Inside Intelligence: About Those Democrats...

We turned to the insiders for insight on the Democrats this week, starting with the top of the state ballot and the race for the U.S. Senate. They have no doubts about that contest — 96 percent predict Republican Ted Cruz will defeat Democrat Paul Sadler in the November election.

Texas Democrats are well into the second decade of an electoral dustbowl in Texas, working on a return to competitiveness and to grabbing a share of the 29 statewide seats on the ballots. Will the outcome of the presidential race play into that? Two in five said it won’t make a difference, but 34 percent said a Mitt Romney win would be better for state Democrats and 24 percent said they’d be better off — ballot-wise — if Barack Obama prevails.

Have Texas Republicans, firmly in charge of all three branches of state government for a decade, got any weak spots? Yup: Education, according to 43 percent, followed by infrastructure, budget and taxes and health and human services.

Finally, we asked whether the republic is representative of the voters behind it, whether the state’s elected officials are more or less conservative than the voters. The voters are more conservative, according to 15 percent, and about as conservative, according to another 31 percent. More than half of the insiders — 54 percent — said the voters are less conservative than the people they put in office.

We’ve attached the full verbatim comments to the survey; a sampling follows:

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Who will win the U.S. Senate race in Texas in November?

• "Just don't think Paul can get it done"

• "Maybe you should have asked who's the better candidate?"

• "Sadler's vote record in the TX House isn't conservative."

• "Just voting with my heart.  Paul Sadler would be light years better than Ted Cruz in public service."

• "Barring a   John Tower incident, but he will get closer than the conventional wisdom"

• "Seriously, guys. We may have to rename the survey to 'Stupid Intelligence.'"

• "Should there be an uprising that does not appear imminent Koch and the Crossroads would be in here as soon as the Mad Hatter said, ' Down with the bloody Red Queen! '"

• "A good guy with no money cannot beat a unknown guy with lot of money."

• "Minimum 10 point win"

• "No one knows who Sadler is, outside of the capitol crowd."

• "Sadler gets a little redneck vote that normally goes Republican, and Cruz siphons off some Hispanic Ds, creating a wash. My guess is a 10-12 point win."

• "In the race between the Republican who Paul Sadler claims nobody really knows and the Democrat nobody (outside of a small patch of East Texas) has heard of, take the R to win."

• "Probably Cruz, but once people other than the right wing sliver of the republican party who nominated him see who he is, Sadler might actually have a chance"

• "No money. No focus by the party. The state is not in play in the presidential. Poor Paul is not in play."

• "John Cornyn is about to look sensible by comparison."

• "It may be closer than you think but the anti-Obama sentiment will put Cruz over the line"

• "No contest"

• "There are few sure things in life.  Ted Cruz winning is one of them."

• "This was a question worthy of Inside Intelligence assessment?"

• "Paul who?"

• "Paul Sadler needs to get himself a white pickup truck and start touring the state if he wants a shot of at least having a chance at winning."

• "Is this really a question?"

• "Cruz 56-Sadler 44.  And again, the better man does not win."

• "If Sadler had a little more money he could at least make for an interesting campaign."

• "Do you even need to ask?"

• "Noriega lost by nearly 1 million votes. Cutting that by 30% isn't even a remote possibility."

• "Sadler is fool, got beat in his home town in school board race"

• "But Sadler will fare better than expected.  Cruz's style is turning as many people off as he's turning on."

• "Cruz will have all of the enthusiasm and money behind him.  The National Dems don't even believe Sadler has a chance."

• "Sadler might get 1% more that the base D vote due to a few moderates."

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Do Texas Democrats have a better chance at a comeback under an Obama or a Romney administration?

• "Just look at the comeback by Republicans under Obama (with the exception of scattered local offices particularly in the Dallas area)."

• "The longer Obama remains president the worse off all centralist democrats are."

• "They have a better chance at a comeback under a Perry administration."

• "Texas Democrats will come back, but they will come back through the Republican primaries.  Texas Democrats have never been liberals; they are just more rational in their conservatism.  The bigger the Republican Party gets, the less Republican it will be."

• "Burning the village in order to save it is a failed, literally pyrrhic strategy"

• "Probably slightly better with a Romney admin, along with a strong GOP US House, as a foil on immigration and other issues -- they need some defining moment to finally hit their tipping point on broad Latino voter engagement."

