Monday, October 6, 2008

By GROMER JEFFERS JR. - The Dallas Morning News - Monday, October 6, 2008

John McCain doesn't plan on spending a cent to carry Texas: No offices, no staffers, no television commercials and no campaign appearances.
"Senator McCain is going to win Texas," said former Secretary of State Roger Williams, chairman of the statewide coordinated campaign effort led by the Texas Republican Party. "I can see why he isn't spending any time" in the state.

But for states not in the heat of the presidential fight, seeing the candidates at the top of the ticket offers more than just a glimpse at history. It helps down-ballot candidates and energizes party activists in the party.

So while Mr. McCain's absence signals that Texas is solidly red, it leaves local, more vulnerable GOP candidates to grind alone. He'd be the first GOP presidential candidate in years not to campaign here in the general election.

In contrast, Barack Obama, who acknowledges that he will probably lose Texas, has placed paid staffers in the state to work with thousands of volunteers. Many of them are being sent to battleground states to campaign.

"We are the Alamo, and I'm Col. Travis," said Dallas County Republican Chairman Jonathan Neerman, whose party was buried in a Democratic landslide in the 2006 election. "We don't have the benefit of Senator McCain campaigning here, but this is our county, and we have to take responsibility for winning it."

Confident of victory

The McCain campaign says that because it's confident of winning the state – and because the coordinated campaign has done such a good job – it doesn't plan on spending any money in the state.

"We're all working together, hand in hand," said Tom Kise, a McCain spokesman. "Every state is important, and Texas is going to be won by John McCain."

Mr. McCain had a much different view of the role of Texas when he visited Dallas for a June fundraiser at the Belo Mansion.

"I don't believe it's fair or appropriate to come here and ask for your money and then not campaign here," he said after promising to make regular visits to Texas. "I'll be back to the great state of Texas on several occasions. Not just for fundraising, but because I think it is an important state for the future of this nation."

Since his remarks, Mr. McCain has not been back to the state, nor have many of his surrogates. And he's had to reconsider his efforts in other states as well. Last week, the campaign said it was pulling up stakes in Michigan, conceding the state to Mr. Obama.

So Texas supporters must watch the campaign on television.

And when they want to participate by buying yard signs and other campaign gear, they must either drive to a battleground state, purchase it through Mr. McCain's Web site or rely on the local party's scarce stashes.

Mr. McCain is hardly the first Republican who didn't run an active campaign here.

In 2000 and 2004, George W. Bush didn't spend significant resources in Texas either.

Then, as now, the presidential ticket was pushed by a statewide campaign.

Mr. Williams said Texas Republicans are having success selling Mr. McCain, as well as state and local candidates.

"We're helping Senator McCain a lot," he said. "We're helping everybody else down the ballot."

There are "victory" operations in the Dallas, Fort Worth, Houston, Austin and San Antonio areas. Those campaigns are funded by the state party, with input from local Republicans.

In the past several months, they have had 50 sessions to train volunteers.

Hometown races

But unlike Mr. Obama, who sends many of his volunteers outside Texas, Republican volunteers are used almost exclusively for hometown races.

Mr. Neerman said the McCain campaign had pledged not to take valuable campaign workers out of Dallas County. He says he needs them to help with local races.

But Mr. Neerman and others were hoping for more, including public rallies by both Mr. McCain and vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin.

Ms. Palin visited Dallas on Friday for a fundraiser attended by more than 1,000 people.

And hundreds more lined the streets outside of the Fairmont Hotel and along the path of her motorcade.

The private luncheon allowed down-ballot candidates like former Irving Police Chief Lowell Cannaday to feel the energy brought by Ms. Palin's stardom.

He met her but didn't mention his race for sheriff against Democrat incumbent Lupe Valdez.

"That would not have been appropriate," he said. "It was her day."
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