Updated 11:18 a.m.
Well, friends, in case there’s any doubt, the race for Speaker of the House is officially public. Why now, you ask? The candidates themselves are now campaigning online. Hardline conservative Ken Paxton, who’s running to unseat the current Speaker Joe Straus, has his very own “Paxton for Speaker” website. And Monday night, a pro-Straus YouTube ad appeared, touting the Speaker’s Republican creds.
All this effort to mobilize activists in a race they can’t vote on. After all, House members still elect their own Speaker.
In actuality, the entire effort by the far right to unseat the Republican Speaker Joe Straus has really shown off this movement’s tech-savvy. There’s ConservativeSpeakerMandate.com. Then there’s StopJoeStraus.com, StopJoe.info and No2JoeStraus.com. (The fight for website names must have be rather fierce.)
Then there are the YouTube videos. Who knew that so many hard-line conservatives were also film-makers? In one particularly high quality video, called “Speaker Showdown,” jolly holiday music plays and statements promising to get rid of Straus appear in between as vague catchphrases: Massive House Shift, Voter ID, Redistricting. If Jingle Bells isn’t your thing, one intrepid amateur has put a montage of Straus facts and photos to the tune of “Stuck in the Middle with You.” Or you can hear right-winger David Barton explain what’s at stake, while constantly gesticulating and phrasing everything as awkwardly as possible.
The grassroots effort is certainly catching—an online letter demanding a new speaker has 5,300 signatures. The “Oust Straus” Facebook group has 1,200 members. And that Speaker Showdown video? Over 2,500 views.
Yet, for all the videos and petitions, Straus currently still has over 120 loyalty pledges from members, including the vast majority of Republicans. He’s lost some Tea Party freshmen, who fled to his opponent Ken Paxton. (First West Texans Jim Landtroop and Charles Perry came aboard, and yesterday East Texans James White and Erwin Cain.) The pressure on the newly elected is intense; check out StopJoeStraus.com’s post on Tea Party freshman Stefani Carter, who’s currently pledged to Straus. “Let’s take a look at the promises Stefani has made during her campaign,” the post reads. “Can she really honor her promises and still vote for Joe Straus? … It is clear—Joe Straus is not the kind of speaker Stefani promised to vote for.”
Straus still has hardline conservatives like Dennis Bonnen and Doc Anderson among his supporters. State Rep. Sid Miller—a hard-liner himself—even defended Straus against some of the attacks. For Paxton or anyone else to have a chance of beating Straus, there would have to be a mass exodus from the Speaker’s camp, a critical mass that could provide cover for more reps to come over. For the most part, that just doesn’t seem to be happening.
But the first sign of cracking came Monday night, when the Straus camp released its own YouTube ad. It’s a pretty boring piece, set to elevator music, on just how long the Speaker has been a Republican. Even Straus’ cute childhood photos couldn’t make the content exciting. However, this marks the first time the Straus camp has really reached beyond the chamber in an effort to gain support. Tthe Straus camp has largely stayed above the fray, though they have advertised on The Drudge Report and sent out a letter from pro-Straus conservatives. Still, the video is the most direct effort so far, with Straus speaking to voters, rather than just House members, and responding to the allegations that Straus isn’t a “real” Republican. It doesn’t mean Straus is in danger yet, but clearly some of his supporters are trying a new tactic, presumably ease some of the outside pressure.
Either that or they just got jealous that the other side was having all the YouTube fun.