The political reporters at The Washington Post, the people at the Center for American Progress, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and other who specialize in liberal head-fakery have lots of people believing a big blue wave is going to come crashing ashore in Texas come November.
Don’t believe it. The GOP may be in trouble in some parts of the country, but in Texas everything is just fine. In 2006 – the last time Dems took back the House – Republicans had a 12-point advantage in Texas primary turnout. In 2018 they had a 20-point advantage.
The best evidence for this is the results in Tuesday’s primary elections. Going into Election Day it was widely reported that the “early voting” turnout among Democrats was up by more than 100 percent over what is was for the last midterm election. Turnout among GOP voters was up too, but only by a little more than10 percent.
The smart folks, which means the ones whose political prognostications carry the most weight (heaven knows why) said that meant the Democrats were on track in their mission to turn Texas blue. Which means they either don’t know Texas or they need to find a new line of work.
Turnout was indeed up on both sides of the aisle, but as far as the Democrats go, most of those voters appear to be folks who typically don’t vote in primaries but do vote in general elections. That’s means there’s not much more to add to the million or so voters who turned out to vote for Robert “Beto” O’Rourke and other Democrats, while the GOP has a lot of room to add to the 1.5 million or so voters who turned out to renominate Republican Gov. Greg Abbot, Republican U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, all the other statewide officer holders (who are all Republicans) and members of Congress and the state legislature.
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What’s gone unreported and unremarked on is the number of local offices in areas that ought to be Democrat-friendly where no one filed to run for key positions like County Judge (which is the top administrative post in the jurisdiction), tax accessor or any of the other local offices from which state officials and members of Congress eventually spring. The lack of a “farm team,” as we used to call it back in the days when I practiced politics rather than wrote about it, is deadly, not just in Texas but across the South and well into the Midwest.
The fact, one the fakers will find uncomfortable, is that Republicans in 2018 blew past their own turnout record, casting the most votes in Texas primary history. Even O’Rourke, about whom you will be hearing more until it becomes clear he can’t win absent either a major Cruz misstep or a miracle, the latter being more likely, got less than 62 percent of the vote against two challengers whom no one had ever heard of and who spent almost no money. Even Wendy Davis, whom Abbot blew out of the water in the 2014 gubernatorial race despite predictions she’d make a real contest of it, won 78 percent in her nominating election.
Still, plenty of folks will claim with straight faces that GOP (read Trump) positions on immigration and trade will alienate Latino voters who will go for the Democrats in droves. There’s no evidence of that and anyone who says so is blowing smoke. The real danger to Republican incumbents comes from upper income, swept away from our Texas heritage by our fancy college education voters and transplanted Californians living in the suburbs around Houston and Dallas. They like their tax cut and they like the pro-life constitutionalists judges Trump is putting on the courts with the advice and consent of senators like Cruz. They just don’t like the president all that much because all their friends at the country club don’t like him too much – even though his name may be on that very same club.
After the votes were counted Tuesday, Jim Dean, the chairman of Democracy for America, was ebullient. “We’ve got a long road to November,” he said in a statement, “but the wins we saw last night in the Lone Star State, as well as the runoff primaries some of those victories set-up, strongly suggest momentum is building behind a nationwide Blue Tsunami.” You’ll keep hearing talk like that for a while, largely because it helps the progressive national fundraising team keep putting points on the board. What Dean and other Democrats won’t admit is just how long the road of which he spoke is and how far out past November 2018 it ends.