Politics Magazine

Could Texas Turn "Blue" For Hillary Clinton In 2016 ?

Posted on the 10 May 2016 by Jobsanger
Could Texas Turn Some of my progressive friends in Texas, supporters of Bernie Sanders, tell me that they would have no problem voting for a third party (or not voting for president) because Texas is going to remain a red state in the 2016 election.
I'm not so sure that is true -- especially since the Republican nominee is going to be Donald Trump. Trump has very high negatives among minorities, women, and even a substantial portion of Republicans.
Is it a longshot that Clinton could carry Texas? Yes, but it is not an impossible hope. Giving up several months before the election strikes me as defeatist -- and if enough people do that, it could be a self-fulfilling prophesy.
In a Clinton vs. Trump contest, I believe there is a chance of Clinton carrying Texas by a small margin. And I'm not alone in that belief. Erica Grieder has written an excellent post for the Texas Monthly's Burkablog. Her entire post is well worth reading, but I bring you below only the reasons why she thinks Texas could turn blue this November.
First, Clinton, assuming she is the Democratic nominee, is more popular than national observers realize among Texas Democrats. Her ties to the state date back to the 1970s, when she and her husband, Bill, worked in the state for the McGovern campaign; a lot of Democrats, especially in South Texas, have a genuine affection for the Clintons that has endured since then. Further, the relative centrism associated with the Clintons means that Hillary, like Bill, is more well aligned with the state’s relatively centrist Democrats than most of the party’s national figures. Both factors help explain why Bill Clinton came within three points of winning Texas in 1992—even though the two other candidates on the ballot, George H.W. Bush and Ross Perot, were Texans—and within five points of winning in 1996. They also help explain why Hillary Clinton won Texas’s Democratic primary in 2008. (Texas Democrats have a two-step system, and Barack Obama won the caucus part, but that was a measure of his superior campaign organization; the vote itself, obviously, was a better heuristic for their proportional support.) Clinton also won this year’s primary, against Bernie Sanders, in a 65-33 landslide. It stands to reason, then, that Clinton’s baseline support in Texas could well be higher than the 41 percent Obama earned in 2012. And should she decide to compete in Texas in the general, she can count on the enthusiastic support of most of the state’s own Democrats, the most visible of whom, Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julian Castro, could add one or two ticks to the Democratic ticket’s tally if he’s Clinton’s running mate. Second, the Republican nominee is going to be Donald Trump, and, well, we all know what he’s like. As noted yesterday, Governor Greg Abbott has called on Republicans to support the nominee, as has Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick. Others may insist on joining this grim parade, but I can’t imagine that Abbott, Patrick, or any other Republican official in Texas is going to exert themselves as ardently on Trump’s behalf as they would have done for Cruz—or any of the other candidates who ran this year, literally every one of whom was ultimately less loathsome than the victor. Trump’s baseline of support, then, is presumably a bit lower than Romney’s. I certainly wouldn’t be surprised if Trump wins Texas this year, only disheartened, but I’d be shocked if he wins with 57 percent of the vote. Third, there will be other options besides Trump and Clinton. There’s still time for an independent candidate to make it on the ballot, as I proposed in December; he or she would have to submit a petition, signed by approximately 80,000 Texans who didn’t vote in either primary this year, to the Secretary of State by May 9th. More auspicious news, for Texans in the market for a principled spoiler, is that both the Libertarian Party and the Green Party, assuming they can escape the mysterious impulse to self-sabotage that has infected America’s two major parties this year, will have candidates on the ballot. The Libertarian nominee, who will be decided at the party’s national convention later this month, might prove to be an attractive alternative for Texas conservatives who are committed to any of the principles that Trump no longer has cause to feign concern for. I can’t claim to be familiar with either of their two leading candidates, former New Mexico governor Gary Johnson or Missouri businessman Austin Petersen. Even so, it’s likely that neither is worse than Trump. In 2012, it should be said, Johnson got 1.11 percent of the vote. But in 2012, he was competing against a Republican Party that had managed to nominate a generally reasonable candidate for the most powerful political office in the world. This year’s Libertarian nominee will find that the system is no longer rigged so heavily against him. And based on some back-of-the-envelope math based on former Texas Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson’s results in the 2014 Republican primary, I’d reckon about 5-8 percent of Texans who usually vote in the Republican primary could be induced to defect to the Libertarian candidate. In view of all of that, I’d say there’s a outside chance that Texas could turn blue in 2016, if only at the top of the ticket. I can also see a case for a more pessimistic assessment, by clicking on this link to Jim Henson and Joshua Blank’s analysis of the situation, from March. Let’s keep in mind, though, that pessimistic assessments, even if they’re backed by solid reasoning and evidence, can be self-fulfilling prophecies. The historical evidence, in fact, is partly due to previous self-fulfilling prophecies: Texas Democrats have been known to declare defeat pre-emptively, and then retroactively describe the losses that inevitably ensue as proof that they were right not to bother trying because they didn’t stand a chance. Let’s set that aside, though. This year’s uphill climb is, at least, less steep than anyone would have expected a year ago. The 2016 primaries have yielded a pair of presidential candidates with Texas-specific idiosyncrasies. Whatever happens over the next six months, we know that Trump will be weaker in Texas than most Republicans, and Clinton will be stronger than most Democrats. There will be a Libertarian candidate making the case for open political borders. And that’s without even mentioning Ken Paxton or Sid Miller. Lord knows I fully appreciate how strange this sounds. But I think we can all agree that I’m not some Beltway-based progressive daydreaming about demographic trends that would have turned Texas blue ten years ago if humans voted based on their biology, without regard to their beliefs, principles and individual preferences. Shoot, over the years, I’ve wondered if Texas Democrats even want to win, or if it’s just been so long since they last did that half the party leaders have forgotten how elections work. Let me be clear: It’s hard to underestimate their capacity for self-sabotage. But the same can now be said of the GOP, now that it’s decided to go to battle under the banner of Trump. Surely it’s time for our state’s beleaguered Democrats to saddle up.

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