Dan Patrick warned us.
More than 30 years ago, when he quit as a showboat Houston TV sports anchor, he told Texas Monthly he left to make more money and “I see no reason why I couldn’t be president.”
At that point, he was known mainly for a five-year stint on Houston’s worst-rated TV newscast, where he ripped his shirt off on-air, let cheerleaders paint his chest, and reported in silly hats or holding animal mascots.
In 1984, he quit after new owners told him not to make fun of stars Michael Jackson and Boy George, or their makeup.
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When Patrick left, he ran Houston newspaper ads saying that while others “have forgotten the public, I have not.”
But he told Texas Monthly his viewers were “very unsophisticated, unpolished.”
Now, as Texas’ lieutenant governor and the state leader closest to the White House, he is still playing to the audience.
“Dan Patrick is an intuitive populist politician,” said Southern Methodist University political scientist Matthew Wilson, an expert on the religious right.
“He realizes that elections are not usually won on the basis of complex policy proposals, but on an emotional connection with voters.”
[Dan] Patrick remains a talk-radio host at heart.
Cal Jillson, SMU political science professor
In 2014, Patrick, a Baltimore transplant, knocked off Texas-born Air Force veteran Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst with a punchy slogan: “Secure the Border.”
Texas has been around 180 years. Until Patrick began his crusade, nobody claimed we had a bathroom problem.
Yet he now compares the battle for a “bathroom bill” to the Battle of the Alamo.
UT Arlington political science Chair Rebecca Deen called the bill a “win-win” for Patrick: “If it doesn’t make it through the House, he can paint Speaker [Joe] Straus as the bad guy.”
That conflict heated up lately, when Straus accused Patrick’s Senate of “cooking the books” to hide budget problems. Patrick called Straus, a business Republican close to the Bush family, “out of touch with the voters.”
They said they wanted me to be nicer on the air. I said that’s not my style.
Dan Patrick in Texas Monthly on his 1984 departure from KHOU
Straus’ alignment with business leaders calling the bill contrived only “allows Patrick to shore up support among social conservatives,” Deen said.
“The issues he favors have high emotional content [and] are all political profit,” SMU professor Cal Jillson said, while issues such as education, healthcare, child welfare and foster care are “complicated, expensive and divisive.”
“Patrick remains a talk-radio host at heart,” Jillson said, “with little patience for the complexity of real public policy problems.”
That would no longer disqualify him to be president.