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Conservatives Drift to Straus

Last remaining Craddick supporters accepting the inevitable

By Richard Whittaker, 4:47PM, Thu. Jan. 8, 2009

Rep. Hartnett: Getting on the bus or circling the wagons?
Rep. Hartnett: Getting on the bus or circling the wagons?

In a year when bipartisanship is the buzzword, suggestions that Rep. Joe Straus, R-San Antonio, is a RINO (Republican in Name Only) have taken a pretty serious beating. Rep. Mark Strama, D-Austin, explained, "He's going to have a lot of appeal to the Republican caucus once they get over the fact that he defeated Tom Craddick." It seems that some people are finding that process harder than others.

Quorum Report got hold of some exchanges between the now leaderless Craddickites/Smitheeites. The conservative rump, which was simply outmaneuvered by the rest of the new-look split House, is moving towards making the vote for Straus 150-0 on opening day. Rep. Will Hartnett, R-Dallas, told his fellow Republicans, "The new political reality is upon us, and we cannot ignore it."

The nine-term rep said he would be making his own announcement in the next couple of days, and pleaded with his fellow uncommitteds to vote for Straus "if for no other reason than to circle our wagons against the imminent Democratic onslaught which will seek to elect a Democratic speaker in 2011."

But there's an undoubted air of nose-holding from Hartnett, who added that "Republicans should allow Straus a 'honeymoon,' because he will need it to get ready to fight off Part Two of (Waco's Democratic House Caucus Chair Rep. Jim) Dunnam's strategy" to re-take the House.

Honeymoon seems like an odd term to use about a speaker from his own party. But it does raise some interesting questions. In recent years, it's felt like there may be three parties: The Republicans, the Democrats, and the Craddick Ds. Now there seems to be a new order: The Republican Old Guard, the Anyone But Craddick GOPers, and the Democrats. With Speaker Tom Craddick gone, it remains to be seen where the ABCs go, and if they were symptomatic of one rift over Craddick's leadership. If their split with the old guard remains, it will highlight the fault lines between the fiscal, social and religious conservatives in the party.

What this all might mean in 2010, with the possibilities of either a more centrist or more divided GOP in the House, will keep campaign pros and election consultants in per diems for the next two years.

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