It seems Speaker Joe Straus’ supporters need a refresher on Statistics. Many of those supporters cite historic GOP gains in Texas’ House as evidence of political effectiveness. That means Mr. Straus should remain Speaker, doesn’t it? Hardly.
To jump to that conclusion would be to commit one of the most egregious statistical (and rhetorical) errors: the fallacy of believing correlation implies causation.
Some Straus supporters say that former Speaker Tom Craddick lost 12 GOP seats at the end of his 2008 term, but Speaker Straus gained 25 GOP seats at the end of his term in 2010.
Of course, this statistical tomfoolery ignores that Speaker Straus did a fundraiser for a Democrat (Patrick Rose) being challenged by a Republican (Jason Isaac) – in a race the Republican won. Or that Speaker Straus refused to endorse any Republican challenging a Democratic incumbent.
In truth, the Texas GOP’s down-ballot races fell victim to the ’08 national Obama-wave, which brought out many new voters interested in voting for president and stuck on with the Democrats down-ballot. Texas, being one of several states that practices straight-ticket voting, allowed these voters to fill in a single bubble to vote for every Democrat on the ballot, including state and local candidates. These voters, plus distaste for the national GOP ticket, turned out to be a deadly combination for Republicans.
Fast forward to 2010 and the pendulum swung in the opposite direction. National distaste for the president and his party have sent voters flocking to the GOP, bringing their votes to state-wide GOP candidates as well.
Neither Speaker Craddick nor Speaker Straus had much to do with the national mood of 2008 or 2010.
So don’t let Mr. Straus’ supporters fool you with a statistical fallacy. Speaker Straus did nothing to promote GOP gains in 2010. He was simply in the right place at the right time.