The Houston Chronicle publishes in a conservative Texas city, known for it’s boom-and-bust oil industry and bedrock Republican support.
But this November, the paper said in a full-page editorial, the election is between “two presidential contenders who represent the starkest political choice in living memory.”
Voters, it said, “will decide whether they prefer someone deeply familiar with the issues that are important to this nation, or a person whose paper-thin, bumper-sticker proposals would be dangerous to the nation and the world if somehow they were enacted.”
The endorsement is significant because of the state’s voting history.
Jimmy Carter was the last Democrat to carry Texas in a presidential election in 1976. In every election since then, the Republican candidate has won the state’s 38 electoral votes by wide margins. Texas is a winner-takes-all state.
Mitt Romney, the 2012 Republican candidate, won Texas with 57.2 percent of the vote against President Obama.
The Chronicle endorsed Romney in the election.
This time around, the paper said it was telling that a “sizeable list” of Republican stalwarts, including the Bush family, Sen. Ted Cruz and Texas House Speaker Joe Straus have all shunned their candidate.
Voting for Trump it said, would “repudiate the most basic notions of competence and capability.”
Any one of Trump’s less-than-sterling qualities – his erratic temperament, his dodgy business practices, his racism, his Putin-like strongman inclinations and faux-populist demagoguery, his contempt for the rule of law, his ignorance – is enough to be disqualifying. His convention-speech comment, “I alone can fix it,” should make every American shudder. He is, we believe, a danger to the Republic.
As IM reported yesterday (July 29), the concern is palpable about Trump having his finger on the nuclear button.
Both Clinton and First Lady Michelle Obama raised the specter in their campaign speeches.
“When you have the nuclear codes at your fingertips and the military at your command, you can’t make snap decisions. You can’t have a thin skin or a tendency to lash out. You need to be steady and measured and well-informed,” Michelle Obama said.
The Chronicle called Trump’s plan to build a wall on the Texas border “ridiculous,” which is saying a lot when Texas has the longest border with Mexico of any state. Instead, it favors Clinton’s plans for “comprehensive” immigration reform.
The paper editorialized:
“Whether voters like her personally is almost irrelevant at this ‘”moment of reckoning,’ to use Clinton’s words. She herself concedes that she’s not a natural campaigner. She lacks Obama’s oratorical gifts or her husband’s folksy ability to connect with crowds. Too often she comes across as calculated, inauthentic. We’re confident that she is, indeed, ‘steady and measured and well-informed’ and that she would be a much better president than a presidential candidate.
The Republican Party schism has parallels to Goldwater’s 1964 race against Texan Lyndon Johnson. His arch-conservatism split the party, driving away moderate, so-called “Rockefeller Republicans.”
Goldwater lost in a landslide. He only carried six states.
How much the state’s second largest newspaper will influence Texas voters remains to be seen.
In the latest University of Texas/Texas Politics Project poll (June 27), Trump led Clinton, 41 percent to 37 percent, with 26 percent of the voters either undecided or voting for someone else.
If Republican voters defect from Trump, there’s no guarantee they will vote for Clinton. More likely, they may just sit out the election.
But there’s no question that The Chronicle’s editorial will have a significant impact. It’s a significant setback for Trump.
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