• "Democrats are better off if Romney wins. All of us know that the economy and all of America's ills cannot be fixed in one term. This time it'll be a Republican problem."

• "That's a really good question.   It would be 'easier' under a Romney administration as long as he didn't reap the benefits a recovery driven by the current economic policies. But would better for Texas under and Obama administration as Texas Republicans would keep opposing policies that disproportionately helps Texas families."

• "If the Ryan budget were actually enacted, the backlash could reinvigorate the Ds."

• "Mostly the comeback, whenever that actually occurs, will be based on inexorable demographic change."

• "I think we will be a red state for the term of either."

• "Texas Ds remain in an Catch-22 on issues. Do they embrace the national party (which has many planks that just don't play with most voters in Texas) or do they break away to the right (making them no different than an R)?"

• "They’re out either way - for at least a decade more."

• "Texas Democrats won't make a comeback until they wean themselves off trial lawyer money."

• "In the short term, an Obama presidency will continue to mobilize conservatives, leading to another successful mid-term cycle. However, if Obama pays it forward and features Latinos prominently in his administration during his second term, it could help to mobilize an emerging base that will carry Democrats to victory for many cycles to come."

• "Democrats have no comeback hopes carrying Obama on their backs"

• "They won't be coming back during either administration"

• "Perry has a better chance of creating a Democratic comeback..."

• "Under Romney, Democrats would have short-term gains in 2014; but a Romney packed Supreme Court would severely roll back minority voting rights for decades."

• "Are they still a political party?"

• "It doesn't matter who's at the helm; if Texas voters aren't convinced that Ds can bring something to the table, then they ain't gonna eat."

• "The D's must get rid of Obama before a conversation can be started about a 'comeback' in Texas."

• "No plan, no bench, no hope for a quick (like 10 years long) turnaround."

• "The Democrats don't care and the Republicans don't have to care."

• "Julian and Joaquin Castro are absolutely stars and are the future of the Party, but the future is a long way off."

• "Neither. I doubt the Democrats will have an opportunity for a comeback in Texas for many years."

• "It's always easier to run against the shortcomings of the opposition incumbent than to run with the shortcomings of your own party's incumbent."

• "Pendulum has swung and is hitting the right side of the clock. Democrats won't pull it back, Republicans will push it away, especially as moderates like Romney demonstrate that participation requires allegiance to right-wing principles they don't share."

• "All politics is local, and until the Democrats get a cohesive message they will remain the minority party."

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Republicans have been in charge of state government in Texas for a decade. What's their weak spot?

• "If Republicans would stay out of people's bedrooms and religious beliefs, they would sweep the nation but they keep promoting boneheads like Akin.  Similarly, if Democrats would quit whining and taking money from working people to give to deadbeats, they would sweep."

• "The GOP's weak spot is all of the above."

• "Arrogance!  They have been in charge, yet continue to blame Democrats for what is wrong with Texas!  The republicans have ruined out state and taken it light years into the past!!"

• "Denial"

• "All of them. The numbers show that by any measure that the state is worse off in each one of these categories."

• "Weak spot from whose perspective?  Tea Partiers and conservatives?  Budget and taxes.  Democrats and Liberals?  All of the above, plus abortion."

• "Texas government must pay the bills without new taxes. That's the greatest challenge regardless of party."

• "Their weak spot is a lack of balance.  It permeates every aspect of state government.  The Republican party will either become very small and very radical, or it will become more moderate (keeping in mind that in Texas, moderate is conservative)."

• "All the above, but pub ed has grassroots constituencies that are more readily galvanizable;"

• "Increasing incompetence and flaccidity of Perry appointments across all agencies/issues -- they're down to their C list and falling fast.  The only qualifications are loyalty and (preferably) minority status, but the real credential is loyal lackeyism -- and that combined with decreasing political adeptness will bite Perry on the butt in time."

• "Digging an ever deeper hole for our state."

• "All of our problems are caused by the budget and taxes. We spend too much and have too little."

