MY COMPUTER – I am scrolling through the Internet, looking for dirt on anyone I don’t like, and I see an ad for Mike Bloomberg. And another. I turn on the TV and there, between ads for Mike Bloomberg, is a bit of programming. Open any daily newspaper, and there are full-page ads for, one guess, Mike Bloomberg. The New York billionaire has already spent more on TV ads than GEICO, Bud Light and whoever makes those pills that guarantee you’ll be smarter than a jellyfish. Bloomberg is also spending more than all the other Democrats running for their party’s presidential nomination. He has promised that, if he doesn’t get the nod himself, he will bankroll the winning Dem — just to defeat President Donald Trump. Oh, I forgot about Tom Steyer, another billionaire — worth a measly $1.62 billion compared to Bloomberg’s $65.19 billion. No doubt the 2020 run for the Oval Office is certainly going to surpass spending for any previous race. (The 2016 presidential contest — primaries and all — cost $2.4 billion.)
So what’s in it for us? With all that cash flowing around, there’s got to be a way for us to get our share. Well, yes and no. Let’s begin here in the Lone Star State. For years Texas was known as the ATM for both parties. Presidential candidates would fly in and hold a big fund raiser, then make a few drop-ins at some donors’ palatial mansions so the hosts could get their picture taken with The Next President of the United States! Then they’d leave. The only time any money came back to Texas was in 2008 when Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama were both seeking the Democratic nomination for President. The Texas campaign was mystifying to outsiders. It’s hard for missionaries to grasp the difficulties of running a state-wide campaign here.
We are expensive. Texas is separated into 20 media markets, the most of any state. Former Texas Land Commissioner Garry Mauro, who was state director for Hillary Clinton’s campaign in 2008, told The New York Times, “It’s like running a national campaign. There are no similarities between Amarillo and Brownsville and Beaumont and Texarkana and El Paso and Austin and Houston and Dallas. These are very separate demographic groups with very diverse interests.” The primary election led to the Texas Two-Step with voting, caucuses, and late-night confusion.
In the last several presidential elections, this has been a thoroughly red state. Trump won Texas by 9 percentage points, and neither party showed much interest in us. Why bother? The outcome was preordained. Now, due to the donkeys showing some spunk, the elephants are paying attention. This may mean that Trump and the Dem nominee will show up here, make speeches and finally spend money. They and their staffs, journalists and Secret Service will have to rent hotel rooms, if only for the night, eat at restaurants, pay for meeting halls and that sort of thing. All this spending is good. Better the candidates, especially the rich ones, take that money out of their stock portfolio and bank accounts and spread it around the countryside, if only that was the case. But here’s the rub: Presidential candidates usually spend at least half of their funds on TV ads. Our local stations will be filled with vote-for-me commercials, except that money won’t come here.
All major TV stations in Houston, for example, are owned by faceless corporations in big, glass buildings elsewhere. KPRC-TV, Channel 12, is owned by the Graham Media Group, a subsidiary of the Graham Holdings Company in Washington, D.C. Channel 13, KTRK-TV, is owned by The Walt Disney Company, in Burbank, Calif. KHOU, Channel 11, is owned by Tegna Inc. in McLean, Va., which also owns WFAA-TV in Dallas, and KRIV, is owned by Fox, based in New York City. KTMD, Channel 47, is owned by Telemundo, based either in Miami or Hialeah, NY. Its web page is in Spanish and I can’t translate. Looking at TV ownership around Texas, it’s hard to find any of them that have local owners. All that money generated by all those ads doesn’t go to Texas. We can assume that presidential elections actually cost Texas money.
A simple solution is for at least one or maybe three Texans run for the presidency. That would bring hordes of journalists and snoops here to check up on the candidates’ third grade teacher’s opinion of their math tests. Remember they unearthed Beto O’Rourke’s DWI from back in 1998. It goes by the euphemism of “oppositional research.” And if they can’t find any dirt, make it up. Why not a Texan? Since Eisenhower, through LBJ and the Bushes, Texans have practically owned the White House. So maybe we can’t find anyone to run for President. If Texas is, indeed, in play this go-round, and the candidates want to woo us, start your own PR and advertising company: Telling Texans How to Vote, Inc. No need to hire a New York City firm, because you know ways to influence your friends, neighbors and a lot of others. Brief your candidate on how to warm up to us. No “Dear Texers,” “Texians” or “Texites.” Do not say how happy you are “here on the banks of the Rio Grande river.” In certain places, no “Remember the Alamo!”
As Hillary learned, no candidate should overlook the Electoral College. Texas has 38 votes, and the 2020 census should give us three or four more, although I’m not sure those extra votes will come in time for the Electoral College, which has a lousy football team. Here in Texas, it’s winner-take-all in the Electoral College, so in the 2016 presidential election, those 3,877,868 Texans who voted for Hillary didn’t count. But two “faithless electors,” as they are called, chose other candidates, making Texas the only state to give Trump fewer than the assigned electoral votes.
Now go get yours. Bloomberg has his checkbook waiting.
Ashby digs dirt at email@example.com