You have the Texas Republican Party.
Now you also have the Texas Republican “tea party” Party.
It’s not exactly a third-party phenomenon but the evolution of the Texas GOP into something new is going to be among the hot political topics of this mid-term election cycle.
The Texas Tribune has put together an interesting analysis, written by editor Ross Ramsey, that examines the Tea Party 3.0 of Texas and its current superstar, state Sen. Dan Patrick, a candidate for lieutenant governor who’s now in a runoff against the incumbent in that office, David Dewhurst.
Ramsey notes that Gov. Rick Perry is the godfather of the Texas tea party. He parlayed the state’s Republican angst over perceived federal “overreach” during the 2010 mid-term election, which saw the governor re-elected by a typically large margin over his Democratic challenger, former Houston Mayor Bill White.
Then came Ted Cruz, who bolted onto the scene during the 2012 election season. Cruz defeated Dewhurst for the Republican nomination for U.S. senator; Dewhurst had been considered a virtual shoo-in to replace the retiring Kay Bailey Hutchison. Cruz busted that fantasy by defeating Dewhurst in a runoff and going on to swamp Democratic opponent Paul Sadler in the fall.
Patrick is the latest tea party favorite.
As Ramsey has noted in his essay, Patrick has been unknown outside of his Houston-area state Senate district, but is catching fire across the state with his rhetoric about border protection and his fervent opposition to the Affordable Care Act. He is playing well with the base of his party.
Cruz well might figure into this mix somewhere, given that he and Dewhurst once squared off and his endorsement has become one of the most treasured anywhere among Republican candidates.
There once was a time when the Democratic Party was seen as the party at war with itself. Democrats seem to have made peace with each other. The intra-party battle is now occurring on the other side.
At the moment — and maybe for the long term — the tea party is winning the battle in Texas.
Dan Patrick’s performance in the runoff set for May 27 and beyond if he wins the GOP nomination for lieutenant governor will tell us a lot more about the tea party’s staying power.