I woke up Wednesday morning and it felt great to be a Republican. The finely-honed President George W. Bush political strategy, candidate recruitment and Democratic fumbles led to the best showing for any political party in an off-year election where that party holds the White House.
With a strengthened House and GOP control of the Senate in Washington and Austin, we now have a chance to demonstrate how compassionate conservative leadership can make a difference in America.
With victory comes responsibility. The conservative base will now expect progress on economic and social conservative issues and we need to deliver. We also need to reinforce the idea that politics do matter, as an engine for conservative progress.
In Texas, despite facing more money than was ever spent in Texas political races, Rick Perry and John Cornyn led us to victory. A tip of the hat to Henry Bonilla for doing a great job in leading Victory 2002. (And thank goodness he won his race in a difficult district.)
As for President Bush and his political team led by Karl Rove, Ken Mehlman and Jack Oliver, a big hats off. The hardest working Republican in America raised more money and campaigned harder than any president in an off-year election and it showed. No one will outwork him. This victory also sends a message to the naysayers around the world, "you're either with us or against us." Let's roll.
An Interview with John Gizzi and
TCR: How do you think the GOP did on Tuesday?
John Gizzi: Fabulous. Only for the third time in this century did a President's Party make gains in a mid-term election and George W. Bush was the first Republican President since Teddy Roosevelt in 1902 to preside over such gains.
Denis Calabrese: Realistically, it could have hardly gone much better for Republicans. In Texas, Republicans dominated all the statewide races, judicial races, and will have majorities in both the Texas Senate and Texas House. Nationally, a House majority is secure, and the slim Senate majority is a significant shift in the balance of power - starting with the all important Committee Chairmen.
TCR: What was the reason for the results?
JG: The President worked harder than any President in midterm races since 1938, when FDR tried to purge conservative senators who had thwarted his effort to pack the Supreme Court the year before. (Bush was more successful than Roosevelt).
DC: Like many elections, I believe this election was more of an approval of a philosophy, and less about approval of a political party. Many independent voters are skeptical of politicians in both parties, but I think it is clear that voters reaffirmed their support of fiscally conservative, low tax polices along with a strong stance on international affairs.
TCR: What was the impact of President Bush and his extensive efforts for GOP candidates in this election?
JG: The base was energized by the President personalizing the race-he needed these new senators to make tax cuts permanent, and confirm his judges. As veteran Democratic consultant Bob Keefe concluded, "It's the President, Stupid!"
DC: The President risked a lot by campaigning so hard for his candidates, and was richly rewarded. If many races had been lost, the Democrats and the press would have claimed that Bush had little or no influence, and would have said that he was in danger of losing in 2004. Now, any objective observer would have to concede that the President is strong, popular, and well positioned for re-election.
TCR: How will the election results change Texas or the US?
JG: Bush has more power than any GOP President since 1952, when Ike was President and Republicans had both Houses of Congress. In effect, voters were giving him the mandate that did not come out of the disputed presidential election.
DC: It will likely change Texas the most because the GOP will finally have working majorities in both the Texas House and Senate. Think of the potential for good policy outcomes when the Speaker of the House, the Lt. Governor and the Governor can all work together on a unified policy platform. Nationally, the picture is not as clear, but it should at least bode well for stalled judicial appointments and some key pieces of legislation including homeland security.
TCR: What, if anything, does this election tell us about the 2004 cycle?
JG: As in 1994, the conservative base exists but will only turn out if they are made to feel the election is important to them. This was not the case in '98.
DC: Although limited conclusions can be drawn this early, clearly the President, and also Republicans in general, are better poised for additional gains in the next cycle. The Democrats have some soul-searching to do. They need to decide whether they will be liberal obstructionists to GOP policy or moderate collaborators to win back the respect of independent voters. They also must decide whether they will be the party of labor unions and personal injury lawyers, or whether they will once again try and represent the interests of a broader group of Americans.
TCR: Were you pleased with the voter turnout? To what do you account the level of participation on?
JG: You bet. It's always low-embarrassingly so in an off-year election-so if the conservatives are winning, who's turning out? Us guys. In fact, we actually went up over the '98 turnout, albeit slightly.
DC: It is too early as of this writing to know enough details about turnout to draw any firm conclusions.
TCR: What does this election tell about the future of the GOP? What direction does it have to go to be successful?
JG: Conservative. Look at who was elected to the Senate and look how the ranks of moderates diminished in the House. Roukema (N.J.), Morella (Md.), and Ganske (Iowa) are gone; the new class of freshman Members who are Republican are overwhelming conservative.
DC: It is very simple - the GOP must simply execute in deeds (i.e. legislatively), what they have said in words during their campaigns. A timid approach will spell future defeat for the GOP. Living up to their philosophy will mean long-term electoral success.
