Friday, August 12, 2016

Kaine says he and Clinton taking Texas seriously

Vice-presidential candidate Tim Kaine visited Austin this week and stirred the hearts of some Democratic activists by telling them that he and Hillary take Texas seriously.

"This team, the Clinton-Kaine team, we are serious about Texas," Kaine said, speaking to a gathering of about 300 local campaign officials and volunteers.

"We are very serious because we know the kind of work that you do.”

The Texas Tribune reported that he amplified the thought:

“The first meeting we did, we brought it to Austin to show, hey, we’re going to go after Texas, and it's big and it's complicated and it's hard, but we're serious about this."

It was enough, reported the Dallas Morning News, to “create some buzz.”

Could the phrase “Battleground Texas” lose the bitter irony of the millions of dollars sucked up two years ago by a political organization of that name in Wendy Davis’s humiliating loss to Gov. Greg Abbott?

In short, no. Actions speak louder than words.

Kaine spent about 15 minutes speaking to the volunteers.

The rest of his overnight visit consisted of high-dollar fundraisers in Austin, Dallas and Fort Worth.

He also had a few words with waiting reporters.

The Clinton-Kaine team is using Texas the same way national Democrats have for the last 40 years — the period since a Democrat, Jimmy Carter, carried the state in a presidential race.

They come here not to sow, but to reap.

Texans had exported $11.5 million to Clinton’s campaign by the end of June, and Kaine hoped to pick up a couple of million more.

That is, of course, taking Texas seriously — but not in the sense that the volunteers understood Kaine’s remarks.

For a reality check, here is how you know if a national campaign is starting to take you seriously.

The Clinton campaign called up Democratic leaders in Georgia and Arizona this week to say hundreds of thousands of dollars are on the way to hire field organizers in those states, which have been reliably Republican for decades.

That’s serious enough, though the Washington Post reported there were no plans for more expensive television advertising.

One difference between Texas and those two states: Polls on average show Clinton trailing Donald Trump by less than one point in Arizona and actually leading him in Georgia.

By contrast, it’s not clear that national organizations see Texas as worth polling at this point.

Another factor is Texas’s size.

As the nation’s second most populous state, with 19 widely-spread television markets, Texas would be a very expensive state in which to run a full-fledged campaign.

While the benefits of turning the nation’s second-largest state blue are staggering, the odds of success will have to justify the expense of trying.

Getting to that point will not be accomplished by the Clinton-Kaine team or its successors at the top of the ticket.

It will only be done by Texas Democrats themselves, and they haven’t been able to elect a statewide official since 1994 — four years before this year’s youngest voters were born.

So when Tim Kaine said he and Clinton were taking Texas very seriously, Democrats should remember this: He has a reputation for being very nice.

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