April 26, 2020

Forget the Economy

Hard Right Attacks on Texas Governor Virus Revival Pace Overshadow
GOP Scramble for Backup Unity Plan with China as Common Enemy

Corona Big Book

MIKE HAILEY

Some Texas Republicans are marching in unwavering lockstep with the new national party theme on China coronavirus culpability while others break ranks with Governor Greg Abbott on the timing of a reopening that conservatives have been demanding for weeks.

Abbott took a shot from the hard right on Sunday when the group Empower Texans contended that the governor had effectively turned the management of the state during the pandemic to Democrats like Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner.

The organization that's led by the firebrand activist who took Texas House Speaker Dennis Bonnen portrayed Abbott as a milquetoast leader in a web site column that berated the relatively deliberate approach that the state's chief executive has taken in the midst of the COVID-19 surge.

The dismal appraisal questioned why Abbott had not been part of a coalition of southern Republican governors who've been coordinating restart plans with the President Donald Trump's timetable as a common guide. But the Empower Texans analysis failed to mention that Trump had called out GOP Governor Brian Kemp for moving at a pace that the president depicted as a potentially dangerous rush job.

While Kemp clearly thought that he'd been pleasing Trump with Georgia as the first state to get a significant reopening under way, Abbott has actually been more in line with the incremental removal of restrictions that the president endorsed this month when he deferred the decisions on lockdowns to the individual states.

The GOP's internal warring has been a major distraction from the unity theme that Republican leaders and strategists at the national level have started pitching with China as the chief villain in a substitution message for the loss of economic prosperity as the central mantra for the fall campaigns.

A veteran Washington operative had outlined the replacement strategy in a 57-page memorandum that the National Republican Senatorial Committee distributed to down-ballot nominees who've been grasping for a consensus battle cry after planning for months to run on a strong economy in 2020.

Republican congressional hopeful Kathaleen Wall had been the first congressional contenders in the nation to go ballistic on China when she accused the communist government there in a television ad of poisoning Americans with a campaign to cover up its role in the contagion's conception.

While the talking points on China had been intended as a weapon for use against Democrats, Wall wasted no time tailoring the backup message for a bid to come from behind in a primary runoff election this summer in an open congressional race in the Houston area where Fort Bend Sheriff Troy Nehls led her by 21 points in the initial vote in March.

Wall sought to beat her overtime opponent to the punch last week with the packaging of the newly orchestrated battle plan when she accused Democratic nominee Sri Preston Kulkarni of going soft on the Chinese as a proverbial diplomat who'd been more concerned with helping other countries than his own. Kulkarni has touted his experience as a former foreign service official in the federal State Department in back-to-back races in Congressional District 22 where he fared better than expected in 2018 in a battle with an incumbent Republican who isn't running again this year.

Wall stuck to the national script when she pointed the finger at the world's largest nation for lying about the "Chinese Virus" threat while promising to hold the Asian superpower responsible for the devastation in America like she claims Kulkarni wouldn't do if he flips the seat.

Wall took another page from the national playbook when she applauded Trump for suspending incoming air traffic from China while stopping short of defending the president in the face of widespread criticism for a sluggish response to the crisis in the early stages.

The NRSC had kept it simple with three basic bullet points that it expected Republican candidates to be repeating frequently between now and November.

* China caused this pandemic by covering it up, lying, and hoarding the world’s supply of medical equipment. ○ China is an adversary that has stolen millions of American jobs, sent fentanyl to the United States, and they send religious minorities to concentration camps.

* My opponent is soft on China, fails to stand up to the Chinese Communist Party, and can’t be trusted to take them on.

* I will stand up to China, bring our manufacturing jobs back home, and push for sanctions on China for its role in spreading this pandemic.

With an official title as the Corona Big Book, the newfound game plan comes complete with an extensive timeline for the pandemic and an expanded version of the basic selling points.

The NRSC memorandum features a long list of links to news reports for candidates to use as references along with stock answers to a battery of hypothetical questions and counterattacks. The memo features a special section for sidebar salvos at the World Health Organization as a conspirator in the worst public health emergency in more than 100 years.

CONSIDER THE SOURCE

Mike Hailey presents state politics with a personal touch. He's the only Texas Capitol journalist who's been to the dark side and back - having worked for two major newspaper bureaus before signing on as press secretary for Bob Bullock - the most powerful and legendary political leader of his time in the state. Hailey's Comment, which is published in Capitol Inside on a regular basis, is a direct reflection of that experience.

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04-07-20: Virus Target Peaks

03-30-20: GOP Remake-19

03-25-20: Doomsday Tax

03-23-20: Fiscal Hemorrhage

03-19-20: Political Casualties

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03-05-20: Salvation Show

03-01-20: Blue Wave Sign

02-19-20: Mad at Trump

02-18-20: Senate Special

02-05-20: Handshake Play

02-04-20: Trump Shadow

01-29-20: Hit List Refine

01-23-20: Ballistic Review

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