In 48 hours, Texas and the nation will know whether America's most durable political dynasty stands or falls.
George P. Bush — Texas Land Commissioner, nephew and grandson of presidents, son of a governor and great grandson of a U.S. Senator — will duel with State Attorney General Ken Paxton in a run-off for nomination as the Lone Star State's top law enforcement official.
Under most circumstances, Paxton would have been doomed long ago. Indicted for securities fraud since 2015 and now under investigation for bribery, Paxton once had an extramarital affair with a woman he later recommended for a job.
But to many conservatives, finishing off the Bush dynasty is more important than the ethical flaws of Paxton — who has the strong endorsement of Donald Trump.
Where Paxton led by a big margin in the initial primary in March, the race has been tightening within the last 10 days. A University of Texas/Dallas Morning News Poll completed March 15 showed Paxton leading Bush 41-to-35 percent among likely voters — the tightest the race has ever been.
Bush has overtaken Paxton in fund-raising thanks to help from his father, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush. Major donors to the younger Bush's effort include Richard Jackson ($25,000), on whose Atlanta-based Jackson Healthcare's board the elder Bush served, Florida developer Armando Codina ($5,000), and the four children of the late Amway tycoon Richard DeVos, who donated $20,000 each.
Having raised an overall campaign kitty of $2.3 million, Bush in the twilight of the race has slammed Paxton for all of the controversies surrounding the attorney general.
"Ken Paxton is unfit to hold office," blares the Bush spot, citing the attorney general's indictment on three felony counts and his investigation by the FBI.
But that might not be enough to dislodge the Trump-backed Paxton.
"I must admit that my suspicion is that Texas Republican primary voters are more willing to accept an ethically and legally challenged Ken Paxton with his endorsement from the Former Guy than to support someone with the last name of Bush," said Wayne Thorburn, former executive director of the Texas GOP and author of two much-praised books on Lone Star State politics.
The composition of the primary electorate, Thorburn told us, "has changed significantly since the 1970s to 2010 or so. Where the base of the party were the middle-class suburbs in the major counties — Dallas and Houston especially — along with a batch of mid-sized cities like Midland, Lubbock, Tyler, the Republican support is now more heavily coming from the rural and small-town areas of the state."
"The dislike of a Bush is more important to voters than someone who has been charged with crimes for well over his second term in office or the investigations that just linger on without any charges," said Austin attorney Howard Hickman, a conservative activist since Ronald Reagan's 1976 presidential bid, "Hillary Clinton will be indicted before Paxton is ever indicted on any of the current investigations. Paxton was re-elected the last time while under indictment and other investigations."
According to Hickman, "Bush is disliked because he is a Bush and wanted to move a memorial at the Alamo so the area could be turned into a massive shopping mall. Bush has run nothing but negative ads on Paxton and no one knows what he would do with the office where everyone knows what Paxton will do."
For four generations, every Bush family member in politics has lost his first bid for office — from great-grandfather and Connecticut Sen. Prescott Bush, who lost a race for the Republican Senate nomination in 1950 before winning a Senate seat two years later, to George P.'s cousin Pierce Bush, who lost a primary for Congress in the Houston area two years ago.
George P. Bush is the exception, having never lost a race. Whether this changes on Tuesday is likely to determine if other Bushes try to run in the future.
John Gizzi is chief political columnist and White House correspondent for Newsmax. For more of his reports, Go Here Now.
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