• "Their weak spot? They don't want to pay for anything. They portray themselves as opposing services. So if they had the money they wouldn't want to spend it even though Texas current unemployment suffers from cutbacks in public services. As Alice said, 'Of all the silly nonsense, this is the stupidest tea party I've ever been to in all my life.'  Major Jack D Ripper : Mandrake, do you recall what Clemenceau once said about war?  Captain Lionel Mandrake : No, I don't think I do, sir, no.  Major Jack D Ripper: He said war was too important to be left to the generals.  But today, war is too important to be left to politicians. They have neither the time, the training, nor the inclination for strategic thought.' Empower Texas would make a great movie title.  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N1KvgtEnABY&feature=related"

• "Immigration"

• "This is a close call with business leaders becoming fundamentally uncomfortable with the direction of public education in the state but I think women voters will stun Republicans with a much more short term rebuke in the next two cycles because of their decisions on women's health care."

• "All of the above could have been a correct answer."

• "Lack of vision in dealing with problems unrelated to commerce, other than simply not raising public revenues or investing in foundation programs listed in choices."

• "All of the above.  The shale drilling boom is masking a lot of long-term problems."

• "The infrastructure deficits probably eke out over education, because they're so in-your-face.  When your lake is a dust-filled crater and your roads are hopelessly jammed, there's no real debate about whether we've done enough."

• "Because of the creative way they have handled the budget, the rank and file R's are going to have to decide ---help the people they represent or vote the way the party tells them to."

• "The political pendulum eventually swings back the other way. But if I'm a D, I've got to start wondering when that might be,"

• "The lack of turn over at the top of the ticket.  It doesn't matter who holds office if they are there long enough some voters will cast a ballot for the other party just because they are experiencing incumbent fatigue."

• "All of the above - governing seems to be a weak spot"

• "They’re just governing ok, but there's no weak spot."

• "Why no 'All of the above' option? They are potentially weak on all of these... if the Ds can develop a coherent message with some solid messengers."

• "I would say, all four"

• "I can only pick one? It all starts with the budget and taxes -- namely, the fiction that you can get something for nothing."

• "You should have given us the choice of all of the above"

• "Where's the button that says all of the above?"

• "Can’t keep cutting school budgets, where the rubber meets the road back home."

• "Republicans are failing to plan for future Texans.  The current state political leadership has absolutely no vision or sense of responsibility to future generations.  Their only devotion is to the next day's stories and their own political advancement."

• "We have to pick just one?"

• "All of the above.... debt for highways, water shortages, children's health, sorry education system.... what have they missed..."

• "The top weak spot, but there are others"

• "Everything."

• "Really it's all connected.  There's no comprehensive vision for having a reliable state revenue stream, no plan for how to raise revenue without putting an increasingly disproportionate share of the burden on low income working Texans and no awareness that over time this may lead to the increasing irrelevance of the state government compared to municipal and regional governmental and planning entities."

• "Knowing how to balance the party rhetoric with the reality of what has made the state great."

• "All of the above, except state taxes"

• "Health insurance - no plan for covering the millions of uninsured"

• "Education is their weak point. How many times has the state been sued under Perry and the Regime?  Under Rs, the Education Code has increased over 400 pages of unfunded mandates. Standardized tests have not proven successful for students as our dropout rates are still high and more and more students are not college ready."

• "The state is growing yet the Rs in charge want to cut everything.  That is a recipe for disaster."

• "Education is the most obvious choice, but neither party can claim ownership of leadership in this area. The biggest weak spot in the R's program is failure to do what conservatives used to be known for: the long view. Healthier kids are easier to educate and don't stay at home sick, meaning they stay in school and don't go to prison as much; healthy parents don't miss as much work, staying off welfare; and the societal cost of not addressing the basic needs of a potential workforce far outweigh the direct dollar cost in the long run."

• "For whatever reason, Republicans hate Public Schools.  And when they cut even more money from Pub Ed this Session, they will lose seats."

• "It's not a policy weakness at all--it's demographics."

• "A changing voting population that just wants 'more stuff' from government and a Democrat Party that will bend over backwards to provide 'more stuff' to buy the votes of these voters, regardless of the fiscal impact on budgeting and tax burden. Republicans trying to be prudent in spending and tax policies get hammered by the Democrat Party and their advocates in the media.  That is what I think presents the greatest challenge to Republicans going forward."

• "Soccer moms get REAL pissed about bad education... and the electorate just proved that there is not such thing as 'cutting too much' so it sure as hell ain't taxes."

• "Reality. It used to be that Republicans fed red meat to primary voters, but governed with an interest in the future. Thanks to MQS, Perry, & the TPPF they think their rhetoric is reality. It's self-induced lunacy."

