Politicus Interruptus

The bet here is that the U.S. Supreme Court wouldn't have taken the Texas redistricting case if they thought it was a good idea to hold elections using the San Antonio court's plan. If it was, why issue a stay, set arguments, and risk delaying the primaries?

So what's next? Do they give the state a pass to use the Legislature's maps even without the preclearance review required under the Voting Rights Act? Or do they tell the state to wait for pre-clearance and all that, delaying the primaries once again?

What the federal courts have done in the past, in one form or fashion, was to acknowledge the calendar — to let the elections proceed with "good enough" maps, knowing as they did so that the ultimate maps would be different. Even though they've made a mess of the political spring this year, that's not out of the question. Don't be at all surprised if the maps used for this year's elections are different from the maps used for congressional and legislative plans in 2014.

If it wants to move quickly, the court could put the Legislature's maps to use for the 2014 elections, though they haven't been precleared. Or it could use the maps drawn by the federal judges in San Antonio, though those judges didn't issue a finding that the Legislature's maps were inadequate.

Meanwhile, the federal district court panel in Washington, DC, will hold hearings January 17-26, with closing arguments on February 3, on whether the Legislature's maps should be pre-cleared for use under the terms of the Voting Rights Act.

This is a pretzel, a Rube Goldberg timeline in words:

1) The Legislature enacts maps;

2a) the attorney general goes to his choice of the Justice Department or the Washington courts for preclearance;

2b) various parties unhappy with the legislative results sue in federal court in Texas;

3) preclearance under Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act is granted or not, and the DOJ or the Washington courts sends that work to the federal panel in Texas;

4) the Texas panel holds hearings under Section 2 of the VRA, the U.S. Constitution, and whatever else has been raised in the lawsuits;

5) the Texas panel draws maps (anything from simple approval of what the Legislature did to major changes) that take their own findings and the Section 5 instructions from Washington into account and orders those maps into effect;

6) appeals, if any, take place; and

7) the elections are held.

Sometimes, the last two steps are flipped, and the courts remain busy as the elections proceed.

This time, steps 4 and 5 got in front of step 3 when the Texas court tried to get a map in place in time for the statutory election deadlines. The court didn't start with the Legislature's map — which was pending in court in Washington — and the state went to the Supremes — usually step 6 — to freeze the game and try to get the state map in place of the court's map.

For some, that's an argument for reconsidering the whole preclearance part of the federal law, and the current Supreme Court has already expressed some frustration with Section 5 in another Texas case two years ago. Most of the lawyers involved say this Texas case doesn't present a straight-up challenge to the Voting Rights Act, but several other cases in the pipeline — from North Carolina, from Alabama, and in a Voter ID case from South Carolina — could. In the Texas case, the main legal question is whether the federal courts or the state Legislature's map is superior.

There are two practical questions to be answered before the state's politics can get started again. What maps? When is the election?

The Supreme Court hears oral arguments on Monday.

Losing, But with Time on the Clock

Gov. Rick Perry and his wife, Anita, addressing supporters after his fifth-place finish in the Iowa caucuses on Jan. 3, 2012.
Gov. Rick Perry and his wife, Anita, addressing supporters after his fifth-place finish in the Iowa caucuses on Jan. 3, 2012.

If the voters haven't ruled you out, and the money people haven't starved you, why quit?

Gov. Rick Perry didn't perform to his stated expectations in Iowa, but so what? He's gonna lose big in New Hampshire, but so what? If those two wins aren't required to win the nomination for president — and they're not — why not give South Carolina a whirl? He's apparently got enough money. It plays to his strengths — social conservative, fiscal conservative, evangelical, Southern, Republican, Tea-stained, etc. — and it may be that voters by then will have soured on the other alternatives to frontrunner Mitt Romney.

Other than the fact of that Tuesday night "reassessment" speech, there's nothing in the Iowa results that calls for a finale. The Iowa caucuses are interesting, but they don't have anything to do with who wins the nomination. If you get out of the cornfields with a political pulse, you keep going. Perry's campaign has looked more like a bottle rocket than an Atlas rocket, but there's still a little gunpowder there. They've apparently decided to see if it can still fly.

Forget about the caucus night speech and the talk of coming back to Texas to reassess and all of that. Perry still has money and this is, at this stage, more like a poker game. If you have money, there's a new hand being dealt, and if you want to sit out for a hand and play again in South Carolina, that's allowed under the rules. Why not? It's someone else's money.

