Jennifer Nagorka: Newt 2011 | KERA News

Jennifer Nagorka: Newt 2011

Texans could be in for a lively contested GOP presidential primary in this state if commentator Jennifer Nagorka’s phone is any indication.

Newt Gingrich called the other day. It was 8:21 a.m. on the first day of our kids’ Thanksgiving break. Gingrich talked for two minutes straight – we have one of those phones that automatically times calls – and I couldn’t get a word in edgewise. He seemed a little angry, a little contemptuous of the current occupant of the White House, and extremely convinced of his own abilities. All in all, vintage Newt.

Now, it was a robocall, but it was a darn good representation of the real thing. I felt like I’d met the man in person.

Former pizza chain executive Herman Cain called a few days later, appropriately enough, at dinner time. If I remember right, his recorded message actually included an automated survey, which was kind of fun. I’d only seen snippets of the political debates, so that recorded call was the first time I’d heard Cain talk at length. He, too, seemed pretty certain of his abilities.

Of course, there’s a small problem. The former pizza executive is now a former presidential candidate, too.

I’m still waiting for Mitt Romney or Michelle Bachman to call. Or maybe they called when I wasn’t home. Gov. Rick Perry, my governor, still he hasn’t called. But then, he never called when he was running for state office, so I’m not surprised. Besides, what could he say? What governor would want to take responsibility for the last Legislature? He’s smart to stay out of the state.

Just once in the 22 years I’ve lived in Texas have we had a lively, contested presidential primary in this state. That was the last presidential election, when then-Senator Barack Obama and then-Senator Hillary Clinton battled it out for the Democratic nomination. Those were the good old days, when both candidates held large, public rallies within a mile of our house. Texans mattered.

There’s a chance Texans could relive that experience next year with the GOP presidential primary. The race is so fragmented that it’s not certain there will be one, or even two, clear front-runners by the spring. Texas, which typically participates in Super Tuesday, the date in early March when almost a dozen states hold primaries and caucuses, would matter.

But there’s another small problem. Texas won’t participate in Super Tuesday next year because of a lawsuit over new Congressional districts. Our primaries could have been moved as late as May.

In a refreshingly bipartisan gesture, though, the Texas Republican and Democratic parties issued a joint statement on December 16 requesting a single primary on April 3. That could keep us in the race, and force the candidates to campaign here. The federal judges  overseeing the redistricting lawsuit wisely accepted the compromise.

Of course, even as I write this, I’m second-guessing myself. Isn’t encouraging this junior varsity team of presidential hopefuls to visit Texas just borrowing trouble? Hearing from Newt Gingrich once before 9 a.m. was amusing; hearing from him daily at that or any other hour could get annoying fast. And imagine the deluge of television ads. What am I thinking?

I’m thinking that if our country’s in trouble, as these candidates tell us it is, I want a say in who’s going to lead the effort to fix it. And if that means enduring a few more robocalls and irritating TV commercials, bring ‘em on.

Jennifer Nagorka is a writer from Dallas.