MY STREET – Good grief, already? There, stuck in a neighbor’s front yard, is a sign reading, “McCain in 2008.” There is nothing odd that such a sign would appear in my neighborhood, Running Rats Acres. This territory is solid conservative GOP – is that redundant? Cars can only make right turns, kids are taught Mount Rushmore is named for Limbaugh and there is a petition going around to repeal the Emancipation Proclamation. No, the startling point is not the sentiments of the sign, but the fact that it is already up, five months before the first Tuesday after the first Monday in November (I speak fluent Constitution). We have just endured the longest primary season in our nation’s history, 17 months, and, even before anyone removes the signs supporting Hillary – let’s call her that since “Clinton” could be confusing – we are already gearing up for the general election. Give us a break. We Texans are more weary than usual of all-campaigning-all-the-time since this year we actually had a contested primary and thus some campaigning in our state: Hillary vs. Barack Obama. Usually by the day our state’s primaries are held, the party’s winners have long since been chosen. The only time any wannabe presidents come to Texas is to shake the money tree. Then they are off in their charter jet to Boston to spend it. Incidentally, we may be seeing Hillary back in Texas, hat in hand. Even though she is no longer a candidate, she has run up about $21 million in IOUs, believed to be the largest debt in presidential campaign history. This includes $11.4 million of her own money. But will this sudden interest in our opinions and votes carry on to the general election? Why should it? Texas is the reddest of the red states, and everyone in both parties figures there is no point in John McCain or Obama bothering to campaign here. Their efforts wouldn’t change the outcome, it’s always a slam dunk for the GOP, and since Texas plays winner-take-all in the Electoral College, we’re not worth bothering with. Then again, maybe this year is different. Both parties and both candidates will be taking secret polls, hosting quiet focus groups, sneaking around to see if there is any way at all that Texans might Go O. We shall know that we are up for grabs if we start seeing TV ads for the candidates, sudden visits to our cities, and rallies on the Capitol steps. A political first: they will be spending Texans’ money in Texas. Then their secret will be out – Texans are no longer knee-jerks (some would say we’re just jerks). On the other hand, we must suspect neither party really wants to blow cash in Texas. We are expensive. As we discussed a month or two ago, Texas is separated into 20 media markets, among the most of any state in the country, with the added need to buy ads in Oklahoma and Louisiana if the candidates want to cover every corner of our state. The campaign staff’s gas costs alone would shatter the budget. The ads would have to be in English, Spanish and, in places, Vietnamese. Garry Mauro, who was state director for Hillary, told a New York Times reporter, “It’s like running a national campaign. There are no similarities between Amarillo and Brownsville and Beaumont and Texarkana and El Paso and Austin and Houston and Dallas. These are very separate demographic groups with very diverse interests.” We have the problem of our recent past: the Texas two-step. This was the Democrats’ idea of a primary, and if I were a Texas Dem I would be furious at my party’s state leaders. They somehow made their counterparts in Michigan and Florida look the model of efficiency and sleek professionalism. “We have grown men crying over it,” Hillary commented about Texas’s complicated process. No one, especially outsiders, could comprehend how Clinton won Texas 50.9 percent to 47.4 percent, earning roughly 100,000 more votes than Obama. However, our two-part system of a same-day primary and a caucus allotted delegates that ended up netting Obama more delegates than Hillary. Neither party wants to touch Texas with a 10-foot poll. Let us now look at a few events here that did not happen. Gov. Rick Perry is no longer being mentioned as a veep candidate. In his last election, Perry got 39 percent of the vote, pretty bad for an incumbent Republican governor in a red state. But he had the added burden of being a Republican governor of Texas. Some voters feel his predecessor didn’t work out real well in his new job (25 percent approval). As a final suicidal plunge, our governor backed Rudy Giuliani. Strike three. What else is not happening? In the last seven presidential ballots, a Bush or a Clinton has been listed on our ballots. People talk about Clinton fatigue nationally, but here in the Lone Star State, counting both Bushes’ candidacies, we have seen a Bush on our statewide ballots nine times. If you include their various Congressional races, even more. This year it’s not happening. Here’s something that might happen, but shouldn’t. There has been talk of an Obama-Hillary Dream Team Ticket – a black man and a white woman. Texans have already seen such a joint effort, and it bombed. In 2002 when Tony Sanchez, a Hispanic, and Ron Kirk, a black headed up a Democratic Dream Team, and got stomped two to one. Texans can advise, forget Dream Teams. Whether we are McCain’s and Obama’s newbestfriend, either way, this still has been an exciting presidential election year for Texans. It has also been a fun year, watching the 32 presidential debates, seeing millions of dollars – donated by other people – being wasted, and, best of all, watching democracy in action. Remember Churchill’s words: “It has been said that democracy is the worst form of government except all the others that have been tried.” Ashby writes in at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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