As Representative Dan Branch told us yesterday afternoon shortly after addressing the delegation from John Carona's senate district, what a difference two years has made for state Republicans, whose attitude has changed since 2008's Republican Party of Texas convention in Houston.
"There seems to be a lot more positive feeling and momentum, and the wind seems to be at our backs as opposed to headwinds," he told Unfair Park.
So is it anti-Obama sentiment that has all the delegates and politicos gathered this weekend at the Dallas Convention Center for this year's shindig so jazzed up?
"It's frustration with a lot of debt. It's frustration with a lot of spending. It's frustration with having new programs and systems that we're not sure we can pay for," he said. "And some of that obviously was health care and the stimulus bill. I think it's a combination of things that maybe government's not listening and government's gotten a little bit out of hand."
Branch, who not only kinda looks like George W. Bush but also sounds like him and has similar mannerisms, had just told the caucus about the "triple-witching session" ahead for the Legislature, which includes redistricting, a budget gap of somewhere between $11 billion and $15 billion and 28 state agencies scheduled for review by the Sunset Advisory Commission. As Branch mentioned, agencies such as the Texas Department of Transportation, Texas Department of Insurance and Public Utility Commission of Texas are among those scheduled for comprehensive evaluations.
Branch remained optimistic that the state's dismal sales tax receipts would rebound, claiming his wife was doing her part judging by the number of shoes in her closet. He also joked that it's nice to let Democrats take control every once in a while just to see what happens, prompting one audience member to scream, "No!"
"Not when they drive it off the cliff. That's right," he said.
Many of the local politicos we ran into were drumming up support for Danny Clancy in his effort to unseat Dallas County District Attorney Craig Watkins, so we asked Branch how much he felt the new winds would affect Dallas County.
"It seems to be, while the DA started strong a few years ago, he's had some rough years, and then some rough weeks certainly over the last several months," he said. "It's hard to know how that's gonna go, but I think Republicans are feeling optimistic."
We found lots of other politicos on hand in the exhibit hall, including U.S. Senator John Cornyn, Attorney General Greg Abbott and state Senator (and our boss' sister) Florence Shapiro. And we also ran into Dallas County Republican Party chair Jonathan Neerman, former party chair Kenn George, county judge candidate Wade Emmert, Rockwall County District Attorney Kenda Culpepper and many others while walking around the convention center.