beginning with the candidate receiving the largest number of votes, round any fraction to the next whole number of delegates. Continue this process with the next highest vote getter and repeat until all the delegates are allocated. [Rule 38. Section 9.b.]
- If no candidate receives a majority of the vote and only 1 candidate receives 20% or more of the vote, the 47 at-large delegates are allocated proportionally between the candidate receiving 20% or more of the vote and the candidate receiving the next highest number of votes. Rounding rules: Beginning with the candidate receiving the largest number of votes, round any fraction to the next whole number of delegates. Continue this process with the next highest vote getter and repeat until all the delegates are allocated. [Rule 38. Section 9.b.]
- If no candidate receives 20% of the vote, allocate the 47 at-large delegates proportionally. Rounding rules: Beginning with the candidate receiving the largest number of votes, round any fraction to the next whole number of delegates. Continue this process with the next highest vote getter and repeat until all the delegates are allocated. [Rule 38. Section 9.c.]
An Emerson College poll out yesterday conducted Sunday through Tuesday showed a very tight three-way race in Texas, with Cruz at 29 percent, Trump at 28 percent and Rubio at 25 percent.
But most polls show Cruz with a larger lead and Rubio lagging further behind.
From my story today with Sean Collins Walsh.
U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas has a commanding 12-point lead in his home state over businessman Donald Trump as the candidates head into Tuesday’s GOP presidential primary in Texas, according to a Texas Pulse/American-Statesman poll conducted Feb. 19 to 22. U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida is a distant third.
Here is new University of Houston poll:
HOUSTON, Feb. 24, 2016 /PRNewswire/ — Statewide poll results published today by Houston Public Media and University of Houston Hobby Center for Public Policy show that U.S. Senator Ted Cruz has a 14-point lead over Donald Trump among registered Texas Republican voters who are likely to vote on Super Tuesday. Although Cruz is ahead in his home state, the poll indicates his lead is not enough to ensure the 50 percent vote margin he needs to capture all 155 Texas GOP delegates from Trump. With 19 percent of poll respondents still undecided, Cruz’s performance during Thursday night’s Republican Presidential Debate looms large since it is his last opportunity to sway Texas voters before the Super Tuesday primaries on March 1.
“Winning isn’t the game; it’s about the number of delegates,” said Richard Murray, University of Houston professor and co-director of the poll. “The Houston debate is a high stakes contest, especially for Cruz, who needs to win a large majority of delegates in his home state.”
And here is the University of Texas/Texas Tribune poll.
Another new poll, taken Monday, showed Cruz with a nine-point lead over Trump.
NORTH TEXAS (CBSDFW.COM) — The latest KTVT-CBS 11 / Dixie Strategies Poll of more than 1,400 likely primary voters in Texas shows Republican Ted Cruz has increased his lead over real estate mogul Donald Trump.
So, Cruz should win Texas and come out with a very significant number of delegates.
If he doesn’t, he’s done.
But, to really be viable he has to win elsewhere Tuesday, or, at the very least, accumulate enough delegates so the story the next day is that Cruz comes out of Super Tuesday on a relatively equal footing with Trump in delegate strength – and way, way ahead of Rubio.
As Munisteri told Kevin Diaz of the Houston Chronicle
“He has premised his campaign publicly on the fact that he plans to do very well and gather tremendous momentum on what he calls the ‘SEC primary,'” said Steve Munisteri, a former chairman of the Texas Republican Party who worked on the Rand Paul campaign.
“Even if he were to win Texas, and not win any other Southern states, that would probably put him in a death spiral.”
Cruz, Patrick and others have been very straightforward. Cruz has to do very well Tuesday.
There is really no use in low-balling their expectations, because if Cruz falls flat Tuesday, it’s all over regardless of what expectations he set, and it will fall to Rubio or Kasich to become the anti-Trump.
On Morning Joe today, Scarborough said the stop-Trump forces were depending on pixie dust.
And there is about Rubio a certain ruby slipper strategy, that if Rubio and Nikki Haley and Bob Dole all click their heels and say, there’s no place like home, he can win the nomination.
From Michale Barbaro and Jeremy Peters at the New York Times:
Senator Marco Rubio has persuaded wealthy donors, Republican Party elders and his colleagues in Congress that he represents their best chance to overtake the seemingly invincible force that is Donald J. Trump.