The other players are flawed, too. Romney is still the frontrunner, and has done this before. Two candidates — Herman Cain and Michele Bachman — are gone. Newt Gingrich peaked before the Iowa Caucus and could bubble up again in his native South. Rick Santorum was the story in Iowa, but hasn't worked the coming states like he did that one.

Perry has stumbled, and badly, but so has everyone else. The first one to find his footing could become the last remaining alternative to Romney. At the start of this last summer, that's all anyone wanted to be. They just didn't know that prize would go, at the end, to the tallest piece of rubble.

A Late Guessing Game

One interesting side effect of the state's redistricting battle is that the Texas filing period will open up again before the primaries and candidates — including presidential candidates, by the way — will be able to pull their names off of the ballot. If Gov. Rick Perry decides to stop before then, he can pull off his name, leaving Ron Paul as the only Texan in the race at the top of the GOP primary. Will that affect turnout? The results?

It keeps the betting window open for a while, and the races are forming up differently. Candidates have filed for districts that might not exist, and some (maybe) didn't file because of the uncertainty. What's usually known in December before an election year won't be known now until February: Who's actually in these races?

The dates could easily change, but as they stand, the courts have said there will be another filing period ending February 1 — with candidates able to add their names, delete them, or change their filings. Perry and anyone else will be able to pull out if they want to. We'll all know more by then: That's the day after the Florida primary, and New Hampshire (January 10) and South Carolina (January 21) will be history by then.

It also puts third-party efforts into a box. They have to file their petitions with the state by May 28 and any signers who voted in the primaries can't be counted. Under the current schedule, the primaries will be over on April 3, but the runoffs won't be until June 5, and in Texas, you don't have to vote in a primary in order to vote in a runoff. Unless they patch that hole, candidates like Donald Trump — if he moves ahead with his bid — could have petition signers wilting away in the primary runoffs after their deadline for replacing them has passed.

The messes are endless.

Over the holidays, the associations that represent counties and county officials went to court to say the April 3 date is unworkable unless some adjustments are made to the law. With the cases pending in federal courts over the month of January, the timeline might be unworkable anyway; election officials can't draw precinct lines without political maps and can't get voter registrations sent out and back and early voting handled and on and on. And they don't want the blame if the legal dithering screws up the primary elections.

May dates are problematic because of local elections in many parts of the state. Among the issues: they don't have enough voting machines for two different elections too close to each other, and primaries can't be held on the same dates as other elections. For one thing, primaries don't include places where independents can vote, and those people sometimes like to choose their own mayors.

The other big bump on the calendar is the first full week of June, when the Republican and Democratic parties hold their state conventions in Fort Worth and Houston, respectively. They have to have election results before then to organize and choose delegates and so on.

The judges ordered the parties and the election officials into a room to try to work things out; that didn't produce an agreements or timelines. Like everything else about Texas politics this year, that's up in the air.

Our last issue of 2011 came out before the first filing deadline for candidates; you can see the election brackets, as they currently stand, here.

Inside Intelligence: Should He Stay or Should He Go?

For the first Inside Intelligence survey of 2012, we waited until the morning after the Iowa caucuses to see what Texans thought Gov. Rick Perry should do after finishing fifth there. Most, but not all, answered after Perry said he was coming home to Texas to "reassess" his candidacy and before he went for a run and tweeted his decision to stay in the race and press on to South Carolina.

It didn't change the view from here, however: 73 percent of the insiders say the governor should hang it up. About that same percentage hangs the blame for his performance in the presidential race on the candidate himself; most of the rest blame his longtime political advisors.

An overwhelming 85 percent think Mitt Romney will be the Republican nominee for president when the primaries and conventions are over. A third of them think Perry should endorse him now, while 44 percent say the governor shouldn't endorse anyone.

As always, we asked for comments on some of the questions and the full set of answers is attached. Here's a sampling:


Rick Perry finished fifth in Iowa and is returning to Texas to 'reassess' his campaign. Should he stay in or get out of the race for president?

• "He needs to stay in....Gingrich has too much baggage, Santorum is too far right, and Romney can't get above 25% support within his own party. Therefore, a conservative southern governor, like Perry, could have a resurgence."

• "Rick Perry has never lost a race. In terms of his legacy and ego, he needs to finish strong with a win in South Carolina, or he is really going to be perceived as a lame duck governor. This is about redemption."

• "SC is a better test of his appeal. Plus he could setup for a cabinet position."

• "The non-Mitt candidate is still being sought. Why not stay and see if Newt's attacks end up helping Perry."

• "He's as likely to emerge as the ultimate not-Mitt candidate as anyone and could perform very well in SC if properly funded."

