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On the surface, the recent Texas Republican primaries were a race to the right on nearly every issue. But the underlying strength of every successful federal Republican campaign on March 4 was the ability to run an organized campaign.
Texas is so big, so complex, so expensive that for any ambitious Republican, conservatism is important but organization is paramount.
“The Republican political electorate is clearly looking for strong conservatives up and down the ballot, but money does matter at the statewide level because it takes so much time and resources to get your message out to the voters,” Texas-based GOP pollster Chris Perkins said.
Lone Star State open-seat Senate races are once-a-decade occurrences. Senior Sen. John Cornyn is headed for re-election to a third term in the fall, but many in Texas question whether freshman Sen. Ted Cruz is interested in a long-term legislating career.
If a Senate seat does open up, there is George P. Bush and then there is everyone else. Party insiders widely view the Hispanic nephew of George W. Bush as a Republican who can mitigate the impending demographic changes expected to hurt the Texas GOP in the coming years.
Beyond Bush, who is currently running for state land commissioner, state Sen. Dan Patrick, a lieutenant governor candidate, is expected to be a dominating force in Texas politics. He could run for Senate someday, but some operatives envision him as the Republican equivalent of legendary Democratic Lt. Gov. Bob Bullock.
The top three names mentioned from the House delegation as would-be Republican Senate candidates are Reps. Michael McCaul, Jeb Hensarling and Louie Gohmert. The argument for McCaul is obvious — as the second-richest member of Congress, he can fund a massive statewide campaign. As for Gohmert, he is now a national figure on the far right and could mobilize base voters in a GOP primary. State Sens. Ken Paxton and Glenn Hegar were also mentioned as potential Senate contenders.
Looking past the Senate, there are dozens of Republicans who could one day run for the House. The GOP dominates the 36-member House delegation, and only one of the three dozen districts is competitive — the 23rd.
In that sprawling southwest Texas district, former CIA officer Will Hurd and ex-Rep. Francisco “Quico” Canseco are vying for the Republican nomination to take on Democratic Rep. Pete Gallego in the fall. Down the road, national Republicans have their eye on San Antonio businesswoman Veronica Edwards as a possible candidate for the seat.
Everywhere else is a primary fight.