The Brief: The Tea Party in Texas is Far From Weak

The Big Conversation

A GOP primary contest that rewarded many of the most conservative candidates on the ballot has the national media sizing up the continued strength of the Tea Party in Texas.

After noting the strong showing of state Sen. Dan Patrick in the lite guv contest, The New York Times' Manny Fernandez and Jonathan Martin wrote: "But the lessons from Texas may be that Tea Party candidates and donors have become more selective about picking which races to focus on, that weak Tea Party candidates still make for weak candidates and that as mainstream Republicans move to the far right, the Tea Party can win even when it loses."

If observers outside Texas were unable to pick up on how good a night Tea Party candidates were about to have, it might be because the splashy-but-ultimately-without-substance Senate campaign of U.S. Rep. Steve Stockman got outsize attention from the media.

The Times piece mentioned that Stockman failed to get support from Tea Party groups. The Washington Post's Chris Cillizza put it even more bluntly when he titled his analysis today, "Steve Stockman tells us absolutely nothing about the strength of the tea party." He wrote: "And, in other downballot races — lieutenant governor and attorney general to name two — candidates who ran as tea party aligned insurgents against more established Republicans did quite well, making predictions of the demise of the tea party in Texas very premature. So, if Stockman's resounding defeat doesn't tell us anything about the tea party, what does it tell us? Simple. Candidates and the campaigns they run matter."

Writing for The American Prospect, Abby Rapoport makes the point that the confusion in the national media over the Tea Party in Texas comes from not understanding a complex movement that is now five years old and is one that doesn't have one clear-cut leader. She wrote: "The Tea Party isn't monolithic and it sure as hell isn't represented solely by national fundraising groups like FreedomWorks or figures like Ted Cruz. There are rural Tea Partiers and suburban ones who are bound to have different views on issues like public schools or water policy. There are stylistic differences and substantive differences, from those who are more libertarian to those who are more business-oriented, and of course the social conservatives. They all hate President Obama, but that doesn’t mean they’re all going to look just like Ted Cruz."

The Day Ahead

•    Join us for a conversation with Sen. Wendy Davis, the Democratic nominee for governor, at Stateside at the Paramount in Austin. We will livestream the event beginning at 8 a.m.

•    GOP gubernatorial nominee Greg Abbott is in Edinburg to kick off his general election campaign with a grassroots rally.

Today in the Trib

Tone of Races Could Grow Nastier During Runoffs: "Candidates in several races came out swinging during the primary season, and that is not expected to ebb during the runoff campaign — particularly in the GOP races for lieutenant governor and attorney general."

Analysis: Dewhurst in a Familiar and Uncomfortable Spot: "For the second time in two years, Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst is in a primary runoff. And the odds are heavily against him."

Texas Could Lead On Methane Reduction, Report Says: "A report released this week says oil and gas companies could help slash methane emissions. But Texas, the nation’s top energy producer, is unlikely to lead the way."

Abortion Provider Shutters McAllen and Beaumont Clinics: "Whole Woman's Health announced late Wednesday that it is closing two abortion clinics — one in the Rio Grande Valley and another in Beaumont — as a result of strict abortion regulations passed by the Legislature last year."

Interactive: Where Texas Primary Candidates Bought Airtime: "As statewide candidates recover from primary elections and, in some cases, prepare for runoffs, use our interactive to see which campaigns purchased network airtime in Texas' four biggest media markets."

2014 Primary Cost Per Vote for Texas Candidates: "In competitive races, a candidate will ideally get the best bang for his or her buck. Use our interactive to see how much each candidate for a state office spent (or did not spend) for each vote he or she received in the March 4 primary."

Must-Read

Primary results from Valley show Davis has work to do, Houston Chronicle

Cruz’s post-primary endorsement of Cornyn, The Dallas Morning News

Texas 3rd placer backs incumbent Ralph Hall, Politico

Despite tea party gains, Speaker Joe Straus predicted to retain power, Austin American-Statesman

Former front-runner Dewhurst has an uphill climb in runoff, Houston Chronicle

Patrick And Dewhurst Ready For Round Two, But Neither Will Get Staples' Endorsement, KERA

Can Glenn Hegar win GOP comptroller race without a runoff?, Austin American-Statesman

Julián Castro and Dan Patrick inch closer to debate, San Antonio Express-News

Editorial: The vanquished ideas people, The Dallas Morning News

Quote to Note

"It was a miracle and only God could’ve pulled it off. That doesn’t sell papers, and you may think that’s corny, but I truly believe it."

Jim Hogan, giving the reason to the Texas Observer as he sees it for his first-place finish in the Democratic primary race for agriculture commissioner

Trib Events for the Calendar

•    A Conversation With Sen. Charles Schwertner and Reps. John Raney and Kyle Kacal at Texas A&M University in College Station, 3/27

•    A Conversation with U.S. Rep. Mike Conaway at Midland College in Midland, 5/13

•    Save the date for the 2014 Texas Tribune Festival: 9/19-9/21