The Brief: May 11, 2011

It's a long shot, and he knows it. But the question remains: Is the president angling for Texas in 2012?

President Obama after his speech at the Austin City Limits Live studio on May 10, 2011.
President Obama after his speech at the Austin City Limits Live studio on May 10, 2011.  Bob Daemmrich

The Big Conversation:

It's a long shot, and he knows it. But the question remains: Is the president angling for Texas in 2012?

After stopping in El Paso to deliver a major speech in which he made an economic argument for comprehensive immigration reform, the president, in full campaign mode, traveled to Austin, where he spoke at two high-dollar fundraising events.

"We’ve still got some climbing to do, so don’t take off your boots," Obama told a crowd of supporters at a venue in downtown Austin (video of which can be found here). "It’s going to take more than one term to get there."

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Texas has long served as a cash machine — if not especially fertile political ground — for Democratic presidential candidates, and Tuesday was no exception for Obama, who was expected to raise up to $2 million from the Austin events alone.

But the president's visit again raised the age-old question: Will a Democrat finally make a play for Texas?

As Politico reports, the president's advisers, despite Obama's seemingly insurmountable poll numbers in the state, have said yes, citing quickly growing minority and voting age populations. But Democrats, even with an eye on the state's changing demographics, have gotten little political traction in the state over the past two decades. Democrats, Republicans say in response, are simply trying to scare the GOP into spending money in safely red territory. 

"I hope they do spend all of their money and time on Texas so they can divert it from Ohio, Nevada, Pennsylvania, Florida, New Mexico and Michigan,” Republican strategist Karl Rove tells Politico.

But this time may be different: Obama, expected to run a billion-dollar campaign, could afford some or most of the $20 million it would take to run an effective statewide campaign, supporters say, and demographics may be shifting more quickly than some think.

But Republicans like Rove aren't convinced. Obama's advisers "must think that South Texas is the South Side of Chicago and that North Texas is the North Shore [of Chicago]," Rove says. "These guys need a geography lesson.”

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Culled:

  • The San Antonio Express-News has a look at the likely legacy of this session's Democrats, who, already beleaguered, in the past week have suffered a series of stinging defeats and punishing payback from Republicans fed up with their opponents' stalling tactics.
  • "Sanctuary cities" legislation won full House approval Tuesday, but most other immigration-related bills — including controversial measures like one that would deny illegal immigrants access to higher education — are likely dead. "The will — from the highest levels in the state — is just not there to deal with tough bills concerning illegal aliens," Rep. Leo Berman, the Tyler Republican who has filed a number of controversial bills on the matter, tells the Austin American-Statesman.
  • Ricardo Sanchez, the commander of coalition forces in Iraq who retired after the Abu Ghraib prisoner scandal broke, will announce today on Facebook that he's running as a Democrat for Kay Bailey Hutchison's U.S. Senate seat, The Associated Press reports.
  • The budget may be fueling talks of a special session, but legislators have yet to even take up the school finance bill that legislators say must be passed to fashion any sort of final budget proposal

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