Former Bush Guy Matthew Dowd Is Trying to Turn Texas Blue


Wendy Davis was supposed to be the massive blue Texas breakthrough. Back in 2013, she leveraged a 13-hour abortion-rights filibuster into the Democratic nomination for governor, solely to get clobbered by Greg Abbott. In 2018 the savior was going to be Beto O’Rourke; the skateboarding, livecasting former El Paso congressman bought nearer however failed to topple Republican senator Ted Cruz.

The mixture of émigrés from California to Austin and the state’s growing racial range have been supposed to have pushed Texas to the left a very long time in the past. Yet Democrats have not won a serious statewide workplace in additional than 20 years. So perhaps what the social gathering wants to knock off an incumbent Republican is…a man who used to be a Republican?

That’s a part of Matthew Dowd’s idea, anyway. As a political operative, Dowd was an adviser to George W. Bush’s 2000 presidential marketing campaign, then moved up to grow to be the chief strategist for the 2004 Bush-Cheney reelection run. Now Dowd has grow to be an unbelievable candidate within the Texas Democratic Party’s lieutenant governor major, aiming to tackle Republican Dan Patrick. “Yeah, it’s not as if I don’t know how unpleasant the life of a candidate can be,” Dowd says with amusing. “But we’re at an unbelievably dangerous and crucial time in America, in the unfolding of January 6 and how the GOP has refused to hold anybody accountable for the greatest threat to our democracy since the opening shots of the Civil War. And watching what’s happening with GOP politicians in Texas, from COVID and the electric grid failure to women’s rights getting taken away and crazy gun laws, I just kept asking myself, ‘What more can I do?’”

Dowd’s disenchantment with the social gathering just isn’t new: He split with Bush, loudly and publicly, in 2007 over the dealing with of the Iraq conflict. He spent many of the subsequent decade as an Independent, guide, and TV commentator, earlier than turning into a Democrat—a return to the social gathering the place he’d began within the ’80s, earlier than becoming a member of forces with Bush. There’s loads of distance from W to MAGA, however does Dowd deserve any of the blame for creating the mess we’re in now, the one he’s working to assist repair? “Of course,” he says. “But I don’t think anyone foresaw the time we’re in today, where George W., a compassionate conservative, couldn’t get 20% of the vote in a Republican presidential primary. Did I make mistakes and did we make mistakes? Yeah. And I’ve tried to speak to that.”

Dowd’s Republican previous is simply one of many hurdles he’s dealing with. His Democratic major opponent, Mike Collier, enjoys larger title recognition with Texas voters, particularly after Collier got here inside 5 factors of defeating Patrick in 2018. But the state’s political panorama supplies some encouragement: While Texas definitely hasn’t gone blue, it’s shading considerably purple. “No question the change is slower than many folks want,” says Julián Castro, the previous mayor of San Antonio and 2020 candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination. “But in the 2018 midterms, Democrats picked up two congressional seats in the suburbs of Houston and Dallas, two state Senate seats, and 12 state House seats; 2020 was basically a wash for both parties. Then when you add in Democratic county commissioners in the corridor between San Antonio and Austin and Cumberland County, it’s fair to say that during the Trump era, Texas moved considerably to the left. Now, what’s happening with Abbott and Patrick on abortion and voting rights—these guys are dinosaurs and cavemen. The gap between their bullshit backward politics and what people expect—these Republicans are living on borrowed time.”

Perhaps. A veteran Texas Republican operative vigorously disputes that evaluation. “The state was competitive when people were saying it was solid Republican, and now they’re writing it’s competitive,” he says. “The irony is that Republicans in 2020 did better than we did in 2018.” One important issue within the GOP’s favor, the operative says, is that Texas Latino voters are more conservative than generally understood, and the Republican antiabortion push has resonated with them.

Dowd will finally want to draw direct contrasts with Collier, his Democratic major opponent, however his predominant gross sales pitch is that he’s one of the best general-election challenger to take the struggle to the Republican incumbent. “I’ll give Dan Patrick credit for something: He’s very consistent, in that every time there’s a big issue facing Texas, he first lies about it and then he chooses a policy that makes it worse,” Dowd says. The major isn’t till March 1. But Dowd has already succeeded in drawing nationwide consideration to what’s normally a low-profile native contest. “It’s kind of like a man-bites-dog-story: George W. Bush’s campaign manager running for Texas L.G. as a Democrat,” says Sean Clegg, a senior adviser on California governor Gavin Newsom’s profitable recall marketing campaign and on Kamala Harris’s 2020 presidential marketing campaign. “Texas is moving demographically, but it’s culturally hard to win as a Democrat there. Sometimes you need shock troops to make progress.”

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