Texas Republican Sen. John Cornyn is defending a social media post about President Obama's health care program that's drawing calls of racism and insensitivity:
"POTUS sez you can get O-care questions answered in 150 different languages - is English one of them?"
Cornyn's press office defends this post as a legitimate policy question, but two Texas political experts say it is not.
"There are a lot of smart, useful questions that could be asked about the health care program. This is not one of them," said Cal Jillson, an SMU political science professor. "This is snide and demeaning. There's no reason for it."
No policy reason, maybe, but Jillson said there is a political reason.
"He's talking to the tea party,” Jillson said.
Sen. Cornyn's press secretary, Megan Mitchell, said the senator wrote the post himself, and defended its premise as legitimate.
"It is a question that you, yourself, do not even know the answer to, and other people might not either," she said.
Jim Henson, a political science professor at the University of Texas at Austin, said Cornyn is trying to fend off primary challengers on the right by appealing to tea party voters who harbor hardcore views on immigration.
"It's a message that will seek and find a political audience in a Republican primary," Henson said.
Jillson agrees that Cornyn appears to be moving far to the right in advance of the March primaries, where he currently faces no serious opposition.
“He's trying to close that off by saying, 'I'm about as far right as you can get; don't worry about me,’" Jillson said.
Political observers say Cornyn saw how his colleague, Sen. Ted Cruz, came out of nowhere with tea party credentials to beat long-time political fixture Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst. They say Cornyn doesn’t want the same thing to happen to him.