Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Texas and the Election

Maggie says:
Although I have to disagree with my DailyKos-obsessed coworker who insists that Texas will deliver for Obama next month, I do believe the final Texas vote will be much closer than in recent elections.

I attended an Obama rally here in Dallas with 30,000 other folks last winter and saw the energy here for this election first-hand. Contrary to popular belief, Texas has a large number of Democrats who feel fairly neglected by the national party ("stop taking our money and spending it everywhere but here," etc.), a large number of folks in the middle, and a large number of folks who have never before been engaged in the political process (nice story here, courtesy of that Kos-rabid coworker) and plan to vote for the first time this year. This is not really as stark red a state as the rest of the country believes. Don't believe me? Consider these fantatsic women: Ann Richards, Molly Ivins, Barbara Jordan, Terrellita Maverick, and MARJORIE!

Texas is currently polling at about +9 McCain, a move that's causing its shade of red to lighten to pink on a couple of national electoral maps (many use a 10-point indicator to determine "strong" or "leaning;" others, CNN and MSNBC included, seem to need to see more of these single-digits spreads before they're willing to move Texas to a pinker category).

Some interesting factors to consider here:

  • Texas likes its own. The largest margin of victory in Texas in the last fifty years was a victory for the Democrats. In 1964, Senator Lyndon Johnson whooped Barry Goldwater by 27 points. In the last two elections, Governor George W. Bush has won by 23 and 21 points.
  • Texas likes third-party candidates. Third-party candidates do really well in Texas. In '92, Bush Sr. beat Clinton by just four points, while Ross Perot took home 22% of the vote. In '68, George Wallace received 19% of the vote, eeking out a razor-thin win by Hubert Humphrey over Richard Nixon. Cut to 2008, where Texan Ron Paul is still immensely popular post-primary. Despite only winning .06% of the vote when he ran as a Libertarian in '88, the strains of libertarianism here provoked by that primary run could certainly play out for Libertarian Bob Barr, which strategically, will play out as Obama votes.
  • When Texas elects a non-local Dem, it's by a hair. The last Democrat to take Texas was Jimmy Carter in 1976, who won by only 3 points. In '68, Humphrey won by just a point (see Wallace, above). And in 1960, Kennedy beat Nixon by just 2 points.
  • Senate's in play, too. There are lots of interesting local races going on, and a lot of campaigning by Republicans that mention incumbency but not their party registration. That's no accident; people are either pissed at the party, or gung-hoers no matter what. Keep an eye on the Senate race between John Cornyn and Rick Noriega. Noriega is a fantastic candidate for Texas - a centrist Dem with a military background (he's active in the National Guard) and an Hispanic surname. Noriega's currently polling seven points behind Cornyn. Given all the new voters and leaning-Dem folks who'll be voting in a month, how might this Senate race be impacted?
As with so many states this year, we really have no way to predict the final tally simply because the turnout of new voters is a mystery. Registering voters and turning out those voters are two different things, and never before will new voter turnout make such a difference across the country. Given the energy and excitement here, I'm hopefully for big numbers on Election Day. An Obama win? Not likely, in my opinion. But regardless, this year's a huge first step toward a new political game in Texas, and that's fantastic.

Next up: Looking home to NC!