The Brief: Texas Political News for Nov. 8, 2013

Texas Comptroller Susan Combs at a TribLive event at the Austin Club on Oct. 20, 2011.
Texas Comptroller Susan Combs at a TribLive event at the Austin Club on Oct. 20, 2011.

The Big Conversation

Comptroller Susan Combs has some blunt advice for her fellow Republicans on how to win back women.

“Tell me that you give a flip about women’s interests. If all you want to talk about is my biology, ‘Gee what happened to my brain?’ That is my point. It is not all south of the waistline,” Combs said in an interview Wednesday with editors and reporters at the Washington Times.

Combs talked the day after the Democratic candidate for governor in Virginia bested the GOP candidate by 9 points among female voters, according to exit polls. The Times reported that the Republican National Committee wrote after the elections that the party needed to do better in being "inclusive and welcoming" with women.

“If we are not, we will limit our ability to attract young people and others, including many women, who agree with us on some but not all issues,” the report said.

Combs could also point to data closer to home to alert the GOP to troubling trend lines concerning women voters, especially suburban women. Jim Henson and Joshua Blank wrote in The Texas Tribune in mid-September that suburban women were turning away from the Republican Party. They suggested that this was due at least partly to a lack of identification with the increasingly rightward tilt of the GOP in the wake of the Tea Party's ascendance.

"In the heyday of Tea Party enthusiasm, 50 percent of suburban women identified themselves as Republicans, according to the October 2010 University of Texas/Texas Tribune Poll, but that may have been the high-water mark," Henson and Blank wrote. "Two years later, in October 2012, 43 percent identified as Republicans. And in our most recent poll, June 2013, that number had dropped to 38 percent. Democratic identification over the same period increased 9 points from 37 percent to 46 percent."

Suburban women "haven’t been swept up in the conservative ideological surge personified by the Tea Party," they wrote. "Between October 2010 and June 2013, conservative identification decreased from 49 percent to 38 percent among these women. ... And while U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, the guest of honor at any Tea Party, enjoys a net-favorable assessment among Texans at +9 (40 percent favorable, 31 percent unfavorable), Cruz is slightly underwater with suburban women at -2 (34 percent favorable, 36 percent unfavorable)."

Democratic strategists in Texas and elsewhere, of course, see swaying suburban women voters as the linchpin in Wendy Davis' efforts to be elected governor. So while Combs was speaking this week in D.C. in the aftermath of a local race up there, it doesn't take much imagination to see that her words could have been pointed directly at her home state to prevent what happened in Virginia from occurring in Texas a year from now.

Culled

•    Lawmaker Tells Perry That UT Regent Hall Should Resign (The Texas Tribune): "One of the lawmakers on the legislative committee currently mulling articles of impeachment against University of Texas System Regent Wallace Hall believes he has found a way to calm the controversy. He thinks Hall should resign."

•    Gov. Perry leaves a million Texans without health insurance (Houston Chronicle): "By all accounts, the Obama-care rollout has been a disaster. ... The problems were the result of mistakes or incompetence, not willful decisions. The same cannot be said for Texas Gov. Rick Perry's decision not to expand Medicaid eligibility requirements under the Affordable Care Act."

•    Potential Perry 2.0 Iowa return far quieter (The Associated Press): "This time, there were no satellite TV trucks, media throngs or fawning Republicans awaiting his arrival. But Texas Gov. Rick Perry's return to Iowa, where he left last year a defeated Republican presidential candidate, sounded very much like a potential candidate reintroducing himself and appealing for a second chance."

•    Texas poll: Ted Cruz leads in 2016 (Politico): "Despite the shutdown and debt ceiling debate, Sen. Ted Cruz hasn’t lost any ground with support among Republican voters in Texas, a new poll shows. The Texas senator leads a field of GOP lawmakers with 32 percent of Texas Republican voters wanting Cruz as their presidential candidate in 2016, according to a survey from left-leaning Public Policy Polling released Thursday."

Quote to Note: “I think Dairy Queens are perfect because you already have a lot of folks who sit and visit with neighbors there. That’s kind of what they do already.” — State Rep. Ryan Guillen, D-Rio Grande City, on why he will spend Saturday meeting constituents at nine of the restaurants, known affectionately in the state as "Texas stop signs" for their ubiquity

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