Sorry not to have been around for the past week. I’ve been writing a feature story about John Cornyn, and multitasking is not my forte. Count me as one who is skeptical that the Democrats can win that race. I spent about a thousand words explaining why, but the main reason is something that one of Cornyn’s staffers told me: “The only way he can lose is if Texas votes Democratic” (for president). I know that Cornyn’s name ID, favorability, job approval, and electability numbers aren’t great, but the Republicans still have a big advantage in the base vote. It’s around nine points. Regardless of the office, if you were to run the elephant on the Republican ticket, it would get at least 43% of the vote. If you were to run the donkey on the Democratic ticket, it would get at least 34% of the vote. Unless the Democrats can find a way to change that situation, they can’t win.
OK, here’s a way to change it. First, a depressed Republican turnout. This could happen. Democrats are more interested in voting than Republicans in 2008 by 5 points, a margin that has been the case since the middle of 2006. Second, a tsunami of independent votes. In the 2004 presidential race, Texans cast 7.4 million votes. A nine-point lead translates to 666,000 votes. Independents are around a fourth of the electorate. That’s 1.85 million votes. If they were to break two to one for Democrats, this is around 1.23 million votes for Ds, 620,000 for Rs (a net pickup for Democrats of more than 600,000 votes. That just about wipes out the Republican advantage in base vote. That should make Cornyn’s race competitive.
But … a campaign is not just about numbers. You know what Cornyn’s message is going to be. “If you elect Rick Noriega/Mikal Watts, you’re casting a vote for Hillary Clinton’s policies.” A lot of independents who used to be Republicans will stick with Cornyn.