Analysis: In Texas, D meant defeat

SMU Political Science Professor Cal Jillson talks about Tuesday's midterm elections with The Houston Chronicle.


From the moment the "Bill White for Texas" campaign moved from a U.S. Senate race to a governor's race, the Democratic candidate knew he was facing a long, hard, low-gear climb. Bill White, an inveterate bicyclist, needed every gear to mesh perfectly. He needed a clear path, however challenging.

He got neither. A red-state race that all along was going to be daunting proved an impossible slog in a state full of restive Republicans determined to reverse their 2006 and 2008 losses and in an anti-Washington season that grew ever bleaker for candidates nationwide with a D attached to their names. . .

Speculation immediately turns to (Gov. Rick ) Perry's future. Despite his renewed four-year lease in Austin, a number of political observers suspect he has his eyes on Washington, the place he professes to disdain. Launching a national tour to promote his new book, an anti-Washington screed entitled Fed Up, "he immediately becomes a national figure and a spokesman for the conservative wing of the political party," said Cal Jillson, a political scientist at Southern Methodist University.

White's political future is equally unclear. Although White said he would return to the private sector in Houston, Jillson said he would not be surprised to see a return trip to Washington for the former deputy secretary of energy.

"There's going to be a major reassessment in the Obama administration. They're going to be looking for some adult supervision, and he could provide that," Jillson said.

White also has to be considered the frontrunner among Democrats who want to succeed Hutchison in the U.S. Senate.

"Good Democratic years are going to come to Texas," he said. "The question is when and whether you have a high-quality candidate like Bill White to take advantage of them. What this election allowed us to see is the weakness of the Democratic base. Linda Chavez-Thompson and Hank Gilbert and the other down-ballot candidates are good people but not strong candidates."

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