Texas on the Horizon
by Jonathan Singer, Mon Nov 10, 2008 at 07:41:22 AM EST
Texas has been a key to the recent Republican coalitions, with the state giving its large share of electoral votes to the GOP presidential nominee in every election dating back to 1980. But according to the Los Angeles Times' Peter Wallsten, Democrats are beginning to look forward to the possibility that Texas will turn blue -- or at least purple -- in the coming years.
Looking through the numbers from Tuesday, it becomes clear that there is reason to hope. Overall, Barack Obama received about 25 percent more votes in Texas this year than John Kerry did four years ago while John McCain received about 1.5 percent fewer votes than George W. Bush did in 2004. No doubt this is at least partially a result of the fact that unlike the last two presidential elections, there isn't a Texan heading the GOP ticket this fall. Yet these relative gains came at a time when the Democrats did not run an active media effort in the state, only a grassroots effort without the same type of attention that went towards an Ohio, an Indiana or even a Montana. Were the Democrats to devote the type of resources to Texas that they did to try to swing a traditionally red state like North Carolina, there's little doubt in my mind that the gains from 2004 to 2008 could be built upon.
In the end, Obama still lost Texas by about a million votes, and about 11 percentage points. However, even going beyond the gains in votes Obama made relative to Kerry, exit polling indicates that the success was not limited to just the topline results. In 2004, Republicans made up 43 percent of the electorate in Texas, compared with the 32 percent of the state electorate self-identifying as Democratic. In 2006, that split was 40 percent Republican to 31 percent Democratic. Yet this year the difference was just a point, with Republicans making up 34 percent of the electorate and Democrats making up 33 percent of the electorate. If that shift holds and the Democrats can begin to make some inroads among those voters previously identifying as Republican but now calling themselves Independents (McCain won 63 percent of Texas' indies, compared with just 44 percent nationwide), then Texas could definitely be on the map for the Democrats in the coming years.
Throw on top of all of this the major demographic changes in the state, which Wallsten does a good job of reporting on in his piece, and you can see why some Democrats are getting excited about their future in the Lone Star state. And considering that Texas could gain as many as four electoral votes between now and the 2012 election, a Democratic resurgence in the state couldn't come at a better time.