If you’ve followed the blog, it’s been a frequent subject of discussion, and frankly, a sincere hope…
Will Texas ever become a Swing State??
Back when I first discussed the topic in 2012, here was the rationale: With over half of the state’s population now concentrated in the 13 largest counties, the potential for Texas to be competitive is abundant. But it remains a reliably Red State because of low voter turnout. After the 2012 elections, these ideas seemed to be confirmed.
That’s the problem for Texas, but finding solutions has proven more challenging. In 2013, Battleground Texas formed to with that very goal in mind. After being written off by national Democratic organizations for over a generation, suddenly the state was abuzz with left-leaning political activity. Of course we know that the end result wasn’t in BGTX’s favor, as neither Wendy Davis or Leticia Van de Putte were able to win their statewide races. But even in losing the battle that year, BGTX played a huge role in an historic new high of voter registration, helped to connect and unite Democrats across the state, and gave us all something to fight for.
After laying a foundation, will 2016 finally be the year that sees this elusive house get built? If the first week of Early Voting is any indication, the results appear promising for Democrats.
How promising is still anyone’s guess. But what we do know is this…
Voter Registration has reached another historic benchmark across the state, led by minority communities in urban counties. The state of over 27 million residents is now up to 15.1 million registered voters.
Early Voting is running a full 6 percentage points higher than in 2012, and nearly 800,000 more people at the polls. More Texans have already voted than ever before, with most of the state’s 13 largest counties seeing one quarter or more of their voters at the polls. Exciting numbers, but it’s not yet clear whether this represents an actual increase in turnout (and a possible change in the makeup of the electorate), or simply a shift in behavior from voting on Election Day to voting early. In any event, the answers will be revealed soon.
The other X Factor in the 2016 race (besides the candidates themselves) is the interesting structure of campaigns. While Hillary Clinton has certainly not made Texas a focal point of her election strategy, the state is not being totally ignored by Democrats. Even miniscule investments can serve to motivate voters that may have otherwise stayed at home. But oddly enough, the Trump campaign has also largely ignored the Lone Star State, instead opting for little organization and some social media activity. As always, there is a strong network of Republican organization here, but it’s not from the top of the ticket.
So with such interesting conditions at play, could Texas voters yield an historic turn of events for Clinton? The answer is ‘yes’, and even with a loss. The last time a Democrat actually won the state was in 1976 thanks to President Jimmy Carter. Since then, no Democrat has even garnered 44 percent of the vote statewide. If polling is consistent with actual vote totals, Clinton should break this 40 year old glass ceiling with ease.
If past is prologue, we’re far from celebrating an huge sea change in Texas politics. But if anything, 2016 will serve to move Texas ever closer into that competitive column, and hopefully give Democrats some needed momentum into 2018.
So hold on to your blue boots, and shine ’em up for Election Night!
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