There was no drama or suspense, but Texas finally played a bit role in the presidential election Tuesday. It gave Mitt Romney enough delegates to secure the Republican nomination.
Romney won 71 percent of the statewide vote in early returns, according to the Texas secretary of state’s office. The former Massachusetts governor drew slightly less in Tarrant County, with 69.8 percent.
Texas had 152 delegates at stake Tuesday night, and Romney won his proportional share of them to formally clinch the race. He surpassed the 1,144 delegates needed to claim the nomination at the Republican National Convention in Tampa, Fla., in August.
“I am honored that Americans across the country have given their support to my candidacy and I am humbled to have won enough delegates to become the Republican Party’s 2012 presidential nominee,” Romney said in a statement. “Our party has come together with the goal of putting the failures of the last 31/2 years behind us.”
Romney did not come to Texas for the primary. He campaigned in Colorado and attended a fundraiser in Las Vegas with Donald Trump.
The Republican National Committee effectively confirmed Romney’s standing.
“I congratulate Gov. Romney on winning the Texas primary and securing the delegates needed to be our party’s official nominee at our convention in Tampa,” Chairman Reince Priebus said.
Ron Paul’s Role
Rep. Ron Paul, R-Lake Jackson, who has ceased active campaigning, had a fitful home-state primary. The 10.1 percent of the statewide vote did not measure up to his enthusiastic base. He also had 10.1 percent of the vote in Tarrant County.
Paul, who is retiring from Congress, is looking to have a forum for his libertarian ideas.
“Ron Paul is looking for a role in the convention where he can make his points for the last time,” said Cal Jillson, a political science professor at Southern Methodist University.
On the Democratic side, President Barack Obama coasted to a win, with 88 percent of the vote in early returns. He benefited from high minority turnout for contested races, which kept him from suffering another weak showing against marginal players, as he had in recent primaries in Arkansas, Kentucky and West Virginia, where he lost 40 percent of the vote.
In Tarrant County, Obama won 95 percent of the vote in early returns.
Both anticlimactic primaries, especially the Republican one, galled the state’s political players, who saw Texas’ role as kingmaker slip away as redistricting lawsuits pushed the election date back from March 6, Super Tuesday.
“I think the delayed process effectively took Texas out of the presidential game,” said Bill Miller, an Austin-based adviser to candidates in both parties. Tuesday’s vote gave the Texas GOP the final seal, he said, “but what generates excitement is competition.”
Texas will “bestow” the nomination, University of Texas at Austin political scholar Bruce Buchanan said, “but not decide the nominee, as it wanted to do.”
“It’s Finally Over”
University of Virginia presidential expert Larry Sabato said, “Well, it’s finally over, and how ironic that Texas is putting Mitt Romney over the top since if the state had voted on schedule March 6, Gingrich or Santorum probably would have won the popular vote.”
On that date, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, R-Ga., and former Sen. Rick Santorum, R-Pa., were giving Romney a run for his money as voters in 10 states cast ballots.
Gingrich and Santorum were still on the Texas ballot Tuesday, as well as others who had long ago exited the race, including Michele Bachmann and Jon Huntsman. But the name Texans would know best — Gov. Rick Perry — was not.
Perry took advantage of a brief window that reopened in March, when the primary date was moved, to remove his name from the ballot, according to Chris Elam, spokesman for the Texas GOP.
That, political observers say, was a masterstroke after a mistake-prone campaign. Perry ended his candidacy Jan. 19.
“That was a wise thing,” said former U.S. Rep. Martin Frost, D-Dallas. “He didn’t want to be embarrassed in his home state.”
Buchanan said, “I think it was smart of Perry to get off the ballot. People will now have to conjure the memory of his flameout on their own.”
Perry played a minimal role in the Texas presidential stakes — he endorsed Gingrich after dropping out, then Romney when Gingrich dropped out. Perry used the election and “whatever political capital he has left” to help Lt. Gov. Dave Dewhurst get the U.S. Senate nomination, Miller said.
So, if Texas was passed over this primary cycle when it came to influence, what’s left for the general election?
“Texas is automatically Republican in November by a wide margin,” Sabato said.
But the Lone Star State’s finances are still up for grabs.
“Texas has the role of ATM in the presidential campaign,” Frost said, “on both sides.”
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