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Texas Primary Campaign Left Out Texas Issues

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Texas hasn’t had a relevant primary campaign in over a generation. Maybe that’s why both Democratic candidates seemed so clueless here. They know how to address the Iowa agricultural community, the New Hampshire independent streak, the South Carolina African Americans. They even do pretty well with the myriad of local concerns and interests found within the most important Super Tuesday states. But when it comes to the nation’s second most populous state, they never found a groove that worked.

A few weeks ago, the ads and messaging revolved around healthcare, which was a decent choice as our state has plenty of problems in that regard. But that issue quickly disappeared and was replaced by a series of ads I call “vote for me because I’m me.” Hillary Clinton focused hard on her Texas political roots, featured lots of Hispanics and somehow expected us to believe that because she registered voters here in 1972 she knows all about Texas in 2008.

Barack Obama just gave up on serious messaging altogether. Other than a spot touting his judgment on the Iraq war, which I saw for the first time last night, most of the Obama ads in the final weeks featured him inspiring people and/or people being inspired by him. The message: change is good, Obama is change. Issues were mentioned but they were subservient to the cults of personality both candidates tried to whip up.

That’s a shame. Texas has real issues a president could address. A good deal of the Mexican border is right here and I would love to have heard more about how the candidates would handle the massive federal land grab that will be necessary to build a wall and how they will balance immigration enforcement with Texas’ need for an expansive workforce. I would like to have heard some pandering to our road problems, we could use some federal money to increase our highway capacity. How about telling us how they plan to reform NAFTA and tax oil companies without hurting the Texas economy? Then there’s drug gang border violence, coastal hurricane preparation, education funding and how to produce enough power for the rapidly growing metro areas (Coal? Nuclear? Wind? – they all have their supporters and detractors).

Sure, some of Texas’ concerns run counter to the Democratic narrative for this campaign. Ohio is a much better fit. But, still, I think Obama and Clinton could have done a much better job of explaining what Democrats can do for Texas. If the party ever wants to win the Lone Star state back from the clutches of Republicans (who hold every statewide elected office) they can’t just expect the national message to work. The state party is certainly happy about the attention it’s received but it should be disappointed the candidates failed to meaningfully address issues most important to us Texans.