Texas flipping blue is the Great Democratic Wet Dream that reoccurs with regularity, like the swallows coming back to Capistrano. It comprised one of my core fantasies during 2016. When Harris County the largest county in Texas, with a population bigger than that of 25 other states went undeniably blue up and down the ballot on Election Night, I let out a war whoop that could be heard from my porch in the San Gabriel Valley to Eric Garcetti’s mansion downtown. The Democrats going after Texas is a lot like Ahab going after Moby Dick. It’s far fetched and probably impossible, but dammit, we just have to keep going after it. However, if you can believe the stats that CNN’s Chris Cillizza just published in his Thursday newsletter, we might not be dreaming the impossible dream after all. A new poll from Quinnipiac University suggests that Texas might be in play as a swing state in 2020.
Former Vice President Joe Biden took 48% in the Texas poll as compared to 44% for President Donald Trump. And it’s not just Biden who is running competitively with the president in Texas; the Q poll shows five other potential Democratic nominees — including Bernie Sanders and Kamala Harris — trailing Trump well within the poll’s margin of error.
If this was a lone result with no comparable data to back it up, we could — and probably should — dismiss it. But there is other data that suggests this could be a real thing.
Most notably, Gallup’s state-by-state presidential job approval numbers for 2018. In Texas, 41% approved of how Trump was doing his job while 52% disapproved. Compare that to Trump’s 2018 job approval in so-called swing states like:
Ohio (48% approve/48% disapprove)
North Carolina (45%/50%)
So, there’s that. And beyond polling, we have actual election results that back up the possibility of Texas as an emerging swing state. In 2018, then-Rep. Beto O’Rourke (D) came within 2.5 points of knocking off Sen. Ted Cruz (R). And two years before that, Trump only won the state by 9 points over Hillary Clinton — a far cry from his 36-point victory in neighboring Oklahoma or even his 28-point margin in Alabama.
Cillizza then goes on to point out the the Q poll is not an anomaly, but part of a trend, and the big question is whether it’s worth it to spend the tens of millions of dollars that it would take to do the requisite television advertising — or, could the money be better used spread out over a lot of smaller states, which are known to be swing states, like Florida, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Ohio? Do we go after the whale, or just try to net a school of fish?
Cillizza always ends his newsletter with his point, in bold, and here it is:
The Point: Texas was never as reliably Republican as conventional wisdom suggested in the 2000s. Its large and growing Hispanic population makes it an emerging swing state. The real question is whether Democrats will go after it in 2020 or wait until 2024?
Aaaaah, those 38 electoral votes, coupled with California’s 55 and New York’s 29, ohhhhh those numbers add up so sweet! Wouldn’t Texas look great in the Democratic column?
And bear this in mind, because this may be the bellwether of something going on down there: in 2016 out of the 38 electors in the electoral college, two of them voted for other candidates besides Trump. Texas was the ONLY red state to award Trump fewer than the full electoral votes assigned to the state.
Don’t want to get your hopes up too high, but these are the signs that prognosticators of the dark political arts look for in the crystal ball and assign great value to. And don’t forget, Texas not only has a large and growing Hispanic population, as Cillizza points out — but Donald Trump’s latest Mexican hat dance around a 25% tariff on Mexican goods, just to look good for his base, is not pleasing either Texans or Hispanics. Both Republican Senators, John Cornyn and Ted Cruz are dead set against Trump’s folly, because it’s going to cost the state close to $27Billion if it happens. Trump apparently thinks the Lone Star state is one of his casinos, you just go insane long enough and when the game is over, you file for bankruptcy and walk on to your next disaster. Wrong.
Keep your eyes on the horizon and if you see anything big and blue out there, quick, tell the Captain. We may be in for a political sea change.