• "All of the above"

• "Republicans have not been willing to pay for our growing needs. I agree with the need for more efficiency and cute; however, additional funding is a must."

• "Republicans looking beyond the 18 month time horizon know full well that another session of education budget cuts could unleash middle class fury.  There's a reason they've done everything possible to obfuscate the truth about the damage - from initial outright denial of cuts to the current focus on expensive football stadiums."

• "All statistical indicators show systemic failure in public schools"

• "All of the above"

• "Many will say education, but there is no proof that spending more money improves the education of our youth.  What might be a problem down the road is if we are unable to continue to attract new industry because we don't have the necessary water and sufficient roads to get products to market."

• "Privatized higher education tuition and now attempting to do the same with content. Privatized secondary education content and now trying to do the same with tuition through vouchers. It's not reform. It's dystopia."

• "The battle over school vouchers could prove to be an interesting litmus test for the Republicans."

• "Social issues repugnant to the young"

• "How about Education, Budget/taxes AND HHS."

• "All of the above."

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Where would you place the state's voters in comparison with the state's elected officials? Are voters:

• "Less conservative socially. About the same or more conservative fiscally."

• "The Legislature, as a body, probably reflects the state's voters.  The statewide elected officials, however, don't represent the voters with liberal leanings."

• "Depends on the issue(s) and part of state you're in. For example, folks in the Valley are less conservative on most issues, whereas folks in the Panhandle are about as or more conservative."

• "Texans are 'big-picture' conservative, but when it comes down to the details--the actual implementation--they are more liberal.  Big-picture conservatism is great for talking, but it's the details that run things."

• "Polling continues to corroborate that 'we' are more centrist than leadership, who need only run in a handful of suburban, high turnout counties to prevail.  This is especially true re health and education issues"

• "Speaking of actual voters who turn out, about the same.  But a lot of disengaged potential voters are less conservative or at least less ideologically lockstep, but they don't have good candidate options to express a fresh viewpoint."

• "Republican primary voters are more conservative than their Republican Officials. Democratic primary voters are more liberal than their Democrat officials. Independent voters believe Republicans are a little less crazy than democrats."

• "Lewis Carol wrote again The Mad Hatter: ' There is a place. Like no place on Earth. A land full of wonder, mystery, and danger! Some say to survive it: You need to be as mad as a hatter. ' It"

• "Depends on which voters. Republicans may be more conservative, pushing their candidates further to the right -- and some day it will hurt them. Obviously, most Democrats are less conservative."

• "But only the GOP primary matters"

• "I credit the leadership with some tenuous grasp on reality.  The voters -- at least Republican primary voters, who control the state - not so much."

• "The Republican primary, which is dominated by the hard right, determines who is elected statewide. While the overall Texas electorate votes Republican, most Texans are not as extreme as the candidates coming out of the primary."

• "Although the leg is conservative the reality is that people want their goose to lay their golden egg for their golden issue.  One might be a fiscal conservative but your golden issue is k - 12 education and you will tell the leg they darn well better spend more money on that.  Take any issue, substitute it for education and their you have it, whether it be higher ed, roads, healthcare etc."

• "Unless you are looking at Republican primary voters."

• "Best thing about Austin: Drive 30 minutes in any direction and you're back in Texas. Those living in this city - including the media pundits from major newspapers - could use a trip to the 'real' Texas every once in a while."

• "The electorate on the whole is less conservative than the Republican primary voters who currently drive the process (but not yet liberal enough to elect Democrats statewide)."

• "The officials match the voters - by definition.  Anyone who says that Texans are more moderate (or more concerned about education, more tolerant on social issues, more whatever) may be correct, but only if they are referring to Texans who don't vote."

• "Blind leading the blind."

• "The GOP primary is controlled by a relatively small group of ultra conservatives."

• "Less conservative, but not by much.  Heck, what we call Democrats in this state, most of the remainder of the country calls Republicans."

• "The bulk of the people who disagree with the elected officials and the party line are cynical and don't vote or too busy trying to keep their heads above water to pay attention."

• "Maybe. Problem is that we really don't know how conservative the elected officials really are. Most elected R's are reacting to the primary voters who are generally the most conservative of all, but are really not reflective of the residents of the state that consider themselves as R's or at least conservatives."

