February 23, 2006

Tom DeLay's press conference with the Texas GOP delegation; Campbell's press availability and poll

I was in the area, but detained until right before the start of the press conference. I sprinted over, arriving more than a little out of breath, with my notebook in hand to pretend like I was a real reporter. One thing about political rallies that I'd never experienced from the other side: if you hold a notebook in your hand, no one in the crowd will talk to you.

The overarching theme for the day was Tom DeLay's power and what he has done for district 22 and Houston at large. The work DeLay had done for funding NASA was cited over and over by the Congressmen, as well as funding DeLay had secured for the Port of Houston, transportation and mobility projects, and research.

Henry Bonilla spoke first, and set an enthusiastic tone. Bonilla's claim: "[Delay has had] as big of an impact on Texas politics as LBJ." He further offered that DeLay didn't ask the Congressmen to come, but that "we asked him to come here." (I checked this out with various non-DeLay congressional sources who told me that Bonilla's office did in fact make the calls.)

Y'know what's great about being a blogger? I don't have to organize this stuff. So here are the things I wrote down in my notebook. These are some random quotes and observations.

Fort Worth's Kay Granger followed Bonilla, then Kevin Brady. Brady spoke at length on DeLay's work in funding Houston mobility, and credited DeLay with Texas' sales tax deduction. Pete Sessions was up next, followed by John Carter. Carter labeled DeLay the "best member of Congress in America." John Culberson: "The Chronicle never reports on all the magnificent work Tom and Christine have done on foster care." Then Judge Poe spoke, while Sam Johnson arrived. DeLay had a big grin on his face the whole time, and started turning pretty red somewhere around this point.

Newly elected East Texas Rep. Louie Gohmert opened with a joke, and some of the reporters even cracked a smile. Somewhere during this time, the cell phone of one of the Chronicle writers was vibrating repeatedly (and loudly, for vibrate mode). Sam Johnson from Plano spoke, and then DeLay's 1984 classmate Joe Barton spoke for a long time on DeLay's integrity ("I'll stake my reputation that he's a man of integrity"). Barton also promoted DeLay's work on port security over the years.

DeLay came on and talked about how he ran for Congress to support Reagan's tax cuts and win the Cold War, and how the issues were remarkably similar today: tax cuts and war on terror. He offered that the press conference was at University of Houston because "I take advantage of my members...may be asking for help [for UH] soon."

On the Bush administration's proposed port deal, DeLay said that it was, "not just a bad idea, it's a national security risk" and that Congress "would have an important role to play in changing this policy."

He also got in a few shots at the "liberal extremists funding Nick Lampson's campaign" and that Lampson would support "Nancy Pelosi's agenda." They then decamped to the lunch room, which was closed to the press. Apparently, that includes bloggers...I guess that's a compliment!

Tom Campbell was holding a press availibility, so I wandered around until I found them. Unfortunately for them, UH's parking is pretty crowded, so they were kinda far off from the UH Hilton, which made the media attendance sparse, at least while I was there.

Some themes and quotes from Campbell:

* Now that he's not Majority Leeader, DeLay's power is "more perceived than real."
* I can win this district in November; DeLay can't.
* While he isn't getting any public endorsements, elected officials are telling him off the record that he will have their vote.
* His polls showed him neck-and-neck with DeLay
* DeLay's recent attacks on him were good for his name ID in the district.

Campbell shared that they'd done an internal autodialer tracking poll by OneNet Info (whom I'm unfamiliar with, and I know lots of pollsters) over the last few days which showed Campbell with 47%, DeLay with 38%, and Other with 14%. He claimed that this was an improvement over some of their recent polling, though he conceded that with only 151 respondents, the margin of error was quite large (his campaign puts it at 9%, I suspect it might be even larger since Dr. Hill put the Chron's recent poll with 213 respondents at a 9% margin of error).

Some thoughts on the poll:

1. I agree with Campbell about his name ID. One of the dangers that DeLay faced when they chose to attack Campbell was that they would raise his name ID. Attacking raises name ID.

2. DeLay's camp clearly has some fear of Campbell. At the outset, they said that Campbell was a credible challenger. But not only does DeLay want to win, they don't want to eke out a small victory. The decision to attack shows that they thought attacking was worth raising his name ID.

3. Although I think Campbell's name ID is higher because of the attacks, I'm not sure I buy that it's above 40% yet. I talked with a few folks around the district, and they agreed with me.

4. A poll that offers only Campbell, DeLay, and "Other" as responses will push some Baig or Fjetland voters into Campbell's camp. Campbell conceded to me that they were pushing people to make a choice between Campbell and Delay.

5. DeLay's campaign claims that they've heard from people outside the district who were polled, and also questioned the poll's methodology as confusing.

6. I don't think Campbell is winning right now, despite what his internal polls show. I would definitely require more polling that says so before I believed that to be true. Internal polling always overstate their candidate's support; it's an axiom of politics. Though I don't question their good faith, it cuts against my intuition and my anecdotal evidence. But then, the great thing about politics is that we'll know who is wrong or right in the next few days.

Now that I've written my post, let me go see what the reporters wrote about the press conference.

UPDATE: Here's how Kristen Mack from the Chronicle wrote up the story:
Ten Republican members of the Texas congressional delegation, including a few who owe their jobs to redistricting engineered by U.S. Rep. Tom DeLay, came to Houston on Thursday to endorse the incumbent.

"We're not here because Tom DeLay is 'The Hammer' or because Tom DeLay is some intimidating, threatening character," said Rep. Joe Barton of Ennis, referring to DeLay's nickname as an enforcer of party discipline. "We're here because he's been a leader and a voice for positive conservative change."

UPDATE 2: Here's how Wendy Benjaminson from the AP led her story:
U.S. Rep. Tom DeLay was likened to Stonewall Jackson, Lyndon Baines Johnson and a courageous World War I officer today as members of the Texas Republican congressional delegation joined the former House majority leader to endorse his re-election.

The unusual display of GOP solidarity was remarkable for DeLay, who is aggressively campaigning for re-election to the seat he has held comfortably for 22 years. This year he faces a contested primary March 7, and if he wins, a credible candidate in Democrat Nick Lampson in November.

"He's got a contested primary; that's why we're here," said U.S. Rep. Joe Barton, R-Ennis.

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