Feature:Opinion

President Obama faces red hot political pressure in Texas

Matt Mackowiak Founder, Potomac Strategy Group

President Obama comes to Texas today, primarily to raise money for his reelection campaign, a full 79 weeks before Election Day.

The $1,000/person fundraiser, which will be held in the studio where the famed Austin City Limits show is filmed and feature a performance by songwriter Robert Earl Keen, was first reported by the Austin American-Statesman’s Jason Embry on April 8, more than a month before the event.

Then, a funny thing happened.

Last Thursday, six days before Air Force One was scheduled to land in Texas, the White House added an “unspecified” official event in El Paso.

If the White House adds an “official” event to a “campaign” event, the campaign can split the significant cost of Air Force One with the taxpayer, increasing the financial profit for the campaign. All presidents do this, but only the Obama White House does it with such bravura — shamelessly adding an “unspecified” official event six days before the trip occurs.

Last Friday the White House announced that President Obama would give an immigration reform speech in El Paso.

No one is fooled. President Obama sees Texas as an ATM, not as a place where he should work with state officials to courageously address tough issues and engage the public in debate.

Let’s review some recent administration actions on subjects of great importance to Texans:

Recent wildfires have burned 2.2 million acres of forests, destroyed 900 buildings and over 1,200 miles of fencing and cost an estimated $20.4 million in losses so far, according to the Texas Agrilife Extension Service. Governor Perry took an aerial tour April 12. On April 16, Governor Perry requested a federal disaster declaration, to release more federal resources — no response came for weeks. Texas’s two U.S. senators urged President Obama to issue the declaration. After needless delay, President Obama’s administration declined to issue the declaration. In 2008, a similar amount of land burned and President Bush issued a federal disaster declaration for Texas.

Texans remain deeply concerned about border security, given increasing cross-border violence and narco-trafficking along the state’s 2,000+ mile border with Mexico. On March 17, 2010, more than two years ago, Texas’s two U.S. senators invited President Obama to visit the border to see firsthand the security threat and work with them to craft a plan to address the violence. President Obama has not taken them up on the offer. Governor Perry activated a “spillover violence contingency plan” and discusses border security constantly, but the federal government continues to ignore the problem.

Last year’s six-month moratorium on Gulf drilling has hurt southeast Texas, directly applying to 33 Gulf rigs, which typically produce 180-280 jobs on each platform. Consider that offshore oil production is down 13 percent and crude oil prices are up 33 percent, as the Wall Street Journal reported Friday. The administration’s moratorium was struck down by a federal judge; they continued anyway and were held in contempt. Since then only a handful of permits have been issued, while dozens languish. Idle rigs costs operators $1 million per day, so naturally offshore rigs have moved to more hospitable production climates across the globe.

The Obama administration recently awarded the retiring NASA shuttles to California, New York, Florida and Virginia, passing over Texas, the home of the Johnson Space Center, NASA mission control and generations of astronauts, scientists and engineers. After all, the famous line is “Houston, we have a problem.” It strains credulity to say that politics were not involved in this decision.

And there’s more. The administration’s effort to issue carbon limits on employers through an executive order, when they could not pass it in the Democratic-controlled Senate, could cost Texas billions of dollars. Texas has joined 25 other states in its lawsuit against the federal health care reform law.

Finally, consider the electoral politics. Many Obama strategists contend that they will compete in Texas in 2012. Doing so would be political malpractice. In 2010, Republicans won 3 Democratic Congressional seats, increased their majority in the state House to 99 seats and reelected every single statewide elected official. Recently WFAA’s Brad Watson pointed out to the president, during a taped interview, that he did not lose Texas in 2008 by a few points. Indeed President Obama lost Texas by 12 points in 2008, and Democrats have not won Texas in a presidential election since 1976, nor won a statewide office since 1994. National Democrats passed over their thin bench and recruited for the open U.S. Senate race Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez (Ret.), who oversaw the Abu Ghraib military base during the torture scandals.

Texans have a lot of questions for President Obama as he comes to Texas today. Will he answer them?

Matt Mackowiak is an Austin and Washington-based Republican consultant, the founder of Potomac Strategy Group and has been an adviser to two U.S. senators, a governor and two winning campaigns. He can be reached at matt@potomacstrategygroup.com.