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RealClearPolitics Politics Nation Blog

 

Blog Home Page --> House -- Texas -- 14

Could Paul Lose?

Having represented Texas's Fourteenth District, an area larger than Massachusetts, since 1997, winning easily in his five reelection bids since then and galvanizing a stunningly enthusiastic grassroots movement for his Presidential campaign, Republican Rep. Ron Paul should be able to coast to another reelection for his House seat this year. Yet some political observers are claiming that Ron Paul may have a hard time winning the Republican Primary for his seat when Texas voters head to the polls March 4.

Rumors increased last week when Paul's campaign announced it was significantly scaling back its Presidential campaign and would concentrate on his Congressional reelection bid, causing speculation that Paul had reason to fear his seat is in jeopardy.

In an interview with Politics Nation yesterday, Friendswood city councilman Chris Peden, who is challenging Paul, said their internal polls did show him in the lead. "Our campaign staff wouldn't be working as hard if we didn't think we would win. We feel good about this campaign; momentum is growing in our favor," Peden said.

Paul spokesman Jesse Benton told Politics Nation that while the campaign can't take any votes in the district for granted, the campaign's internal polls show Paul with a "sizable lead".

Peden has been advertising himself as a "Pro-Life, Pro-Family, Christian conservative who believes in smaller government, the free market, and personal responsibility." He poses this in sharp contrast to Paul's libertarian positions which he says often conflict with the district's more mainline conservative views, including on foreign policy matters.

Peden is also hitting Paul hard for what he claims has been Paul's indifference to the interests of the district, such as Paul's opposition to funding NASA, the headquarters of which, due to 2004 redistricting, is now just a few miles from the district boundary. The Galveston County Daily News wrote this weekend that Paul was either less than fully informed or completely unaware of several problems within the district.

Just last week, two House incumbents in Maryland, Democrat Al Wynn and Republican Wayne Gilchrest, lost their respective primaries amid charges they were out of touch with their party's ideological base. Paul's campaign realizes that his only chance of losing the primary would be conservative voters moving over to support Peden. In response, Paul's campaign has been releasing news of endorsements from prominent conservative groups throughout the state.

The whirlwind of publicity Paul's presidential campaign has received has no doubt filtered into his district. He is also well liked by those who cite his history of personally reaching out to individual concerns of his constituents. An upset would certainly shock and outrage Paul fans across the country. The likelihood of that occurring depends partially on which campaign one believes.

-- Greg Bobrinskoy

Where's The Confidence?

He's raised more than $16 million this quarter alone. He has set himself up as a hero of the growing libertarian movement around the country. He is acting more like a front-runner every day. But Congressman Ron Paul is still, at heart, a pragmatist. Roll Call's David Drucker reports today that, regardless of how he does in the presidential sweepstakes, Paul will file for re-election to his House seat.

Meanwhile, Paul campaign chief Lew Moore tells Politics Nation that the impressive fundraising performance the campaign turned in earlier this week will allow them to focus on building staff. The campaign has "a very full-blown canvassing program" run out of offices in Des Moines and Concord, New Hampshire, Moore said, and Paul advertisements will go up in Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina and other early states.

Paul's libertarian message is playing better in some parts of the country than in others, something the campaign recognizes. "Our greatest amount of focus has been on New Hampshire," Moore said, though "we're going into all the early states," including forays into Florida and Michigan.

Paul's appeal comes, Moore speculated, from Republican losses in 2006. "It's in many ways pent up demand. Our party has campaigned election after election on smaller government, and there is no smaller government," he said. "The Republican Party is shrinking."

Unlike Paul's, the GOP's "finances are in serious trouble in several areas." Paul, who Moore contends helps the GOP attract new voters, is doing more good than harm. "The Republican Party needs to be about expanding the base, not restricting it."

Part of acting like a front-runner, in modern politics, is attacking opponents. Paul's campaign recently paid for two Arkansas legislators to head to Iowa and make the case against Mike Huckabee. Still, no campaign wants to be seen as going negative, and the Paulites are no different. "It isn't so much a matter that we're going after Mr. Huckabee. I think a lot of our folks in Iowa are frustrated that the people that we're talking to are not aware of his record," Moore said. "People in Iowa should have the opportunity to know about it."

Paul remains an unlikely candidate to win the GOP nomination. But as his campaign begins to act more like a front-runner, they would do well to develop the confidence that other front-runners have. John McCain, for one, would never say he will plan to run for re-election, making clear his own assumption that he will win the nomination.

For now, Moore will not speculate on his campaign's chances anywhere. "I have no idea where we'll actually finish," he said.