He just cannot seem to persuade the voters.
His distant second-place finish in Nevada on Tuesday night — 22 points behind Mr. Trump and just 2.5 ahead of Senator Ted Cruz — highlights how precarious his path is becoming and the profound difficulty Mr. Rubio faces as the candidate of the party’s pragmatic mainstream in a year of voter anger and rejection.
Mr. Rubio’s time and his opportunities for victory are quickly running out, according to even his own supporters, who are offering increasingly candid assessments of his chances.
With four states having voted, Mr. Rubio has not won a single contest or managed to commandingly defeat Mr. Cruz, despite his formidable advantages. In South Carolina, he campaigned with a popular governor who had endorsed him. In Nevada, he continually reminded voters of the six years his family had lived in Las Vegas.
Even those who have sketched out possible paths for Mr. Rubio to win the nomination acknowledge that they are quirky and slender, dependent on forces mostly outside his control.
Quirky and slender? Who’s his political strategist? John Waters? Steve Buscemi?
I think Cruz is better off with Travis and Gramm and Connally.
Also speaking at last night’s Harris County dinner was Ben Carson, who remains in the race and will be one of the five candidates on the debate stage tonight at the Republican presidential debate at the University of Houston.
Why, you may ask, is Ben Carson still in the race?
The answer is, he is running for vice president.
Here is an email I received this week from John Philip Sousa IV, head of Ben Carson’s Super PAC and a pivotal figure in drafting Carson to run.
Only 3 states have voted. We still have 50+ states/territories to go. The field has gone from 17 candidates to 5.
Today it is critically important that we press on for one very important reason. That reason is simply this…
Without Ben Carson on the Republican ticket, either as our presidential nominee or even as our vice presidential nominee, the Democrats will win the White House and the America we love will disappear.
With former Florida Governor Jeb Bush out of the race and Ohio Governor John Kasich teetering on the brink, this race is still in flux.
And, ironically, in some ways, nothing has changed.
Ben Carson is still the key to a Republican victory in 2016.
Trump, Rubio, and Cruz are all destined to lose in 2016 because without Ben Carson on the ticket, they will lose the African American vote.
The demographics of America have changed dramatically, and that is why Ben Carson must stay in this race. He may not win the GOP nomination, but he still holds the wining hand in this political poker game.
If Ben Carson is on the ticket, either as president or as vice president, we can win the White House by winning upwards of 25% of the black vote and 35% of the Hispanic vote. That translates into a Republican landslide and a dominant Republican majority for years to come.
And, the good news is that even today, Dr. Carson is the near universal choice of a vast majority of Republicans for the number two spot on the Republican ticket.
So, now is not the time to throw in the towel.
By fighting on, there is always the possibility that Ben Carson will once again become resurgent.
But, even if that does not happen, by keeping his hat in the ring, it increases the odds that he will be chosen as the vice presidential candidate of the GOP in 2016.
And, with Dr. Carson on the ticket, we will win in a landslide that will drive far left radicals like Obama, Clinton, and Sanders out of the political mainstream.
Now is the time to redouble our efforts to make sure that Ben Carson is on the Republican ticket in 2016.
I am more committed to the election of Ben Carson as our next president or vice president than ever before.
You and I both know that it’s no accident that Ben Carson has come this far. It’s only by the Lord’s hand that a little known surgeon reached the top ranks of the Republican candidates for President of the United States.
We are simply God’s instruments. We must not fail Him.
I pledge to you that The 2016 Committee will re-double our efforts to put Ben Carson on the Republican ticket.
We must make sure that Ben Carson is in the game to the end for your kids’ future and quite frankly to insure that our country will continue to be the place where our freedoms are protected.
John Philip Sousa IV
So Carson is prepared to run on a ticket with Donald Trump who effectively destroyed his candidacy with a truly unhinged diatribe at a rally in Fort Dodge, Iowa, in November, after Carson had swept ahead of Trump in the polls, in which Trump suggested that Carson had the pathological qualities of a child molester.
Well, as Joe E. Brown put it at the end of Some like it Hot, nobody’s perfect.
Meanwhile, back in Austin, Rick Perry went out for custard yesterday.