• "He is not helping himself."

• "Oh please! From here on it's only about vanity, or maybe increasing future speaker fees."

• "At this point, the only person pulling for him to stay in is Mitt Romney."

• "In any other year, he would be finished. But this is an unprecedented campaign, and he certainly has less baggage than 'put folks like me in jail' Newt or 'no contraceptives' Santorum"

• "There's really no difference between staying in or getting out. He's already lost."

• "End the pain."


Who is to blame for Perry's showing in the race so far?

• "The 'Oops' moment rivals Admiral Stockdale for one of the most inept debate gaffes ever."

• "'Blame' is the wrong approach to understand what has happened thus far and why. The real question is what has Perry and his team learned so far, and whether it is possible to build a winning strategy going forward."

• "The blame part is less interesting than discovering just how resilient Perry is. The guy can just get back up and move on, over and over again. It's amazing."

• "He had early momentum. He had an experienced team. He had the money. Ultimately, it's up to the candidate to deliver - and he didn't."

• "The 'oops' moment will live forever. Bad debates were forgotten with his strong debates, but that one brain freeze knocked him to bottom."

• "He's not ready for the Presidency, and no amount of coaching and speechwriting can get him there this cycle."

• "The idea that what Perry has done to become and remain Governor would prepare him to be a Presidential Candidate was always absurd. He should never have been in the race."

• "Also: The Democrats (and maybe the media) for failing to push him hard in any election so far, leaving him unprepared for the big time."

• "Old advisors didn't do a very good job preparing him for the national scene, but it was HIS recurring poor performances in the debates and in front of the media that submarined any possibility of a viable campaign."

• "You can't whip a mule to a win in the Kentucky Derby."


Who should Perry endorse if he gets out?

• "He should endorse a conservative candidate like Santorum, but the conservative alternatives to Romney are all unelectable. He would be endorsing a conservative loser, just like himself. This race will be over this month anyway. Romney will be the R nominee."

• "What's a Rick Perry endorsement worth?"

• "Eventual nominee. Might as well start the healing process early."

• "Wait for the field to stabilize and endorse before Super Tuesday and the Texas Primary!"

• "I'm not all that sure any of the remaining candidates would welcome Perry's endorsement."

• "Perry's endorsement would only carry weight in Texas, and by that time he'll still be in it to win it!"

• "He should strongly support and actively work for the eventual nominee, but no one before."

• "If he's looking out for #1 (himself), Perry will endorse Romney. If he no longer cares, then he'll endorse Santorum or no one."

• "If object of the game is to beat Obama, he should endorse Romney. Republicans have a golden opportunity, and are doing everything possible to mess it up."


Our thanks to this week's participants: Gene Acuna, Cathie Adams, Brandon Aghamalian, James Aldrete, Clyde Alexander, George Allen, Jay Arnold, Louis Bacarisse, Charles Bailey, Tom Banning, Mike Barnett, Reggie Bashur, Walt Baum, Leland Beatty, Dave Beckwith, Amy Beneski, Rebecca Bernhardt, Andrew Biar, Allen Blakemore, Tom Blanton, Hugh Brady, Steve Bresnen, Chris Britton, Lydia Camarillo, Snapper Carr, Corbin Casteel, William Chapman, George Cofer, Rick Cofer, Lawrence Collins, John Colyandro, Harold Cook, Hector De Leon, June Deadrick, Tom Duffy, Scott Dunaway, David Dunn, Richard Dyer, Jeff Eller, Alan Erwin, Gay Erwin, John Esparza, Jon Fisher, Robert Floyd, Kyle Frazier, Neftali Garcia, Dominic Giarratani, Bruce Gibson, Eric Glenn, Daniel Gonzalez, Thomas Graham, Michael Grimes, Bill Hammond, Sandy Haverlah, Albert Hawkins, Jim Henson, Ken Hodges, Shanna Igo, Deborah Ingersoll, Cal Jillson, Jason Johnson, Mark Jones, Robert Kepple, Richard Khouri, Tom Kleinworth, Sandy Kress, Nick Lampson, Pete Laney, Dick Lavine, James LeBas, Donald Lee, Luke Legate, Leslie Lemon, Ruben Longoria, Vilma Luna, Matt Mackowiak, Luke Marchant, Bryan Mayes, Patricia McCandless, J. McCartt, Dan McClung, Parker McCollough, Kathy Miller, Robert Miller, Lynn Moak, Bee Moorhead, Steve Murdock, Craig Murphy, Keir Murray, Keats Norfleet, Pat Nugent, Sylvia Nugent, Nef Partida, Gardner Pate, Tom Phillips, Wayne Pierce, John Pitts, Royce Poinsett, Kraege Polan, Jerry Polinard, Jay Propes, Ted Melina Raab, Bill Ratliff, Tim Reeves, Kim Ross, Jeff Rotkoff, Jason Sabo, Luis Saenz, Mark Sanders, Jim Sartwelle, Stan Schlueter, Bruce Scott, Steve Scurlock, Dan Shelley, Bradford Shields, Christopher Shields, Julie Shields, Dee Simpson, Ed Small, Martha Smiley, Todd Smith, Larry Soward, Dennis Speight, Jason Stanford, Bob Stein, Bob Strauser, Colin Strother, Charles Stuart, Sherry Sylvester, Jay Thompson, Russ Tidwell, Bruce Todd, Trent Townsend, Trey Trainor, John Weaver, Ware Wendell, Ken Whalen, Darren Whitehurst, Christopher Williston, Michael Wilt, Seth Winick, Peck Young, Angelo Zottarelli.


