07/14/19

Texas Is Ground Zero for 2020

“Everything’s bigger in Texas.” This year the famous quip may apply not only to Texas cowboy hats, ranches, and our “taller-than-the-one-in-DC” capitol building, but also to Texas’ outsized impact on American politics. Indeed, U.S. Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi recently told a crowd in Houston that Texas is “ground zero” for the 2020 elections. 

How did a state that hasn’t elected a Democrat to a statewide office in more than two decades become the epicenter for the fight for the future of the United States? 

How did a state with a governing Republican “trifecta” (House, Senate, and Governorship all of the same party) become the source of Democratic hopes for taking national control? 

How Did We Get Here?

  1. Beto’s razor thin defeat to Senator Cruz last November proved to Democrats that the Republican vice-grip on Texas politics might be weakening. 
  2. Although Republicans held on to every statewide office in 2018, they won by much narrower margins than at any time in recent memory. For example, Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick, who won his seat in 2014 by 20 percentage points, held onto it in 2018 by less than 5 percentage points. 
  3. Democrats made big gains in the legislature in 2018 — taking two seats in the Texas Senate and 12 in the Texas House.  
  4. A poll conducted by the University of Texas and the Texas Tribune in February suggested that approximately half of the respondents would vote (or would consider voting) for someone other than Trump.

All of this against a backdrop of immigration — new voters immigrating from other nations as well as new voters who have moved to Texas from other states. More than 60,000 Californians relocated to Texas in 2017 alone. Democrats are banking that these immigrants — largely  Hispanic — will vote blue.

What’s At Stake?

Obviously, Democrats would love to take Texas’ 38 electoral college votes. Texas is second only to California in electoral votes, and without Texas’ votes in the Republican column, a Democrat presidential victory is virtually assured for the foreseeable future.

But a first step to help assure a Democrat electoral college victory would be a Democrat takeover of the Texas House of Representatives. If Democrats can flip the Texas House in 2020 — and it would only take winning nine more seats — they would control the decennial redistricting process and presumably could gerrymander the map to ensure Democrat victories. 

As a large, prosperous, and conservative state, Texas has long been the Republican firewall in American politics. For the first time in more than two decades, Democrats have reason to believe they can turn Texas blue. No wonder all eyes are on Texas as we head into 2020.

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