The top political story in Texas today is that a panel of judges upheld a Republican redistricting plan.
Okay, my eyes glazed over just typing that sentence.
What a challenging story: It's incremental (the fight over redistricting has been raging for months), it's technical ("redistricting"?), and it's a little abstract (this isn't a tax cut or a new health benefit).
The Fort Worth Star-Telegram covered this story from three angles on its web site this morning. How did its reporters handle those challenges?
John Mortiz in the Austin bureau leads with this, a fine one-sentence summary of the news:
A three-judge federal panel on Tuesday upheld the Republican-drawn congressional redistricting plan, handing the GOP a big victory in its effort to solidify its grip on power in Texas politics.
And the fourth graf grounds the news in its personal implications for several lawmakers:
Unless the Democrats can persuade the U.S. Supreme Court to intervene, the judges' ruling sets the stage for another round of jockeying by congressional candidates and makes it extremely difficult for six congressional Democrats, including Arlington's Martin Frost, to win re-election.
The first four grafs of the DeLay piece, by Knight Ridder's Maria Recio, are gripping. If you want to see a writer really capitalize on the dread and drama in politics, check them out.
Later in the story, Recio writes:
Republicans hold a slim majority -- 229 to 204 Democrats and one independent, with one vacant seat -- in a divided House. But by adding new Texas Republicans, DeLay can more easily muster the votes to pass President Bush's agenda, marginalize Democrats and consolidate his power for an eventual run at the speaker's chair.
Frost is well aware of the stakes. The 1994 shock wave that produced a Republican majority in the U.S. House is fresh in his mind, and the election of five to seven more Texas Republicans would effectively end any Democratic hopes of taking back the majority -- and the accompanying power and perks -- until at least 2012.
That's a sharp summary of what's at stake. To go with it, I would have liked to see a sidebar or graphic listing Democratic and Republican legislative priorities -- that is, which programs are likely to succeed and which are likely to suffer if the Republicans widen their lead.
Sure, policy junkies already know all about the two parties' agendas -- but less frequent readers might be wondering what a more solid Republican majority really means.