Democrats’ Dream Of Flipping Texas Is Turning Into A Recurring Nightmare

In 2008, Barack Obama misplaced the state of Texas in his first presidential bid by 946,584 votes, carrying 43.8% of the vote.

On Tuesday, Democrat Beto O’Rourke misplaced his long-shot bid for Texas governor by practically 900,000 votes. With practically all of the ballots counted, he carried the very same share of the vote as Obama did 14 years in the past.

Election night time provided some scattered excellent news for Texas Democrats. They staved off Republican threats in two South Texas congressional districts. O’Rourke, on paper, continued a pattern of narrowing Republican Gov. Greg Abbott’s margin of victory in gubernatorial races from the 20-percentage-point pummeling Wendy Davis suffered in 2014 to about 11 proportion factors.

However the election additionally made a extra painful actuality apparent for Democrats: They nonetheless haven’t managed to show the state purple.

“We’ve made nearly no progress,” stated veteran Democratic strategist Colin Strother. “In 126 years, at this tempo, we’ll be at parity. The maths simply doesn’t work.”

Democrats working statewide slipped in key areas the place they wanted to make positive aspects. Youth turnout lagged. Margins in key city areas, together with Dallas and Harris County, the place Houston is positioned, appeared to shrink in contrast with O’Rourke’s margin towards Sen. Ted Cruz in 2018. The agricultural voters O’Rourke labored so onerous to win over continued to reject him.

Maybe most painfully for Democrats, outgoing President Donald Trump’s sudden Republican in-roads in 2020 in closely Hispanic and traditionally Democratic South Texas appeared to carry regular.

For greater than a decade, Democrats have contended that the conservative institution is out of sync with majority-minority-population Texas. Because the state’s browner, blacker and extra progressive working-class youth attain maturity, the argument goes, they’ll progressively substitute the older, whiter conservatives, shifting the voters leftward.

O’Rourke’s near-miss race towards Cruz 4 years in the past prioritized get-out-the-vote efforts and drove file turnout. Although O’Rourke misplaced, his 2.6-percentage-point margin of defeat was so shut that it felt like victory for a celebration used to shedding by landslides within the state. His sudden reputation additionally helped flip two U.S. Home seats and 13 extra within the Texas Legislature, cowing Republicans into an unusually tame legislative session.

Democrats’ Dream Of Flipping Texas Is Turning Into A Recurring Nightmare
Democratic rival Beto O’Rourke, seen right here at an El Paso marketing campaign occasion Tuesday, misplaced his gubernatorial bid whereas once more sinking hopes a few blue resurgence within the state.

LM Otero/Related Press

For Democrats, it appeared like their second was on the horizon.

As an alternative, O’Rourke launched an ill-fated presidential run whereas Democrats noticed their positive aspects erode in 2020. On Tuesday, Republicans as soon as once more retained a stranglehold over statewide workplaces in Texas for occurring three many years.

And the trail ahead for Democrats now appears to be like extra difficult than ever earlier than.

Shrinking margins in South Texas and key city areas point out that Texas Democrats don’t simply have a turnout drawback on their palms; they’re additionally struggling to maintain core constituencies on their facet, at the least with the sorts of lopsided margins that they’ve banked on up to now.

Republicans additionally poured thousands and thousands of {dollars} into South Texas and ran competitive candidates after redistricting made these seats look like extra inside attain. A area that traditionally voted for Democrats by vast margins now noticed veteran incumbents, reminiscent of Rep. Vicente Gonzalez, sweating to carry on to their seats.

“Republicans are literally attempting for the primary time [in South Texas],” stated Rice College political scientist Mark Jones. “They labored onerous to make sure the Republican candidate was not a 64-year-old Anglo male… . They’re additionally profiting from the fact that South Texas Latinos are comparatively conservative on some points and extra receptive to a Republican message than Latinos in city facilities.”

Extra aggressive elections threaten to pressure Democrats to work tougher for a smaller share of a voting bloc the occasion lengthy took with no consideration.

And in a state the place distinguished Democrats largely keep away from troublesome races, Democrats relied too closely on the star energy of Beto O’Rourke.

Donors all however ignored the remainder of the ticket, even though lawyer common candidate Rochelle Garza constantly polled nicely and was well-positioned to achieve the younger Hispanic constituency that state Democrats have pinned their future on.

“Texas didn’t put money into essentially the most aggressive statewide race, in a Latina candidate who may have mobilized voters,” stated Cristina Tzintzún Ramírez, government director of the youth voting rights group NextGen. “Rochelle was a terrific candidate. She simply wasn’t given the sources she wanted.”

The Democratic technique of flipping the state on the again of its demographics will solely work, she stated, if it’s coupled with long-term funding in voter outreach and turnout efforts.

“Demographics should not future,” Tzintzún Ramírez stated. “Texas has simply barely begun to see the sources for the work that’s essential. It takes a number of cycles. It takes some huge cash, and it’s carried out on the group stage.”

Rep.-elect Greg Casar, an Austin Democrat, cautioned that, amid dashed hopes, his occasion ought to take away the best lesson. Although the occasion has misplaced floor since 2018, it has additionally managed to claw its method again from the times when Republicans routinely clobbered them by double digits. Casar credited candidates like O’Rourke and Garza, who had been keen to run campaigns with tiny prospects of success, with placing the occasion on stronger footing.

“We’re in such a greater place than we had been even only a few years in the past,” Casar stated. “When folks quit, that’s after we don’t transfer ahead.”

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