The Week in the Rearview Mirror

The Make America Great Party filed papers with the Texas Secretary of State to form in Texas, setting the first pavestone for a third-party effort by New York celebrity businessman Donald Trump. They'd have to gather more than 49,000 signatures to get him on the ballot — all from registered voters who don't vote in either the primary or runoff elections — and submit those by May 28.

Movement conservatives looking for a "consensus" Republican candidate will meet at Paul and Nancy Pressler's Brenham ranch this weekend, according to Politico. Some apparently want an alternative to Mitt Romney coming out of the Republican primary; some just want a candidate who doesn't get so cut up that it weakens the GOP's chances in November. The Presslers, from Houston, have been supporters of Gov. Rick Perry.

Texas' new voter ID law, with an enactment date of January 1, didn't take effect. It's stuck at the U.S. Department of Justice, which hasn't pre-cleared the new law under the federal Voting Rights Act. The DOJ said the state didn't use the proper measure of the law's impact and has asked state officials to produce more information on the race and ethnicity of registered voters who, according to the state's records, don't have driver licenses or state photo IDs.

Boeing will move 300 to 400 jobs to San Antonio as it relocates maintenance facilities for Air Force One and similar planes from Wichita, Kansas. The company already has 2,800 workers in San Antonio.

On the last weekday of 2011, a federal court in Washington, DC, stayed the Environmental Protection Agency's controversial cross-state air pollution rule. That's a win for state officials, who call the rule a job-killer. Environmentalists hope to prevail in court hearings later this year; they favor the EPA rule.

Political People and their Moves

Texas Railroad Commissioner Elizabeth Ames Jones is constitutionally required to live in Austin to hold that office, but swore her residence is in San Antonio when she filed last month to run against State Sen. Jeff Wentworth in the Republican primary. He says she needs to quit the RRC or the race to get right with the law. “Our home is in San Antonio, where I was born and raised,” she told the San Antonio Express-News. “We live in the same district that I represented in the Texas House. We also have a house in Austin, but our home is in San Antonio.”

Former Harris County Commissioner Jerry Eversole won't do jail time for his conviction for filing false tax statements. He instead resigned last year and is now on probation for three years after federal investigators accused him of taking bribes from a developer. Most of the charges were dropped; Eversole, a commissioner for two decades, has been replaced by Jack Cagle.

Jennifer Hall, a longtime Ron Paul backer, is the new chairwoman of the Tarrant County Republican Party. She was elected to finish the term of Stephanie Klick, who gave up the job to run for the Texas House. Now that she's got the GOP job, Hall says she'll remain neutral in primary races. And she'll be on the primary ballot, trying for a full term in the post.

Quotes of the Week

This is a quirky place and a quirky process to say the least. We're going to go into, you know, places where they have actual primaries and there are going to be real Republicans voting.

Gov. Rick Perry, leaving Iowa

There will be a great debate in the Republican Party before we are prepared to have a great debate with Barack Obama.

Newt Gingrich, who finished fourth place in Iowa, to a crowd of supporters

Not a whole lot of people knew that I was acting governor. Some that did were asking for appointments and things like that.

Texas Senate President Pro Tempore Mike Jackson, who has the top job when Gov. Rick Perry and Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst are out of the state

Republicans talk a lot about losing their way during the last decade, and when they do they’re talking about the Bush years. For Republicans, the Bush administration has become the 'yadda yadda yadda' period of American history.

Jack Pitney, a political science professor at Claremont-McKenna College, in the Boston Globe