As the race for President narrows and already starts to be uglier, it seems as though everything is up for grabs. Everything, that is, except Republican stronghold Texas. The Barataria call for the contest to settle into the Lone Star State was met with an unusual amount of jeering in comments, social media, and mail. Have I lost my mind to left-wing gobbledy-gook?
Maybe. But I also know it’s going to be in play and that it’s worth explaining how and why. If nothing else, a few million dollars spent in Texas would scare tens of millions in Texas money out of the national race. Don’t think for a minute that a racist talk about Mexicans doesn’t strike fear in the hearts of the Republican establishment in Texas to start with – and signs that it will be capitalized on can and should create a real panic. Let’s break it down.
Democrats often say Texas is on the verge of becoming blue. It’s been a mantra for as much as 20 years now – any day now, that state will flip. A casual check of the numbers shows how ridiculous this looks on the face of it, however. In 2012 Mitt Romney got 57% of the vote over Obama, a gap of 1.3 million votes. The 2014 House election produced 25 Republican Reps to a mere 11 Democrats.
Few states are redder, it seems. How can Texas be in play?
The logic goes that as the state becomes younger and more Hispanic it will eventually flip over. It would be good to have this happen before redistricting in 2020 for the simple reason that Texas is heavily gerrymandered. That same 57% Republican should logically give us no more than 21 Republican seats, a gap of 4 – nearly 1% of the US House. With the House close nationally every makes a difference.
But how is this possible?
Let’s start with the 2012 election. Turnout in Texas was 49.7%, well below the 58.2% seen nationally. The gap between Obama and Romney in 2012 was slightly less than the number of people who didn’t show up to vote, as compared to the national average. Any appeal to changing the state has to fall first with those voters who, for whatever reason, aren’t bothering to show up. This could be that they feel defeated or that both parties don’t offer them what they are looking for. But it’s worth seeing who votes.
Texas is home to 4.8 million Latinos who are eligible voters by age and citizenship. But only 2.6 million of them are registered and only 1.9 million voted in 2012. The gap is a substantial one – 0.7 million who could have voted, another 2.2 million who need to be registered. The registration rate is only 54%, well below the 66% registration rate of Anglos.
Nationally, Latinos in general voted 71% for Democrats. That may be a bit higher in Texas, but without any better information let’s start with that number.
Donald Trump is, to put it mildly, absolutely pissing off Latinos in general and Mexican Americans in particular. In a normal world Latinos would vote like Anglos in just about every respect – many are pro-Life, some own small businesses, and others have their own reasons why they should reasonably be Republicans. That isn’t going to happen this year. Trump’s unfavorable rating among Latinos is approaching 90%, which by any measure can and should become an apocalypse in Texas.
It’s simply a matter of math. If we did indeed have 29% of Latinos vote for Romney in Texas and that falls to 10% for Trump, all else being equal we have a solid swing of 0.7 million for Clinton versus Obama – 0.36 million gained by her, 0.36 lost by Trump. The gap is half closed.
For the rest,we can turn to the 2.2 million unregistered Latinos and 0.7 million who didn’t vote last time. A voter registration drive targeting less than half of the unregistered, or 1 million, is already in the works. Cristobal J. Alex, former head of the Latino Victory Project, is now the Deputy Director of voter outreach and mobilization for the Clinton Campaign. This will be his job.
If that sounds fanciful, consider that California has already seen an increase of more than 200,000 Latino registered voters without a substantial effort. A real push in Texas would make a big difference.
In summary, this is how the 1.3 million vote gap is closed:
- A swing of upwards of 0.7 million in those who are already voting,
- An increase of 0.7 million among those registered but not voting, and
- The registration of 1.0 million new voters.
We can identify as many as 2.4 million Latino votes for Clinton in Texas, which is to say that if this plan only half works it will still put Texas in play.
More than half is enough to turn Texas blue – not just for Clinton, but forever.
Note that this analysis says absolutely nothing about the Anglo or Black vote. There is a reasonable chance that a certain percentage of Anglos will not vote for Trump, some of them going for Clinton and perhaps even a decent number going for Gary Johnson of the Libertarian Party. But this would only be dessert, something like a nice banana cream pie after a rich, long-stewed Pozole.
Where will this election be fought? Where the stars at night are big and bright – deep in the heart of Texas. And we all know that the (mostly) Anglo Republicans are at the very least going to hunker down in their own Alamo at the very thought of this happening, so there is absolutely no downside to trying.
All of this works in Arizona as well as a few other states on the margin like North Carolina, but the effect is less dramatic.
Conventional wisdom tells pundits that Clinton will run a “prevent defense” to win the states Obama did and cruise to an easy victory over the floundering Trump. They don’t know Clinton. She will be in it to win it – not just in 2016 but for a very long time to come.