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You Don't Wanna Mess With Shady Stockman

Establishment GOP determined to hunt down Cornyn challenger

By Richard Whittaker, 12:29PM, Tue. Jan. 7

Well-funded superPAC throwing shade on Tea Party radical Congressman Steve Stockman
Well-funded superPAC throwing shade on Tea Party radical Congressman Steve Stockman

Barring a miracle reversal of fortunes, Republican Sen. John Cornyn is pretty clearly going to be the GOP nominee for the US Senate. That's not stopping one of Texas' newest conservative attack PACs from pummeling on his nearest (yet still distant) challenger, Congressman Steve Stockman.

When Stockman first announced his plan to run in December, there were predictions that he could represent some second Tea Party offensive against the Republican establishment. The first poll in the race blew that idea out of the water. On Dec. 13, Republican pollsters Wilson Perkins Allen Opinion Research released their initial survey of likely Republican primary voters, and they were devastating for the challenger: Cornyn stood on 50% support, while Stockman limped in on an embarrassing 6%.

At first glimpse, it seems that Stockman would be worth only a passing glance. But hybrid superpac Texans for a Conservative Majority is throwing haymaker after social media haymaker at the ailing rep with the Shady Stockman campaign.

Texans for a Conservative Majority was founded last year by conservative attorney Randy Cubriel, and its coffers were filled with cash from five big donors: $125,000 from John Nau (president of Annhauser-Busch distributor Silver Eagle), $100,000 combined from oil tycoons the Bass brothers, and a whopping $2 million from the late Texas king maker Bob Perry. So far the PAC has been parsimonious with that cash, but recently Rollcall reported that they're investing in the Stockman-hobbling business. On Dec. 16 (three days after the poll was published), TCM hired LA based media strategists Target Enterprises to start sniping at Stockman. The primary weapon of this offensive seems to be www.shadystockman.com, a smear site dedicated to reciting the litany of Stockman's sins, from arrests to financial irregularities. And even though Stockman's numbers are in the toilet, someone is sinking cash into promoted Tweets from @shadystockman.

Just for context, they aren't doing this for Curt Cleaver, Ken Cope, Chris Mapp, Reid Reasor, Dwayne Stovall, or Linda Vega, aka the other Cornyn challengers currently scraping together 5% support between them.

Institutional Republicans have little to love about Cornyn. After all, Democrats won 25 out of 33 Senate seats in 2012 under his watch as chair of the National Republican Senatorial Committee. The Tea Party despises him because a) he's an incumbent and therefore inherently a DC sell-out and liberal and b) he's nowhere near radical enough for the Evangelical/extremist/birther/flat Earth coalition. Last year, it was an open secret that both super-radical Louie Gohmert and the (anti-)intellectual leader of the evangelical far right David Barton were being scouted and touted as potential Cornyn challengers.

It would seem that the GOP establishment and its radical fringe agree on something. However, that's like saying everyone agrees that someone should eat the last chicken strip in the box: True, but no one wants to see it on the other person's plate. The institutionalists may have their issues with Cornyn, but they like the Tea Party even less, and their brief tenure as useful idiots seems to be up. Cornyn is a loyal company man. Stockman is a fringe radical. Where do you think that a traditionalist corporate PAC like TCM is going to put its money.

But if Stockman is scarcely out of the margin of error himself, why throw any money at finishing him off?

1: They're legitimately afraid that Stockman can start sweeping up some of that 39% undecided from the Wilson Perkins Allen survey. After all, it's still early days, and his numbers could pick up.

2: They're desperately concerned about Cornyn getting caught in a run-off. That 50% comes with a +/-3.6% margin of error, meaning Cornyn could well be in the high 40% region, and so he'd be stuck in a run-off. Now it seems unlikely that there would be a re-run of 2012, when Ted Cruz slipped past Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison's seeming heir apparent David Dewhurst. However, run-offs are messy, expensive, unpredictable, and could potentially open up a window of opportunity for the Democratic candidate come November.

3: It's a great opportunity to stomp on the aspirations of a Tea Party favorite and further hasten that faction's ongoing political decline.

4: If everyone's talking about Stockman, then they're not talking about Cornyn, and if they're not talking about Cornyn, then it's very hard for Democratic talking points (his opposition to the Affordable Care Act, his reckless determination to leave federal judicial seats vacant, and his complete inability to keep supposed junior senator Cruz on a leash) to get any oxygen.

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