The man in the pink dress shirt sits a few feet away from me, rifling through a stack of papers filled with graphs and diagrams and colorful pie charts. “I couldn’t find the one for 2040,” he says ruefully, his eyes never looking up. The information he holds in his hands literally and figuratively represents the future of the Republican party in Texas. It contains page after page of demographic data, almost all of it relating to the ever-growing Hispanic population. The numbers tell the story of a state in transition from white to brown.
He hands me a graph of the GOP’s performance in elections since 1998. Lines of various colors zigzag across the page, forming shallow peaks and deep valleys. The lines represent the percentage of the vote received by the leading Republican candidate in each election year, and almost all of them trend downward. The years 2006 and 2008 were particularly bad for Republicans; 2010, with a line that ends with a pronounced upward thrust, is the outlier. What the information shows is that Republicans win races, but their share of the vote has been dropping steadily. If the party doesn’t change its strategy to attract minorities, its dominance will eventually end.
Had I been talking with a political consultant for the Democrats, these conclusions would not be news. But I am in the office of Steve Munisteri, the chairman of the Republican Party of Texas. You might think that he has the softest job in American politics: leading his candidates to an unending string of victories in this reddest of states. Well, it just so happens that Munisteri would beg to differ. As he sees it, Texas is becoming a swing state—maybe not today or tomorrow, but too soon for comfort. When he isn’t worrying about the size of the turnout in the May 29 primary elections or whether the party’s state convention will go smoothly for the estimated 18,000 delegates and alternates, he is studying PowerPoint presentations of demographic data and contemplating the uncertainties that lie ahead for the GOP.
This may seem like an Alfred E. Neuman moment (“What, me worry?”), considering that his party hasn’t lost a statewide election since 1994. But Munisteri is not the type of person who cries wolf. His credentials are impeccable. He’s the founder of the Young Conservatives of Texas and a former state chairman of the Young Americans for Freedom. And his research