Inconvenient writing assignments have kept me away from the blog in recent days, so I have a lot of catching up to do. (I have stories in the September issue on the status of Galveston’s recovery from Hurricane Ike one year later and on the prospects for Gail Lowe, the new chair of the State Board of Education, to restore some decorum and sense of public purpose to the board.) A Gallup survey released yesterday ranked Texas as “competitive.” The results were based upon tracking polls during the first six months of 2009. The number of respondents in Texas was 9,179, and the margin of error was extremely small, +/- 1%. The tally: 42% self-identified as Democrats or independents who leaned Democrat, 40% said they were Republicans or independents who leaned Republican. Do I believe this? Yes — and no. I have regarded Texas as competitive ever since the 2008 presidential primary, when Democrats outvoted Republicans by more than 2 to 1 (2.8 million D’s, 1.3 million R’s, both parties posting record turnouts). Part of the Democrats’ numerical advantage was accounted for by the fact that their primary was hotly contested between Obama and Clinton, while the Republican contest between McCain and Huckabee was anticlimactic, McCain being all but assured of the GOP nomination at the time. The Democratic primary established that there are plenty of D’s who will turn out if they have a candidate to vote for. And that’s the problem. They don’t have one. That Texas is competitive (according to Gallup, at least) is not news in the polling world. A similar Gallup poll in 2008 had the same finding, and we know what happened. In the only poll that counts, the one on election day, Texas was not competitive. McCain defeated Obama by 950,000 votes, which amounted to a margin of victory of 55.45% to 43.68%. That is a whupping. John Cornyn breezed to an easy win in his Senate race. No Republican statewide elected official had a close race. Indeed, Gallup appeared to hedge on its own findings, which found that only four states could be classified as solid Republican: There is reason to be skeptical about the low number of Republican states. Republican John McCain carried all eight of the so-called competitive states in the 2008 presidential election. In fact, we really need to look no further than Texas, which Gallup polling also found to be competitive in 2008: McCain won the state by 11 points in an election he lost nationally. When Republican U.S. senators faced close battles in places such as Kentucky and North Carolina, Texan John Cornyn was never in serious jeopardy. And, of course, no Democrat has won a statewide race since 1994. I don’t see any reason to back away from what I have written previously. 1. The state Democratic party has no credibility. 2. Without a public face for the party, it cannot be competitive in statewide races. 3. What makes Texas competitive is that independents have abandoned the Republican party. 4. But, as the UT Poll has established, independents tend to break in favor of Republican on election day. 5. The Democrats cannot even generate turnout. Hispanics aren’t voting. The best indication of the Democrats’ moribund state is that no one is lining up to run for statewide office. Politicians know which way the wind blows.
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Weekly dispatches from the middle of the road of Texas politics.
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