But the path to Swing State status never actually changed.
Tier 2 we’ll consider these “swing” counties. These flipped to vote for Obama by a smaller margin such as Harris (Houston), Jefferson (Beaumont) or Bexar (San Antonio). But you can also consider other counties that held for McCain, but by a rapidly decreasing margin… Hays, Fort Bend, Williamson and Nueces (Corpus Christi). Texas Democrats should work hard to keep Harris county in the blue and try to flip Hays, Williamson or Fort Bend. If one of those were to flip in 2012, it would mark the first time a substantial suburban county went blue. The impact of this could not be understated because it would show that Texas follows the same model as any other swing state… The cities become heavily Democratic, rural areas lean Republican, and the election battle is fought and won in the suburban counties.
It just took a bit longer than some may have expected, but at long last, Texas is finally stepping into Swing State territory. After seeing an historic number of voters registered (step 1), and then followed up by impressive turnout (steps 2-1,000), the 2018 Texas Electorate has now finally proved a fertile ground for good Democratic candidates. Thanks to turnout which was nearly double that of the 2014 contest, any possibility of Republican statewide candidates winning by 20 percentage points was wholly eradicated.
Counties that haven’t voted for a Democrat in decades turned out for Beto O’Rourke in his unsuccessful bid to unseat U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, and he picked up enough support in ruby red Republican counties to force Cruz into single-digit wins.
It could all be a blip — a year of Democratic enthusiasm spurred by a shiny candidate or vitriol toward President Donald Trump. But with margins narrowing over time in some of the GOP’s longtime strongholds, Tuesday night’s results suggest that the Republican firewall in the suburbs could be cracking.
In Central Texas, O’Rourke broke the electoral status quo in Hays and Williamson counties, rapidly growing bedroom communities taking in new — likely liberal — residents from Austin.
Hays County, home to Texas State University, hadn’t voted for Democrats at the top of the ticket since 1992. But Republicans’ control of one of the fastest-growing counties in the country has been weakening for years. Last night’s results indicate the county is trending blue. It swung hard toward the Democrats, giving O’Rourke a 15.3 point margin and narrowly opting for Gov. Greg Abbott’s Democratic challenger Lupe Valdez despite the 9-point margin of victory Abbott claimed over Democrat Wendy Davis in 2014.
The flip to blue was less all-encompassing in Williamson County. O’Rourke claimed a 2.8 margin of victory, which was notable given how Republicans have long maintained a strong advantage there. Abbott easily held onto the county, but another statewide Republican — Attorney General Ken Paxton — lost there.