Yesterday, Texas held its primary nomination runoffs, and two of the contests ended rather unexpectedly. In a solidly Republican seat, long-serving U.S. Rep. Ralph Hall lost. In addition, Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, who was running for re-election and who has held his position since 2003, lost his re-nomination to State Sen. Dan Patrick.
Republicans in Texas seem to want change.
The contrast with Democrats in California ahead of next Tuesday’s primary couldn’t be any clearer. Despite interests and individuals spending millions of dollars on the elections, three state Democratic state senators being suspended for alleged corruption charges, and two senior Democratic House members retiring (Rep. George Miller and Rep. Henry Waxman), political observers in the Golden State are girding for the “lowest-ever turnout in a primary for governor.” The former governor and current incumbent Jerry Brown, looking to retain his post, has only token competition this year, and is, as the Los Angeles Times put it, “expected to romp.”
Democrats in California want more of the same.
Interestingly, these state trends seem to mirror the sentiments of partisans nationally. Not only is it evident that Republicans are working to bring “change” to the Senate, while the Democrats are hoping Sen. Harry Reid gets to retain his “majority leader” title, but the out-parties in Texas and California are also following suit.
In Texas, the Democrats handily rejected vocal Obama-critic Keesha Rogers and nominated David Alameel to take on incumbent U.S. Sen. John Cornyn. They, too, want more of the same. Even if the same is a “wealthy Dallas investor,” somewhat more like Pennsylvania Democratic gubernatorial nominee Tom Wolf, than San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro, who is looking to come to Washington through another route.
Meanwhile, in California, a Republican wild card, Tim Donnelly, whom Karl Rove has warned may turn into a general election liability, is running a “guerrilla operation” on social media and, because of the anticipated low turnout, has a shot at winning. Another candidate (with followers) rejecting the establishment: Has this become a Republican cliché?
Glimpsing further into the future, this same pattern appears to underlie the 2016 presidential dynamics. As I noted last week, some of Pew Research’s recent findings suggest that Democrats appear poised to back a candidate whose profile fits that of former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton (a woman candidate, a candidate in their 70s, and a candidate with congressional or Washington experience), which could be read as "more of the same." Republicans are not only less enthusiastic about these traits, but they also appear most likely to support a candidate who was a governor or had military or business experience. In other words, they seem to want something unlike what they have on the national stage now (Washington-types and political professionals).
Unsurprisingly, a number of these partisan preferences about one party’s “next” presidential nominee have changed or even reversed since 2007. But then, when President George W. Bush was in office, the Democrats were the party of change and the Republicans were the party of more of the same. The simple lesson is this: Miles’ Law (“Where you stand depends upon where you sit”) is not just for bureaucrats.