Wednesday, November 21, 2018

Purple Texas

Well, perhaps it's a bit early to talk about blue Texas. But probably not to talk about purple Texas or competitive Texas. And a purple or competitive Texas means a Texas that could plausibly go blue in some near-term elections.
That's the spirit of Tom Edsall's new piece on the New York Times site. Edsall is hardly a traditional booster of Democratic chances, so it's significant that he would write a piece highlighting Trump-era Democratic chances in what has been a very difficult state for them for decades.
He quotes Rice political scientist Mark Jones as follows:
"It is premature to say that Texas is turning blue, but whereas four years ago its hue was dark red, today it is light pink. As long as President Trump is in the White House, Republicans in Texas can look forward to much tougher battles from higher quality and better funded Democratic challengers than they faced prior to 2018, as well as being required to do something that most Republican candidates have not had to do for years in Texas; actually work up a sweat in the fall."
He also quotes Richard Murray, a University of Houston political scientist who is bullish on Democratic prospects:
"[T]he metro v. rest-of-state gap widened hugely in Texas, with the big cities going overwhelmingly Democratic while suburban counties outside Austin, Houston, and Dallas/Ft Worth moved toward the Democrats. But non-metro counties stayed very Republican with very high turnout, enabling Cruz to eke out a narrow win."
And:
"We had 8.3 million voters in 2018 (up from just 4.7 million in 2014). That should go over 10 million in 2020, giving statewide Democrats a good chance of carrying the state for president and winning the U.S. senate seat...[There is also] a 50 percent-plus chance of taking the Texas House of Representatives, with major implications for the 2021 redistricting process.”
Another Houston political science professor, Brandon Rottinghaus, says:
"The migration of Texas’s big urban counties from red and purple to blue means Texas is a two party state for the first time in almost 30 years. Demographic changes, tremendous energy from voters, and a surge of resources will keep Texas competitive for decades.....[Trump] was a net negative, driving a wedge between college educated, women, and independent voters. As long as Trump is on the ballot in fact or in spirit, Texas will be a competitive two party state."
Interesting! Of course, a blue victory in purple Texas will not be easy and there are considerable obstacles still to be overcome, not least generating high enthusiasm and turnout again among nonwhite voters, particularly Hispanics. And, as great as Beto O'Rourke did, he still fell a little bit short on what he needed from the white vote. In a piece I wrote last year on possibilities for a blue victory in Texas, I said that:
"Rough calculations indicate that if Democrats can cut their white noncollege deficit to 45 points and their white college deficit to 10 points, while {continuing positive [trends among nonwhite voters], that should be enough to flip the state or come very close."
The exit polls indicate that O'Rourke's deficit white college Texas voters was 11 points and his deficit among white noncollege voters was 48 points. So close!
Maybe next time. But the goal is certainly within sight.
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What was once a Democratic pipe dream is now a real possibility.

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