If This, Then That: A Texas Political Parlor Game

Ted Cruz could become President of the United States. Julían Castro might be the Democrats’ pick for vice president. Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton could leave his post. What then?

By Rhonda FanningMarch 21, 2016 11:08 am

Veteran political analyst Ross Ramsey, executive editor and co-founder of the Texas Tribune, has been testing out something he calls “And then what?” It’s a parlor game where he follows up on potential political occurrences and their probable aftermath.

“People in politics spend a lot of their time gaming things and saying ‘What if this happens? What if that happens? Where would my opportunity appear?’ … It opens up a game of dominoes,” Ramsey says. “These are the kinds of games reporters play over whiskey, I guess.”

Ramsey sat down with the Standard host David Brown – sans whiskey – for a few more rounds of the game.

Let’s suppose Sen. Ted Cruz actually finds a path to the White House as president or vice president, then what?

“It would free up a U.S. Senate seat. That would mean Greg Abbott, the governor, would appoint someone who would serve until a special election.”

There’s been lots of talk about Julián Castro, former San Antonio mayor and current U.S. Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, becoming vice presidential material. Let’s say the Democrats win the election and Castro is chosen for the VP seat – what then?

“You start moving pieces around,” Ramsey says. “Castro doesn’t have an office that somebody in Texas would replace him in. But it does move Texas Democrats into a positions where they’ve got some national air cover. Maybe his twin brother (Joaquín Castro) runs for U.S. Senate. Maybe he runs for governor. It could put the Democrats back on the map in a way that they haven’t been for two decades.”

Then there’s a possible shake-up in the Senate: What if Mitch McConnell, Senate majority leader, were to leave for some reason?

“The number two Republican in the U.S. senate is John Cornyn, who has relatively quietly moved himself into the most powerful position a Texas U.S. senator has held since (Lyndon B. Johnson) was in the Senate,” Ramsey says. “John Cornyn – if everything falls just right, and it’s not really an outside possibility – could be the most powerful guy in the United States Senate.”

What about state politics? Attorney General Ken Paxton has been dogged by some legal trouble. What if he leaves office before his term is over?

“Then you get another appointment,” Ramsey says. “The governor gets to name an attorney general who would fill in for a while, or back someone who would replace Paxton. There are a few names floating around.”