TCR: What do you believe the critical issues for voters that made a difference on Tuesday in Texas? And the US?
JG: Terrorism, federal judges, taxes.
DC: In Texas, it was overall fiscal conservatism on the budget, strong support for business/ jobs/economy, insurance reform, and curbing excessive litigation. Nationally, it was both foreign policy and the domestic economy.
TCR: Do you think negative campaigning is the future for Texas politics?
JG: Yes and no. If the opponent is too strong and well-funded, he or she has to be taken down. That means attack media. Had Bill Simon had the resources in CA to go on the attack against Gray Davis, he would have won. Likewise, if there is any target in Texas that needs to be taken down, negative campaigning will be used-so long as there is the funding for it.
DC: Since the very first elections in this country candidates have drawn sharp and often antagonistic contrasts between themselves and their opponents. Our Constitutional protections of free speech virtually assure that voters will see more of this type of advertising in US elections. Whether they continue to be effective or not is up to the voters themselves. When people stop buying a product, less of that product will be produced, whether that product is widgets or a certain style of television, radio or direct mail advertising.
TCR: With the continuing rise of the Hispanic community in key states, what does the GOP need to do to get a majority of this vote?
JG: Be itself and not appear to be pandering.
DC: Republicans need to promote worthy, qualified Latino candidates within the party, elect them in primaries, and support them in office if they do a good job. On issues, Republicans need to stress that they are the party of individual responsibly, small business, education, and the family.
TCR: Do you have any other observations about this year's elections?
JG: Grass roots politics had something of a revival. The 72-Hour program of the RNC and NRCC and use of volunteers did have an impact countering Big Labor's foot soldiers.
DC: Republicans have a window of opportunity to significantly change their state and their country for the better. These elections were simply the preface to a book that will now be written by their actions. Those elected have a heavy responsibility to lead, to lead effectively, and to live up to their ideology.
A Review of the Eight Key Races
Noted in TCR Vol. I, Number 12
In the last edition of TCR we cited a number of key races that would determine how we did. Well now we know.
1. Texas Lt. Gov. - Dewhurst, Toughest race - we won this and all others state wide.
2. Missouri Senate - Talent, We won and got control of the United States Senate.
3. North Carolina Senate - Dole, Closer than it should have been, but we won.
4. Colorado Senate - Allard, A nail biter and we won.
5. Florida Gov. - Bush, Bush Romps. Democrats failed to get their number one target.
6. Harris County Commissioner - Isbell. Garcia won and we lost it in the Commissioner's Court redistricting plan when the Harris County Republican Party plan, which drew a friendlier district to the GOP and Hispanics, was rejected.
7. Texas State Rep. HD 134 - Wong. We won and should get a real GOP speaker.
8. Minnesota Senate - Coleman, Democrats over-played their hand at the memorial service/left-wing political celebration and blew a race they had won. Thanks a lot.
On to 2003
Why the Houston Mayor's Race is the Most Important
Race in Years for the Republican Party and its Future
The subset of this question should be: Does the GOP in Texas have a future in the Hispanic community? In short, we better. With ominous demographic trends, the future of GOP lies in putting together a GOP-Hispanic coalition.
The stirrings of this coalition began in the Houston area in 2001 in the Houston's Mayor race when Orlando Sanchez galvanized the Hispanic community and the GOP, falling just short of victory.
The attempt in the 2002 governor's race to place Gov. Perry against the Hispanic community seems to have failed. Fortunately.
It's time to get to work to cement the future by electing Orlando Sanchez Mayor in 2003. There is not a better idea that will help insure a conservative future.
Redistricting Report Card
State House - Grade, A minus
So how did we do in the 2001 redistricting? For the state house as it stands today, there are 88 confirmed Republican winners (with a few others out). Hopefully enough for Tom Craddick to be speaker. Generally speaking, a good showing but with a little more artful drawing we could have elected a few more.
State Senate - Grade, B
Not a bad job - a sharper pencil would have taken John Whitmire out and maybe one other democrat. The Senate will be 19 Republicans and 12 Democrats.
Congress - Grade, D
Failure to control the legislature in the 2001 session hurt here. Redistricting went to the courts. The GOP gained two seats but could've gained five. Maybe an area to revisit in this session with GOP majorities.
Commissioner Court-Harris County - Grade, F
The too cute slight of hand redistricting made the precinct 2 commissioners race too hard to win and we didn't--losing it 52%-46% and by 6942 votes. Would the Harris County GOP plan have made a difference here? It appears it could have.
is a long time Republican spokesman, fund-raiser and leader who
recently completed three terms as the Harris County Republican
Chair. During his time as Chairman, Gary was described as the
most successful county Chairman in America by Human Events.
For six years, Gary put out a bi-weekly newsletter which he has
continued due to requests from many Republican activists.
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