March 5, 2019

Salvation Show

Joe Biden Method of Victory Fuels Madness Across Aisle in Texas
Where Momentum-Stealing Resurrection Boosts Democrats Odds


Texas Republicans probably have more to fear than ever in the wake of Joe Biden's extraordinary Super Tuesday renaissance that makes you wonder if the slump that preceded it hadn't been manufactured to make the comeback possible.

Hollywood couldn't have come up with a more perfect script for the former vice president than the floundering that paved the way for a miraculous resurgence en route to a Texas presidential primary election win that hadn't seemed possible a week or two ago.

The box score in Texas wouldn't have seemed all that impressive back in the fall when the Biden campaign had been on cruise control with double-digit leads here in the polls. Biden beat chief primary rival Bernie Sanders by less than 5 points in Texas with a mere mortal 34 percent of the vote.

But the numerical margin wasn't the true measure of the Biden victory's magnitude in the state with the second highest number of delegates up for grab in 2020. The way that Biden won is a far more telling gauge of the primary outcome's significance as a harbinger for the fall when he has a better chance now to beat President Donald Trump in Texas than he would have had if he'd led wire to wire before the primary vote.

Biden's Texas triumph transpired in a fashion that's almost too hard to believe. After appearing one step short of comatose throughout the month of February, a born-again Biden seized the victory here by transforming the appearance of momentum that he'd created into votes at the polls.

Dramatic come-from-behind wins have a contagious effect on the electorate compared to predictable frontrunner victories that are more likely to breed complacency and indifference. That's especially true when elections are won with furious eleventh-hour scrambles at times when all had appeared to be lost.

The Biden campaign had been desperately low on emotion and passion before it had the opportunity to roar back from the dead at the last minute with Super Tuesday wins in Texas and eight other states. A Democratic challenger who'd been in the depths of desperation before a perfectly-time resurgence poses a much more serious threat to Trump than a challenger who'd captured the nomination without a real fight.

The Democrats and Republicans who understand the critical nature of association in politics have acknowledged that the minority party's odds for taking Texas back in 2020 will be substantially higher with Biden as the White House nominee than they would have been with Sanders in that role.

The prospects for a Democratic takeover in the Texas House in November are much greater with Biden at the top of the ticket in a state where the month-long Sanders surge had put a major damper on that. Democrats would reclaim the majority in the west wing of the state Capitol with a net gain of nine seats or more in the general election this year.

A Biden victory here in November would make it extremely difficult for the GOP to maintain control in the state House that's the undisputed ground zero of politics in Texas. But regaining control of the Legislature's lower chamber for the 2021 redistricting session appears to be the more achievable and arguably more important goal from a long-term perspective for a Democratic Party that hasn't carried Texas in a presidential race in 44 years.

GOP leaders and loyalists here had been ecstatic about the possibility of Sanders as the Democratic banner-bearer in a state where they'd been screaming about the threat of socialism with the progressive U.S. senator from Vermont as the nation's next chief executive.

But Biden will take the punch from the Texas Republican talking points as a more pragmatic and conventional presidential nominee who's the clear and only establishment choice in a primary field that no longer includes Mike Bloomberg. The former New York City mayor who spent millions of dollars in a failed Texas bid shut down his campaign and enthusiastically endorsed Biden on Wednesday after a dismal showing here with only 14 percent of the primary vote.

Sanders Senate colleague Elizabeth Warren followed Bloomberg's lead on Thursday when she informed her staff that she was dropping out of the White House competition after weeks of fizzling. Warren could join the Sanders movement or rally behind Biden if beating Trump is a higher priority.

From a tactical standpoint, Biden is more of a nightmare for Texas Republicans than they'd initially anticipated as a consequence of the strength that he demonstrated in the suburbs on which the battle for the state House majority will hinge.

In the final analysis of the Super Tuesday vote, Biden left Texas with a dramatically different playing field in his wake as a result of the unconventional path that he took to the top of the leader board here. But Biden needed an unexpected fall as a springboard for a spectacular revival that's under way in earnest now.

Mike Hailey's column appears on a regular basis in Capitol Inside


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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