Thursday, August 8, 2019

The GOP's Metro Texas Nightmare

I noted in my previous post on Texas Sean Trende's point on the centrality of the metro Texas vote to Texas election results. And it is the metro Texas vote that could sink the GOP going forward in the Lone Star state.
Trende expands on this point in a new post on RealClearPolitics.
"When people think of Texas, they think of rural areas. Cowboys on horseback, cattle roaming the plains, and giant ranches (complete — for people of a certain age -- with J.R. Ewing in a Stetson hat). But while the Llano Estacado – what we might call “stereotypical Texas” – does cover a large swath of the state, it is relatively underpopulated....
Eastern Texas is actually an extension of the Deep South: It is wooded, humid, has a large number of small towns and cities, and has some rural African American population. The rest of the state, however, is more like New Mexico or western Oklahoma. Much of the land is given over to ranching, and few votes are cast there.
Instead, votes are cast in the major metropolitan areas. In 2016, the Houston and Dallas-Fort Worth metropolitan areas combined for a majority of the vote in Texas. Donald Trump very nearly lost these areas for the GOP for first time in recent memory, receiving just 48% of the vote there. Despite winning the popular vote nationally by larger margins than Clinton, Barack Obama took just 43% of the vote here in 2012, and 45% during his landslide win in 2008.
Another 17% of the vote was cast in the metro areas of large cities like San Antonio and Austin. Obama narrowly lost these areas to Mitt Romney in 2012, but Hillary Clinton won them with 55% of the vote. Small cities like McAllen and El Paso contributed another 4%. All told, the large metropolitan areas cast almost three-quarters of the vote in Texas, and Hillary Clinton won them with 51% support, a five-point improvement from Obama. Trump more than held his own in the rural areas of the state and in the towns, winning almost 70% of the vote (roughly the same vote share as Romney had four years earlier). But it was the Trump collapse in the urban areas that dominate the state that made it a single-digit race.
Two years later, Beto O’Rourke shocked the political world by holding Sen. Ted Cruz to a three-point margin of victory, while Democrats swept local offices and judgeships in Dallas and Harris counties and picked up long-held Republican seats in these areas. O’Rourke performed well by improving Democrats’ showings in the urban areas. He won the big metro areas outright with 52% of the vote and blew Cruz out in San Antonio and Austin by 20 points. Once again, the rural areas and the towns saved the Republicans’ candidacy. They cast just a quarter of the vote, but Cruz won them by a 2-to-1 margin.
Could a Democrat really win in 2020? It seems a stretch, but remember that Mitt Romney won Texas by 16 points, Donald Trump won by nine, and Cruz won by just three....Once one realizes that these urban/suburban areas cast a supermajority of the vote in Texas, one realizes quickly that the rural and small-town areas can’t keep the Republican Party afloat in Texas forever. I wouldn’t bet the farm, or the cattle ranch if one prefers, on Texas turning blue this cycle. But the state is not safe for Republicans in 2020 either, and it will likely be very competitve."
These are solid data and underscore the GOP's threatened position in the state. For reference, note that only two polls that include trial heats have been conducted in Texas this year and both of them show Biden beating Trump. There is vulnerability there. If the unlikely comes to pass and Trump does lose in Texas, it will mark the dominance and transformation of the metro Texas vote.
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The past week brought a surge of strange news out of Texas. First, three Republican congressmen, representing suburban San Antonio, Dallas, and Houston, decided to retire. These retirements are...

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