By Manifesto Joe
I happened to be in downtown Fort Worth, Texas, on business Saturday, and it wasn't the kind of day I wanted to be in the middle of Cowtown. Some 3,000 Republican activists converged on the city the previous day, giving ironic new meaning to the historic setting of the Old West's "Hell's Half Acre." I don't think Butch and Sundance would have blended in well with this particular "wild" bunch. And I noticed there were some mighty swell motor vehicles taking up all those precious parking spaces -- SUVs, Caddys, Hummers, Lexuses and such.
If you follow the news, as I suspect many of you do, you may know that U.S. Rep. Duncan Hunter of California won the Texas GOP's first "straw poll." This hasn't been a top story, because the frontrunners in the scientific polls all skipped this one. But Fred Thompson, not even an official candidate yet, was certainly the symbolic winner. He came in second. And somebody's favorite son, U.S. Rep. Ron Paul of our fair state, finished a disappointing third.
The official count Saturday was: Hunter, 534 votes, for 41 percent of the total; Thompson, 266, for nearly 21 percent; Paul, 217, or 17 percent; former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, 83; former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, 78; former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, 61. It dropped off sharply after that. Arizona Sen. John McCain got 8 votes. I'd say he seemed the biggest loser of the day.
There was scant media attention at the national level, and participation was surprisingly weak in a red state. The Texas Republican Party had projected 2,000 voters; something over 1,200 had the credentials and ultimately did.
This event had only the slightest symbolic significance. Texas' primaries are in March -- too late, some say, for the second most populous state to even figure in the real selection of the nominee. But for Fred Thompson, this has to be great news.
If the former Tennessee senator and sometime TV actor can fare this well among the hardcore activists at a gathering where he didn't even show (Hunter and Paul were there and spoke), he seems to have a lot of momentum before he has even declared. To many Republicans right now, at a seeming nadir for their party, he may appear the most "glamorous" choice in a dull field.
As for Duncan Hunter winning, take it with a grain of salt. These were hardcore activists who were in Fort Worth on Friday and Saturday. If you want to know what that means in this state, here's an excerpt from an old post of mine regarding GOP kooks:
The Texas Republican Party, in its delusional 2004 platform, for example, urges that the IRS be eliminated, along with "income tax, inheritance tax, gift tax, capital gains, corporate income tax, payroll tax and property tax." The state GOP would also kill "the Bureau of Tobacco and Firearms, the position of Surgeon General, the Environmental Protection Agency, the Departments of Energy, Housing and Urban Development, Health and Human Services, Education, Commerce and Labor." (I guess when you believe that The Rapture is coming soon, who needs a government?)
The comparably deranged 2000 platform calls for America to return to the gold standard and supports "individual teachers' right to teach creation science in Texas public schools." It also calls for the United States to quit the United Nations and re-establish control of the Panama Canal. (It stops short of unleashing Chiang Kai-shek's skeletal remains on mainland China.)
People who showed for this thing are the ones who likely sit on the platform committees, as distinguished from the vaguely conservative, baseball-cap Bubbas out there who elect Republican county commissioners and DAs. The straw poll voters were not casual about politics. They had to have solid credentials as recent GOP convention delegates, at some level.
Certainly for Ron Paul, this had to be a big letdown. The newspapers reported that his backers were organized and tried to come to town in force. On Sixth Street I saw an RV that, aside from the windshield and windows, was totally plastered over with Ron Paul bumper stickers and yard signs. Cindy Sheehan actually came to town and spoke at an anti-war rally, and the only Republican signs at that gathering were toted by Paul's isolationist supporters. But there weren't enough of them there, either.
For whatever it's worth, Thompson scored in Texas on Saturday. He proclaims himself a Reagan-style social and economic conservative. That plays well in this state, even though our working class got just as badly raped by Reaganomics as did proles anywhere else in the U.S. The activists like Fred. And I suspect Bubba will, too. He probably watches his TV show.
Manifesto Joe Is An Underground Writer Living In Texas.