• "The general voting public is not more conservative than our elected officials.  The one in ten Texas voters who vote in the Republican primaries, however, make Barry Goldwater look like a commie, and they are the ones who pick the standard-bearers"

• "It would be a different answer if you asked are the state's GOP Primary voters more conservative than elected officials."

• "Yet another really silly question, in that there can be no real answer. As usual, the question is apparently designed to reveal more about the respondent than it is to provide meaningful information."

• "The 'VOTERS' are clearly as conservative as the elected officials.... the 'PEOPLE' are, however, not as conservative but they 'PEOPLE' clearly don't vote."

• "Key word is 'voters.' But there is little question that Texans who participate in elections are more conservative than those who do not."

• "Voters are about as conservative, thus we elect conservative officials.  The 'people' of Texas are less conservative, but many do not vote."

• "Well, the question is too broad for the results to really tell you what you want to know.  The GOP primary voters driving the agenda are more conservative than most of their elected officials.  In the aggregate, if you mean *voters* literally, the match is about right."

• "The politics of the state's elected officials reflects the politics of the state's primary voters - extremist, petty, and downright nasty on both sides."

• "The locos are just louder."

Our thanks to this week’s participants: Gene Acuna, Cathie Adams, Brandon Aghamalian, Jenny Aghamalian, Clyde Alexander, George Allen, David Anthony, Jay Arnold, Louis Bacarisse, Charles Bailey, Tom Banning, Mike Barnett, Dave Beckwith, Rebecca Bernhardt, Andrew Biar, Allen Blakemore, Tom Blanton, Hugh Brady, Steve Bresnen, Chris Britton, Jay Brown, Lydia Camarillo, Kerry Cammack, Marc Campos, Thure Cannon, Janis Carter, Tris Castaneda, Corbin Casteel, William Chapman, Elna Christopher, John Colyandro, Harold Cook, Beth Cubriel, Randy Cubriel, Denise Davis, Hector De Leon, June Deadrick, Nora Del Bosque, Tom Duffy, David Dunn, Richard Dyer, Jeff Eller, Jack Erskine, Jon Fisher, Rebecca Flores, Wil Galloway, Norman Garza, Dominic Giarratani, Bruce Gibson, Stephanie Gibson, Scott Gilmore, Eric Glenn, Daniel Gonzalez, Jim Grace, John Greytok, Jack Gullahorn, Clint Hackney, Anthony Haley, Wayne Hamilton, Bill Hammond, Adam Haynes, John Heasley, Jim Henson, Ken Hodges, Steve Holzheauser, Billy Howe, Laura Huffman, Deborah Ingersoll, Richie Jackson, Cal Jillson, Jason Johnson, Mark Jones, Robert Jones, Lisa Kaufman, Russ Keane, Robert Kepple, Richard Khouri, Tom Kleinworth, Sandy Kress, Pete Laney, Dick Lavine, James LeBas, Donald Lee, Luke Legate, Richard Levy, Elizabeth Lippincott, Ruben Longoria, Homero Lucero, Vilma Luna, Matt Mackowiak, Bryan Mayes, Dan McClung, Parker McCollough, Robert Miller, Bee Moorhead, Mike Moses, Steve Murdock, Keir Murray, Pat Nugent, Sylvia Nugent, Nef Partida, Gardner Pate, Jerry Philips, Tom Phillips, Wayne Pierce, Richard Pineda, Allen Place, Royce Poinsett, Kraege Polan, Jay Pritchard, Jay Propes, Ted Melina Raab, Bill Ratliff, Kim Ross, Jeff Rotkoff, Jason Sabo, Paul Sadler, Mark Sanders, Andy Sansom, Jim Sartwelle, Stan Schlueter, Bruce Scott, Robert Scott, Ben Sebree, Bradford Shields, Dee Simpson, Ed Small, Martha Smiley, Larry Soward, Dennis Speight, Steve Stagner, Jason Stanford, Keith Strama, Bob Strauser, Colin Strother, Charles Stuart, Michael Quinn Sullivan, Sherry Sylvester, Jay Thompson, Russ Tidwell, Trent Townsend, Trey Trainor, John Weaver, Ware Wendell, Ken Whalen, Darren Whitehurst, Seth Winick, Alex Winslow, Peck Young, Angelo Zottarelli.