During the last speaker’s race there was one political play we at AgendaWise thought would be the most difficult for conservatives to deal with. Not sure how good Team Straus was, we watched and waited. They never made the play.
The play was this: recruit a conservative, let him support and vote for Ken Paxton, and keep a nice legislative voting record. While he does these things, have him spread doom and gloom among conservatives.
Why would this have been smart for Team Straus?
On an obvious level, you have someone on the inside making Team Paxton sick. That alone is worth its weight in gold, especially in the context of such a bold move.
In addition, such a move provides insurance. You now have on your team someone who can run for speaker if conservatives overwhelm moderates with sustained growth over the course of two or three or four sessions.
And a candidate like this would win easily. In fact, this situation is the most potent possible electoral combination: a very conservative campaign pleases the voters and the establishment hangs back because it understands what is happening.
In a situation like this, you’d find the media inexplicably wearing kid gloves during the run of a very conservative candidate, something that normally wouldn’t happen. Both sources of political power, voters and special interests, would be happy.
Should Straus win, the likely payoff for such service would be the surprise appointment of this Straus “opponent” to chair a decent committee and, unlike all the other conservatives, treatment by moderate and liberal peers as something other than a pariah.
This would provide a double benefit to Team Straus. They could appear magnanimous and calm by giving power to a supposed enemy and arch-conservative. It could become the symbol of Straus taking conservatives seriously. This could be useful in calming the conservative hordes.
During the first speaker race we speculated that Sid Miller might fit the bill, but nothing ever happened.
And that is the real question – do you have the right guy available?
You’d probably need one of two kinds of people. The first kind is a conservative who has a price and can admit that to himself. This happens.
In fact, moderates constantly need new conservative recruits to improve their team image since they consistently displease conservatives, and this kind of recruitment happens with activists all of the time, not just legislators.
The other type is a true believer who is too weak to handle combat and capable of convincing himself he is doing the moral thing.
The flaw with such a play this time is that the Tea Party Awakening has made the grassroots smarter.
It used to be that only legislative voting records mattered. Not anymore. Texans have discovered that the battle to get a bill to the floor is just as important as the floor vote.
Tea Party leaders are learning which legislators fight the tough fights and which ones fight against good bills, then step in front of conservative legislation that can’t be avoided in order to take the credit.
Behind-the-scenes work on bills is important, but not more than a legislator’s effect on general morale. For conviction conservatives, this is key. Conservatives constantly afraid to upset moderates and liberals are a liability.
This kind of play would be much easier to respond to this time than last time.