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Photo: The Texas Tribune
By Jay Stanford
“But this time, is the time! This is the year we finally get Texas!”
As many may know, it’s been a long held belief of Democrats that a “blue Texas” is inevitable.
In other words, Democrats believe that with a steady flow of Hispanics coming into Texas through the border, it will eventually become a Blue state through demographic changes. Also to bolster this theory is the fact that hoards of citizens from the liberal coasts are moving to Texas as well. Every 2-4 years when there’s a statewide election in Texas, we hear murmurs and sometimes shouting from the Democrats that “this may finally be the year it turns blue!”, as a progressive candidate becomes hyped up as the one who will finally break the red wall in Texas. Except, it never happens.
Nevertheless, this hasn’t stopped Democrats from continuously cycle after cycle believing that “this year” is the time it finally happens.
With the combination of a supposed ‘blue wave’ and a war-chest of money, progressives believe that finally, Beto O’Rourke (D-TX) can and will win a Senate seat in Texas for the Democrats. Even though the incumbent Senator running against O’Rourke, Ted Cruz (R-TX), is very well known nationwide and especially in Texas after running an excellent campaign for President in 2016, and is popular in Texas- many Democrats still think Beto is poised to win, and this must be the year.
“It seems like Iowa in 2007,” one Texas beat reporter said describing O’Rourke’s rallies. The Iowa 2007 reference is in regards to when Obama began to run for president in 2007, and he was ginning up momentum around the state that eventually led him to an astonishing upset victory in the Iowa Caucus, and then of course all the way to the presidency from there. The fanfare about O’Rourke has been all over the media, with numerous media appearances and high profile elites backing his campaign from coast to coast. He’s not running as moderate red state Democrat- he’s running as a far-left progressive from the Bernie Sanders wing of the party, causing him to become a nationwide sensation among progressives for daring be openly so left-wing in Texas. No doubt, the energy behind O’Rourke is huge- the question whether that energy exists in Texas or from enthusiasts watching the race from out-of-state. Adding to it all, the cash has been coming in heavier for Beto than almost any other candidate in the country as well, a massive $23.3 million he has raised all on his own.
But yet to even consider the possibility of a ‘Blue Texas’, we have to venture back to 2016 when the same phrase was being touted, except then about Trump. “Texas is in play!” Hillary Clinton’s campaign shouted, as they unwisely began to shift resources away from actual swing states into Texas. It was because in early October, four straight polls showed Texas within grasp for Clinton.
But what they didn’t understand is that Texas polling consistently shows its elections as closer than they appear. Often, this is why Democrats tended to believe that they had a shot in Texas, when in the end Clinton lost to Trump by 9 points- a far cry from a 3 point race. Even worse for Democrats, they arrogantly wasted resources going after a state they didn’t need, rather than shore up the upper-midwest states that Trump ended up sweeping.
A look back at the 2016 polling shows us one thing- the Democrats hit their ceiling very fast and early, while the Republicans slowly made it their by election day. As we in the polling above, Clinton around 43% in every single one of those polls. Her final result in the election- 43.2%. While Trump hovered around 45-46% in the polling, he ended up with 52.2%. What happened was that Clinton was reaching her ceiling at the exact same time Trump was at his floor- creating the impression of fools gold for Democrats in Texas.
Now the question is whether this is happening again in 2016 with Cruz and O’Rourke?
The answer likely is yes. The polling always shows a closer race in Texas than what it turns out to be. The vote in Texas has stayed almost the exact same for decades. The reason for this is the Democrat often hits their ceiling right as the Republican is still at their floor. It is highly unlikely for a state that is as inelastic as Texas in its voting to go from a 9 point win for Trump to a win for a progressive Democrat just two years later. Just like 2016, Beto is most likely hitting his ceiling at the moment around 44%, while Cruz is near his floor at 48%. Like Trump, Cruz will slowly but surely rise his way up into the 50s by the end of the race. Therefore, like many Texas statewide races, the Democrat appears to have a chance to win and finally pull of the coronation of “Blue Texas!”, but will likely fail in the end due to Texas being a relatively inelastic state, that just takes a while to coalesce the Republican vote together.
The final factor here is the Latino vote. In Texas, the Latino population is much more conservative than elsewhere in the country. Some early polling even showed Cruz winning this demographic This likely due to the fact that many Latino’s in Texas live in rural area’s, or are raised in a much more conservative environment. This will make it much harder for Democrats to every achieve their dream of a Blue Texas, with the Latino vote here acting much more conservative than it does in California. Although Texas has ticked a few points to the left over the years, it’s likely still a solidly conservative state for Republicans. Democrats would be wiser to worry more about the upper-midwest shifting to Republicans than a never-ending goal of capturing Texas.