Andrew Feinberg, The Independent
With just seven short days remaining until the last votes of the 2020 election are cast, political veterans from both ends of the ideological spectrum have been chattering away about some strange goings-on in America’s second most populous state. And while the results won’t be known for a week, there is a bipartisan consensus that something is happening in Texas.
The Lone Star State and its 38 electoral votes have been a lock for Republicans since Ronald Reagan claimed them on the way to his 489-49 electoral college landslide over the last Democrat to win Texas, then-President Jimmy Carter. The GOP has also had a stranglehold over Texas’ state house since 2003 and no Democrat has won a statewide election there since 1994.
But even in the face of loss upon crushing loss, Democrats have harboured dreams of a resurgence in what was once one of their largest and most reliable strongholds, powered by what has been a steadily increasing Latino share of the Texas electorate.
Could 2020 be the year Lone Star State Democrats finally bring home the bacon and effectively lock the GOP out of the White House?
One Texas politics graybeard, consultant-turned-TV-producer Mark McKinnon, does not see Democrats nailing down the big prize this year, but acknowledged that there is potential for them to have a better year there than they’ve had in a long time by picking off some newly competitive House districts and potentially flipping the State House of Representatives as well. “Texas would be, if it comes through, a monster white whale. But if you’re fishing, go for the fish you can get first,” he said.
McKinnon, who helped make Ann Richards the last Democrat to occupy the Texas governor’s mansion in 1990 before later shepherding her successor, George W Bush, to the White House, explained that urban areas around Fort Worth and Houston are “really blowing up demographically” in a way that could bode well for Democrats. But because a statewide victory would be a much heavier lift this year, he would advise the Biden campaign to be cautious in how it expends resources there.
But another veteran of many a bruising political battle in the second largest state, ex-GOP consultant and Lincoln Project founder Mike Madrid, is far more bullish on his new allies’ chances.
Madrid, an expert on Latino voting trends, said predictions that Donald Trump will earn enough Latino votes to carry the day might hold up in Florida, with its large Cuban American population, but stressed that the large percentage of Mexican Americans in Texas make the Lone Star State a much heavier lift for Trump.
“The Mexican American vote is the most anti-Republican vote there is,” said Madrid, who explained that aside from ex-Texas Governor George W Bush’s two presidential runs, only around 27 percent of Latinos tend to vote Republican.
Trump would need to win a full third — 33 percent — of Latino voters to retain Texas’ electoral votes, he explained, because the Biden campaign has already pulled away at least nine points’ worth of the college-educated white vote from Trump’s 2016 base. But despite polling that shows Trump doing better than previous GOP candidates not named Bush among Latinos, Madrid remains sceptical that the 45th President will buck historical trends that have remained consistent since the 1996 election. Trump campaign officials and surrogates have repeatedly scoffed at the possibility that former Vice President Joe Biden could be the candidate to turn Texas blue, particularly after he said he would enact policies to reduce the country’s dependence on fossil fuels during last week’s presidential debate. On a conference call with reporters last week, former Texas Governor Rick Perry opined that Trump “is going to do quite fine in Texas” and will carry the state “handily”.
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