(Photo by Rod Lamkey/Getty Images)
Texas sending a Democrat to the senate isn’t on anybody’s radar any time soon, but Beto O’Roruke is hoping to buck conventional wisdom and upset Cruz in a race that most of the world is already looking to be an easy Republican win. It’s an uphill battle, but just a few months ago the Clinton campaign was looking to create a new coalition in a changing America and they wanted to make Texas part of it. Shifting demographics, big liberal cities, and an aging population combined to give the Clinton campaign hope it might be able to pull off an embarrassing political upset and more importantly bring 38 unexpected electoral votes.
Obviously that didn’t pan out for Hillary Clinton and she would have been better off holding rallies in Michigan, not Texas. Still, those are the same stars that need to align for Beto O’Roruke to knock off Ted Cruz. It’s not even close to a sure thing, it’s far from likely, but it’s also far from impossible.
The Clinton campaign banked on a massive shift in demographics which to an extent seemed to bear itself out in the election results. The theory was that an increased number of Latino voters, pushed to the polls by Trump’s rhetoric, would help close the gap in Texas. Seemed reasonable enough and the entire theory played into the larger narrative created by Obama’s two election victories and the Republican post 2012 “autopsy”. Looking at the margin of victory for Mitt Romney in 2012 and Donald Trump in 2016 there might be something to that theory.
In 2012 Romney won Texas by nearly 16% with over 57% of the vote, compared to Obama who managed just over 41% of the vote. In 2016 Donald Trump managed to gather just over 52% of the vote, compared to Hillary Clinton’s 43%. That might not be a momentous shift, but two percentage points in four years, for a historically unpopular candidate no less, is definitely something to take a serious look at. Especially considering Donald Trump was supposed to have won the election on a wave of rural white voters, which Texas is full of. Presumably Beto O’Roruke has taken a good look at the changing demographics because he’s going to need it to kick into overdrive if he has a shot at knocking off Ted Cruz.
An influx of anti-Trump latino votes isn’t the only thing in Beto O’Roruke’s bag of tricks, but it’s definitely one of the most important. Another important thing that seems to be working in O’Roruke’s favor is the demographics of Texas’s major cities.
They’re growing fast and they’re overwhelmingly filled with the most liberal voters in Texas.
According to the census bureau five of the ten fastest growing cities in the United States are located in Texas. Georgetown, Texas was the fastest growing city in 2015, New Braunfels, Texas was the second, and Pflugerville, Texas came in at 10th place. One thing all three of these cities have in common is they’re in the Austin metro-area, which passed 2 million people for the first time in 2015. And if Austin is known for anything, other than great BBQ and live music, it’s being the most liberal city in one of the most conservative states. A significant portion of these people are incredibly liberal compared to the average Texan and most of them come from out of state.
It’s not just Austin though, Frisco, Texas is the fourth fastest growing city in the United States, located firmly in the Dallas-Fortworth area, it’s currently experiencing a similar type of boom as Austin and it’s filling with the same sort of voter. The same is true of Pearland, Texas in the Houston metro area which is the 7th fastest growing city in the United States. All of these cities are incredibly liberal compared to the rural regions of Texas and they will all be in the tank for Beto O’Rourke when the time comes. As evidenced by some early excitement his campaign stops have garnered.
O’Rourke started his campaign with a series of rallies in many of the aforementioned cities and each time voters came out, in the political off season no less, excited for a change in Texas. These voters and their energy are going to be the bedrock of any successful challenge to a Republican politician in Texas. Beto O’Rourke will depend on the inverse of the effect many credit to Donald Trumps election victory, he’ll need younger, more diverse, voters from Texas’s major cities to turn out in massive numbers while older and whiter rural Texans stay home.
Older people staying home and younger people voting en masse is pretty rare come election day, but stranger things have happened in recent political memory, so it might not be as far fetched as it seems on its face.
All of these cities are growing incredibly quickly and pushing Texas to the left as they go. This same trend is playing out in most big cities in red states all across the country, but the fact that nearly half of the top ten fastest growing cities are in Texas is important. What is perhaps even more important though are the parts of Texas that aren’t growing at all, namely the rural parts of the state that are significantly older and vote more conservative. Donald Trump depended on high turnout from baby boomers, especially in rural areas, and Ted Cruz will as well. Baby boomers are a mobilized group, they vote a lot and in high numbers, but depending on them for electoral strength going forward might not be the best long term strategy. It’s just a simple age and demographics issue.
These are all long term trends that Hillary Clinton believed could potentially hold the key to a Democratic leaning Texas. Clinton even campaigned in Texas, which in lieu of rallies in Michigan, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania might have been a fatal error, but the CLinton campaign didn’t do that for no reason. A candidate viewed more favorably very well could have taken advantage of these changes. There are legitimate reasons to believe Texas could turn blue. Demographics are the biggest reason this and with an unpopular president and complacent voters happy to have their party in the White House, demographics could very well be enough for Beto O’Rourke to knock off Ted Cruz.
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