This week, we asked our insiders who they think the early front-runners are to win the primaries in 2014's big-ticket statewide races. The shocker: In the race for lieutenant governor, the incumbent ranked last.
There were no surprises in two of the top contests. In the Republican primary for U.S. Senate, 88 percent said they expected incumbent Sen. John Cornyn to keep his seat. A mere 10 percent said they would pick U.S. Rep. Louie Gohmert, R-Tyler, to oust Cornyn.
In the GOP primary for the state's top political job, governor, our insiders overwhelmingly picked Attorney General Greg Abbott to defeat former Texas Workforce Commission Chairman Tom Pauken. Abbott got 96 percent compared to Pauken's 3.5 percent.
Our insiders were much less decisive about the races for lieutenant governor and attorney general, fields that are chock-a-block with Republican candidates. In the race to lead the Texas Senate, Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, the incumbent, came in dead last, with just 11 percent of the vote. Current Agriculture Commissioner Todd Staples, a former state senator, was the top pick at 27 percent. More than 25 percent said state Sen. Dan Patrick, R-Houston, would take the dais, while nearly 20 percent picked Texas Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson.
In the race to replace Abbott, state Rep. Dan Branch, R-Dallas, came out on top with nearly 40 percent of the vote. Nearly 28 percent chose state Sen. Ken Paxton, R-McKinney, as the winner, and less than 18 percent picked Railroad Commissioner Barry Smitherman as the victor.
We collected comments along the way and have included the full set as an attachment. Here’s a sampling:
Who do you think would win the Republican primary for U.S. Senate?
• "Other than liberal pundits and TEA Party cranks, who is spending any time thinking about this race? This is and will be Cornyn's seat as long as the state votes Republican."
• "I think Gohmert could give Cornyn a run for his money but Cornyn has been tacking to the right for a while now and that's probably enough for him to survive a primary run."
• "The stars and planets would have to be perfectly aligned to take out Senator John Cornyn. He will take every threat seriously and destroy it."
• "Cornyn wins easily. Although if Gohmert runs, it will be a fun campaign to watch."
Who do you think would win the Republican primary for governor?
• "Experience, results, message and money. Unless Abbott moves out of state, this race is over."
• "Abbott is defeatable, not strong and a duplicate of Rick Perry. Pauken really needs to take advantage of it and set-up himself as the anti-establishment candidate and win this mother out."
• "Seriously? Is Evan Smith allowing the interns to come up with these questions? The primary is Abbott's warm-up match before the main event."
Who do you think would win the Republican primary for lieutenant governor?
• "The establishment guys are either quietly backing Dewhurst or shilling for Staples. If Patterson can raise some money, he will surge to the top."
• "Despite his problems among party activists, the others will divide the opposition vote, and that, combined with the Dew's money, will likely get him there."
• "Governor Dewhurst should retire and let the rest duke it out. #getaclue #timetogo"
• "I see a runoff between Dewhurst (money gets him there) and Patrick (right wing support). In a runoff, I see Patrick beating Dewhurst with more hard-core right wing supporters."
Who do you think would win the Republican primary for attorney general?
• "Smitherman's more pugnacious than the other two and that'll win favor and support in the primary."
• "Dan Branch has done a lot of work in the past few weeks to make this a toss-up between him and Smitherman. Paxton chose a painful way to retire from the Senate."
• "Any of the four could win."
• "Paxton is going to surprise. He has the "I challenged the Speaker" and has a large base."
Our thanks to this week's participants: Allen Blakemore, Allen Place, Andrew Biar, Andy Sansom, Anthony Haley, Blaine Bull, Beth Cubriel, Bill Hammond, Bill Stevens, Bill Jones, Bill Ratliff, Bruce Gibson, Bruce Scott, Tom Duffy, Cathie Adams, Chris Britton, Charles Bailey, Cal Jillson, Clyde Alexander, Colin Strother, Clint Hackney, Christopher Shields, Dennis Speight, Dale Laine, Dan Shelley, Darren Whitehurst, David White, David Cabrales, David Dunn, Deborah Ingersoll, Debra Medina, Denise Davis, Doc Arnold, Dominic Giarratani, Mike McKinney, Robert Kepple, Elna Christopher, Ed Small, Gary Polland, Gene Acuna, George Allen, Gerard Torres, Gardner Pate, Grant Ruckel, Harold Cook, Hector De Leon, Jack Erskine, Jenny Aghamalian, James LeBas, Jim Henson, Jason Johnson, Jay Arnold, Jay Pritchard, Jeff Eller, Pete Laney, John Greytok, Jim Grace, Janis Carter, John Esparza, Jon Fisher, Jim Sartwelle, Jason Skaggs, Jay Thompson, June Deadrick, Keats Norfleet, Kevin Cooper, Kinnan Golemon, Ken Hodges, Kim Ross, Keir Murray, Kerry Cammack, Karen Reagan, Nick Lampson, Laura Huffman, Dick Lavine, Lydia Camarillo, Lisa Kaufman, Leslie Lemon, Louis Bacarisse, Larry Soward, Luke Marchant, Luke Legate, Marc Campos, Mark Smith, Matt Mackowiak, Dan McClung, Mike Moses, Mark Jones, Michael Quinn Sullivan, Myra Leo, Nora Del Bosque, Neftali Garcia, Nef Partida, Nelson Nease, Norman Garza, Pat Nugent, Patrick Reinhart, Wayne Pierce, Peck Young, Ramey Ko, Randy Cubriel, Brian Rawson, Richard Pineda, Richard Dyer, Richard Khouri, Richie Jackson, Richard Levy, Robert Miller, Bob Strauser, Robert Jones, Robert Scott, Royce Poinsett, Robert Peeler, Russ Tidwell, Ruben Longoria, Seth Winick, Shanna Igo, Sandy Kress, Snapper Carr, Stan Schlueter, Jason Stanford, Steve Murdock, Steve Holzheauser, Sherry Sylvester, Tom Banning, Tom Blanton, Thure Cannon, Tim Reeves, Tom Kleinworth, Todd Smith, Tom Phillips, Tom Spilman, Trey Trainor, Eric Glenn, Vicki Truitt, Victor Alcorta, Vilma Luna, William Chapman, Wil Galloway, Wayne Hamilton, Ware Wendell, Angelo Zottarelli