In the current issue of Texas Monthly, I wrote about the prospects of Battleground Texas in a column titled “Am I Blue?” Writing in the National Journal, Ronald Brownstein speculates that one politician has the power to turn Texas Blue. That politician is … Rick Perry.
Brownstein says Perry’s decision not to expand Medicaid (unlike other GOP governors) could be what ultimately hands Texas to the Democrats:
Rejecting the federal money might not pose an immediate political threat to Texas Republicans, whose coalition revolves around white voters responsive to small-government arguments. But renouncing the money represents an enormous gamble for Republicans with the growing Hispanic community, which is expected to approach one-third of the state’s eligible voters in 2016. Hispanics would benefit most from expansion because they constitute 60 percent of the state’s uninsured. A jaw-dropping 3.6 million Texas Hispanics lack insurance.
He concludes: “In 1994, California Republican Gov. Pete Wilson mobilized his base by promoting Proposition 187, a ballot initiative to deny services to illegal immigrants. He won reelection that year–and then lost the war as Hispanics stampeded from the GOP and helped turn the state lastingly Democratic.”
I happened to see Brownstein last Sunday at a small gathering when the subject of turning Texas blue came up, and Medicaid expansion was a big part of our conversation. It is widely known that talks with Perry on the issue of expansion are taking place in an effort to keep him from painting himself into a corner — if he hasn’t already applied the first coat.