Losing Steam

Republican candidates, left to right, Rick Santorum, Mitt Romney, Newt Gingrich and Ron Paul say the Pledge of Allegiance at the CNN Charleston debates on January 19, 2012.
Republican candidates, left to right, Rick Santorum, Mitt Romney, Newt Gingrich and Ron Paul say the Pledge of Allegiance at the CNN Charleston debates on January 19, 2012.

What might have been a big turnout year has turned into a ho-hum affair, with the presidential race petering out before the Texas primary.

That leaves a set of political races that are important to the personalities involved without portending any historic changes in either the Legislature or in the congressional delegation.

And that leaves the political people on the ground with a turnout issue. Candidates dependent on big turnouts don't have the edge they'd have had with a knock-down-drag-out presidential primary in March. That would have been a national battleground fight, what with a viable Rick Santorum fighting a wobbly Mitt Romney in a state where the polls favor the Pennsylvanian.

Goodbye to all that.

The Republicans are probably going to lose their constitutional supermajority in the Texas House. Most of the watchers think they'll lose a handful or two of their 102 seats. They'll still have a huge majority in all likelihood, but probably short of the 100 it takes to command two-thirds in that chamber.

The Senate could become marginally more conservative, depending on which of the replacement senators prevail in the four open races there. But the two-thirds majority that would give Republicans a lock in that chamber is apparently out of reach, by one or two seats, as it has been for years.

The congressional delegation adds four seats and gets a little more clout in Congress, but that happened when the Census was done and isn't a function of Election Day.

The ballot is dotted with interesting and heated races that could ignite local interest here and there, but appears to lack the sort of concentrated statewide race that could drive up turnout. A presidential primary. A governor's race. Something like Rick v. Kay v. Debra, or Obama v. Clinton.

The Senate race hasn't generated that sort of interest outside of the five blocks surrounding the state Capitol. David Dewhurst appears, from his ads online and off, to be running in the general election for president. His target is President Obama. His opponents are vying for and hoping for a runoff spot in late July. They, too, are talking about the administration but also about the frontrunner and his unwillingness to appear in public forums and debates.

It's not dominating the political news in the state — that's all about the presidential race. And it's a little early yet for heavy advertising.

Both major parties told the redistricting courts that delaying primaries would suppress turnout, create confusion and uncertainty, and threaten their convention planning and organization.

Looks like they knew what they were talking about.