Will Texas be a Swing State by 2016?

Actress Eva Longoria and and Texas Democratic Party Chair Gilberto Hinojosa predict Texas will be purple in 2016 in an opinion piece at Politico.
Thu November 1, 2012 1:15 am

Actress Eva Longoria and Gilberto Hinojosa, chair of the Texas Democratic Party, joined forces to pen an opinion piece in Politico seemingly targeted at the Democratic National Committee about Texas becoming a swing state in the near future:

[W]hy is Texas not yet an active swing state? In part, the belief that Texas will remain Republican has been a self-fulfilling prophecy. The belief that we’re a state comprised of a tea party-sympathetic majority has distracted from what the actual numbers show.

Take that 30 percent Hispanic eligible voter population and add it to our 12 percent African-American eligible voter population. Combine that 42 percent with our large numbers of rural populists, progressive white, LGBT and youth voters — all of whom also skew Democratic, and the so-called minorities become a collective majority. That’s Bill Clinton-style arithmetic.

Indeed, former President Bill Clinton made this point last week while speaking to a largely Latino audience at a rally in San Antonio: “You’re gonna determine this election,” Clinton said. “You’re gonna determine it by both how you vote and whether you vote. There’s no doubt in my mind that if every single person in Texas who was eligible to vote registered and voted, this would be a Democratic state.”

Texas Monthly 's Paul Burka, for his part, believes that it will take longer for a Latino vote to turn Texas blue: "The state Democratic party is not capable of supporting a statewide race and will not be able to do so until the Latino vote matures. That occurrence is years away–at best, 2018 or 2020."

Of course, the Republican Party of Texas is doing its part to try to woo Latino voters. George P. Bush, who is expected to make a bid for statewide office in 2014, recently accepted a prominent fundraising position for the party, a job which took him to Pharr this week. (Hinojosa and others have claimed that Ted Cruz, with his Cuban heritage, is unlikely to appeal to the majority of Texas's Hispanic population, who hail from Mexico. State representative Aaron Peña, of Edinburg, a former Democrat, called those views "highly offensive," the San Antonio Express-News reported Monday.)

Nate Silver addressed this issue in September at Five Thirty Eight : "A Democratic-leaning Texas may seem like a dream, but for years such a shift has appeared almost inevitable." Silver's models now put Romney's chances of winning the state at 100 percent, but, in the long term, the state will go to the Dems, thanks to shifting demographics and a downward trend in the number of non-Hispanic whites who vote. "In 1984 it was 78 percent; by 2008 it was 63 percent," Silver wrote.

Texas's 38 electoral votes (as many as Iowa, New Hampshire, Virgina, and Colorado combined, Hinojosa and Longoria point out) will be in play at some point, the question is when. But, to achieve this, Hispanic turnout at the polls is key, and Silver identified two issues that will impact the timing:

The larger question is not if Texas will become more competitive, but when, both Mr. Henson and Mr. Miller said. And that largely depends on whether Democrats can improve turnout among Hispanics. They have a few things working against them.

First, the Texas Democratic Party has been out of power for a long time, with few elections to truly contest. “The party in the state has really atrophied,” said [James R. Henson, the director of the Texas Politics Project at the University of Texas at Austin.]

Second, Hispanic culture in Texas has so far not placed a high value on participating in the electoral process, said [Robert D. Miller, the chairman of the Public Law Group at Locke Lord L.L.P.]

Responding to Silver, Charles Kuffner opines at Off the Kuff that the transformation to blue will take both money and boots on the ground:

I maintain that money is a key part of the equation here, and I find myself puzzled at the animus that some folks have to this. If we believe that doing the same thing over and over again in hope of a different result is ill-advised, then I would maintain that trying to win elections while hopelessly outgunned financially is something we have already decisively shown to be a bad idea. The hard work of organizing, identifying and registering new voters, then getting them to the polls, is not going to be done by an army of volunteers. It’s going to take permanent, paid, professional staff to do that. Communicating a message takes money, too. ... I want the national Democratic party to spend money in Texas, which some people think may be on the horizon, and I make no apologies for that.

So what's stopping the Democratic Party from throwing its weight (and money) into Texas? “The problem with this is, it’s a longer-term view, and very few people in Washington or in the party structure take the long view,” Austin-based Democratic consultant Harold Cook told the Texas Tribune 's Emily Ramshaw in September. “If everybody ever thought it through, the best investment would be Texas.”

Longoria and Hinojosa ended their piece in that same vein: "It has never been a good idea to bet against Texas. Out here in the Lonestar State, our true majority looks forward to seeing you in the battleground four years from now," they wrote.

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