Parties now in home stretch
There had been concerns about continuing division between Hillary Clinton's forces and those of Barack Obama -- particularly after Hillary's non-concession speech following the final two primaries on June 3. Party leaders were anxious to come together as quickly as possible.
And sure enough, on Saturday, June 7, Hillary delivered what several pundits thought was one of the best speeches of her campaign - even if it was a concession speech. Though it was delivered in Washington, D. C., it was carried live on the big screen at the Austin Convention Center, so the delegates could watch her ask her supporters to join her in backing Obama.
This week, the political organizational focus shifts to Houston, where the Republicans showcase their statewide elected officials (the Democrats don't have any). They'll make the case that Texas is still a reliably red state, even as the Democrats try this year to turn it blue.
The GOP leaders will be trying to do that with the full knowledge that some of their rank and file voters - and some of the leaders - are uncomfortable with probable Republican nominee John McCain. There are concerns that disgruntled Republicans simply won't vote.
And then there's that maverick group of true believers who ardently back Congressman Ron Paul's libertarian anti-government message. The well-organized Paulistas elected enough delegates at precinct and county and congressional district conventions that they may well be significant players at the state level.
Even while Republicans maintain a stiff upper lip for public presentation, some worry that the Democratic optimism about November in Texas might be justified. There's nervousness that Harris County (Houston) this year could follow Dallas County two years ago, and flip most countywide offices to the Democrats.
After Democrats turned out about as many voters statewide in their primary this year as they did in the 2006 general election, one Republican consultant said this could be the reverse of 1980, when Ronald Reagan and his coattails upset the Democrats.
By the end of their national conventions, McCain and Obama will have announced their vice-presidential selections.
Political watchers wonder whether Obama will be able to stand off Hillary and hubby Bill and pick someone else as his veep nominee without the National Organization for Women melting down. But his team also knows that in a general election, the hackles she raises among Republicans and a considerable number of Independents, plus the prospect of a former president rattling around the White House, could subtract more from the ticket than it adds.
The Democratic delegates selected in Austin will go on to their national convention in Denver, Aug. 25-28.
And after the GOP convention in Houston, the Republican delegates go on to Minneapolis- Saint Paul, Minn., for their convention Sept. 1-4.
Expect McCain to continue his rap that Obama isn't ready for prime time, particularly in matters of national defense. And expect Obama - even while he's figuring out what to do about Hillary and Bill - to continue contending that McCain is channeling George W. Bush on everything from tax cuts to health care to Iraq.
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Kirk Watson Showcase . . . . Presiding over the Democratic convention was Austin's own state senator, Kirk Watson, who previously served for five years as the city's mayor. He also was the Democratic nominee for attorney general in 2002.
While displaying his sharp sense of humor, and a wise command of how to run a meeting, Watson was on show for Democrats from around the state, should he mount another statewide run.
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Tim Kaine, mi amigo . . . Watson introduced Virginia Gov. Tim Kaine to the conventioneers as a close friend - from the days when Watson was mayor of Austin and Kaine mayor of Richmond.
Kaine demonstrated to the Democrats, a considerable number of them Hispanic, that he speaks fluent Spanish - partly from spending nine months teaching at a Jesuit school in Honduras, while taking a year off from Harvard law studies.
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Prima-Caucus Among Us? . . . The Democrats voted to put off dealing with complaints about their hybrid primary and caucus delegate selection method until their next state convention in 2010. Party Chair Boyd Richie appointed state Sen. Royce West of Dallas to head a committee to study the matter between now and then.