My cousin lives in Dripping Springs. She and her husband are typical republicans--very conservative. They are also devoutly Catholic. When I was there recently I inquired about their opinion of Patrick Rose and if they were satisfied with his representation. I was not surprised with their assessment. They love him and said that was the consensus opinion among their friends and neighbors. Until the republicans can find a candidate to out charisma Patrick, he should be around for awhile or until he decides to move up into a larger role.
Because we're not a swing-state and have only one (rather unexciting) statewide race this time around, 2004 is rather quiet for Texas politics aside from the Texas Five and the competitive legislative races. 2006 will be much different, with either a competitive race for Governor or an open Senate seat (depending on what Hutcheson does). There will be a slew of statewide races, and I'm guessing more competitive legislatives races than this time around.
If the Dems win back a few seats this year, and if Kerry makes a surprisingly strong showing in Texas (i.e. breaking 40%), it will be a first step in putting the Texas Democrats back on the map and help prepare for the battles to come.
You have to add the Peveto/Hamilton race to the radar screen. Mike Hamilton R-Orange defeated a lower tiered, but qualified candidate, Paul Clayton in 02. The Peveto name is big in the Orange area, and that is still a yellow-dog district that is not hostile to unions. The trials are investing heavily in that district.