Republicans in Washington spent the last several days deal-making among themselves to reach, and hold, a bare Senate majority toward passing their mish-mash tax cut bill.
President Donald Trump has been selling it as a tax cut for the middle class, not for fat cats like himself and his family.
Meanwhile, top Washington Democrats say the tax bill does far more for the wealthy than middle and lower-income people, and in fact will shift more tax burden onto them in a few years.
How that tax bill plays to the electorate will be a big factor in the 2018 midterm elections. But Democrats, in Texas and elsewhere, hope the miracle victory by Democrat Doug Jones in Alabama is also a positive sign.
Jones won the Alabama U.S. Senate seat Jeff Sessions gave up to become Trump's attorney general, over controversial Republican nominee Roy Moore, in a state Trump carried by 28 percentage points in 2016.
Democrats hope that, plus their impressive showing in Virginia's off-year election Nov. 7, was no fluke – truly signs of a coming boost of their political fortunes in the 2018 midterms. Democrats pegged voter turnout, particularly among African-Americans and women, as key to the win.
The sexual harassment furor that spread to politics, plus the huge women's march on Washington the day after Trump's inauguration in January, are signs of a Blue Wave, with women helping pilot the ship as never before.
It showed up in Virginia, where more women than ever before ran for state assembly seats, and won more than a dozen held by Republicans.
In elections for the Texas House of Representatives, this year the Republicans have enjoyed a 95-55 edge over the Democrats. But after the filing deadline passed on Dec. 11, Democrats had filed for significantly more seats held by Republicans than did in 2016.
In the 2016 elections, Democrats challenged in just 36 districts either held by a Republican, or had been. They left 51 Republicans unchallenged. But for 2018, Democrats have left unchallenged just 19 of the 150 districts.
Republicans, meanwhile, are leaving 40 seats uncontested next year – more than twice as many as the Democrats.
Whether that means anything in the long run, of course, won't be known until after the general election next November 6. But it is a signal of significantly more enthusiastic interest by Democrats.
Texas U.S. Senate Race. . . . One Democrat already running hard for next year's election, U.S. Rep. Beto O'Rourke of El Paso, said just after the Alabama election that he's finding a similar positive excitement in Texas about Democratic possibilities.
"Our state is waking up," O'Rourke said in a recent interview with CNN. "Texans are getting off the sidelines and into the game, making something wonderful happen for Texas and something critically important for the United States."
O'Rourke has been stumping the state for the Democratic nomination for the U.S. Senate seat held by Republican Ted Cruz. His campaigning approach is an interesting mixture of the old and new.
He is barnstorming the state in the old style statewide candidates used in the 1950s and before, when candidates went by automobile from county courthouse to county courthouse, pressing the flesh and making speeches. In those days before television, the candidate would often nap in their station wagon while a campaign aide did the driving.
O'Rourke has the same kind of press-the-flesh, in-person campaigning, that had been largely supplanted in the 1960s and since by airport press conferences and paid TV ads to get regional exposure.
But the 21st century part of O'Rourke's approach is the use of Facebook streaming of his appearances. So while he may only speak to a crowd of 200 or 300 people in a campaign visit, he may reach 100 times that many, or more, through the low-cost use of social media.
O'Rourke had gained some national celebrity last March, when he and Republican U.S. Rep. Will Hurd, who represents the huge congressional district next to O'Rourke's, rode together in a rental car the 1,600 miles from San Antonio to Washington.
Snow had grounded their airline flights. As they drove, they live-streamed their bi-partisan journey to the capitol for votes, after bad weather had canceled hundreds of airline flights.
Their camaraderie, during a time of partisan gridlock in Congress, provided a welcome example of putting cooperation above competition to tens of thousands of Facebook viewers.
O'Rourke is considered to be climbing a steep political hill in taking on Cruz in a state sufficiently rRed that it hasn't elected a statewide Democrat since 1994. But he nonetheless seems to be striking a nerve, and generating more interest than might have been expected from his campaign mix of the old and the new.