Texas Republicans Swing to the Right, Somehow

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
March 13 2014 4:45 PM

Texas Republicans Swing to the Right, Somehow

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Time will tell whether gubernatorial hopeful Greg Abbott, who might share the ballot with some hard-core conservatives, can avoid a repeat of the Ted Nugent Problem.

Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

Via Sean Sullivan, this poll from Texas suggests that poor (not literally) Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst is destined for history's ash-heap of discarded candidates. He's fading faster than a Polaroid of Marty McFly, down 21 points to state Sen. Dan Patrick, down by 27 among voters certain to stick around for the runoff. There's even a burgeoning social media campaign in Texas asking Dewhurst to bow out. Oh—and there's a campaign asking Rep. Dan Branch, the establishment choice in the race for attorney general, to just concede to conservative state Sen. Ken Paxton.

This worries Texas' Republican establishment. It was one thing when Sen. Ted Cruz beat Dewhurst for an open Senate seat. It's another when the attorney general of Texas, recently an office that belonged to a strategically minded conservative, is running his campaign on how much Ted Cruz likes him.

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The possible, maybe even likely result of this: Greg Abbott, already the GOP nominee for governor, will share a ticket with the two most far-right candidates who could have possibly been nominated. Hasn't been a problem for him yet, but remember how the candidate responded when he stumped with Ted Nugent and Democrats demanded he answer for Nugent's worst quotes. Abbott was flat-footed, at best. Now, remember how it weakened Virginia gubernatorial nominee Ken Cuccinelli when a convention saddled him with frequent candidate/grifter E.W. Jackson as his LG nominee.

Texas is—obviously!—far more Republican than Virginia. Maybe even E.W. Jackson could have won a race there. But the Democrats-versus-Nugent kerfuffle felt like a field test, a way for Democrats to see whether they could surgically attach derp to Abbott from the people he surrounded himself with. Wendy Davis starts the general election deep in the hole against Abbott. If Patrick and Paxton get the nods, if they are as bad as the establishment fields, she gets to play the Nugent game again.

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter. 

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