The two purposes of President Barack Obama’s visit to Dallas on Wednesday were to raise money for Democrats and to promote fixes to the federally run health insurance marketplaces. But some Texans — both liberal and conservative — said they thought the president’s visit was also part of a long-term strategy to end Republicans’ supremacy in Texas.
Ahead of Air Force One touching down at Dallas’ Love Field, many of Texas’ conservative politicians took the opportunity to slam the president for trying to turn the state blue. Meanwhile, prominent Democratic elected officials praised the president for not writing off a state that hasn’t elected a Democrat statewide since 1994.
For all the acerbic rhetoric from Republicans and hopeful words from Democrats, it is unlikely that Obama has any illusions that the state will turn Democratic any time soon, said Cal Jillson, a Southern Methodist University political science professor.
Jillson, however, added that Obama and Democrats certainly have Texas in their sights. “But they are long-term sights,” he said. “They recognize that it will take a Republican mistake and perfect Democratic campaigns to break through.”
And it probably will take a decade or two before Democrats have a real chance in Texas, Jillson said.
But that didn’t stop Texas Agriculture Commissioner Todd Staples from criticizing Obama and “Battleground Texas” — the Democratic effort that was formed to elect more progressives — for coming to Texas to raise money and try to weaken the Republicans’ hold on statewide offices.
“We’ve known Obama had set his eyes on Texas ever since his political machine, ‘Battleground Texas,’ came to town,” said Staples, who’s running for lieutenant governor. “Now we’re seeing the proof.”
Staples also seized upon the opportunity to ask supporters for some financial help, pleading for contributions of “$5, $10, $25 or more to help me tell Battleground Texas ‘Come and Take it.’”
Obama’s visit to Texas involved two high-dollar fundraising dinners and a visit to a Dallas Jewish temple to discuss the Affordable Care Act and Gov. Rick Perry’s decision to decline federal funds to expand Medicaid and offer health coverage to as many as 1.7 million more Texans.
While Obama pressured Perry to expand the federal-state health care program for the poor, state Rep. Garnet Coleman, D-Houston, said Obama’s visit probably won’t change the governor’s mind on Medicaid and the program usually called “Obamacare.”
On the bright side for Democrats, the presidential stop sent a signal that the president and national Democrats have a long-term vision for turning the state Democratic, Coleman said.
“We know these things take a long time, but it doesn’t happen unless someone engages,” Coleman said. “Things don’t happen without trying to do it.”
Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott also got into the mix. Abbott, who is running for governor as a Republican, released an Internet video and mocked any hope that Obama might have of making Texas blue.
“We have two words for him: Greg Abbott. As a governor, Greg Abbott would reject Obamacare, protect our liberties and keep Texas red,” said the old-timey, Texas-twanged announcer on Abbott’s video. “We Texans know Greg Abbott is tougher than a $3 steak.”