Politics
President Barack Obama speaks at the University of Texas in Austin, Texas on Aug. 9, 2010. AP Images/Carolyn Kaster. President Barack Obama speaks at the University of Texas in Austin, Texas on Aug. 9, 2010. AP Images/Carolyn Kaster.  

Three steps: How the Dems plan to make Texas a battleground state by 2016

Photo of Christopher Bedford
Christopher Bedford
Managing Editor

On Tuesday morning, the Democrats launched an independent group called Battleground Texas, which is capable of making the Lone Star state a battleground by 2016 and a lean-Democrat state by 2024, effectively breaking the back of the national GOP and blocking a Republican path to the White House.

Yes — that Texas: The state that has not elected a single statewide Democratic official in 10 years, with Republicans going 100-0; the state that has had an entirely Republican government since 2002, with current super majorities in the legislature; and the state that hasn’t voted for a Democratic president since Jimmy Carter in 1976.

History aside, if neither party lifts a finger to change current trends, the demographic changes taking place in Texas will — by themselves — seal it as blue by around 2040. The Democrats, however, plan to lift more than a finger; and if they play their cards right, they could speed the process up by 25 years, putting Texas in play much sooner.

Sound far-fetched? It isn’t. And although that timeline is going to be difficult for the Democrats, they have the right path — and the right people — to pull this coup off in three steps. But first, some background.

Demographics

Today, Hispanics make up 41 percent of Texas’ citizenry, while whites make up 43 percent. The white electorate’s plurality, however, will not last — because the Hispanic population’s birth rates are higher, the Hispanic population is still growing through immigration, and the Hispanic population is younger (with a large population not yet at voting age). If legal Hispanic immigration stays consistent with 2000-2010 levels, Texas could be a plurality Hispanic state by 2017, and a majority Hispanic state by 2036.

Both parties know that Hispanics are not a monolithic group, and they are not all Democrats. Though nationally they lean toward the Democrats (67 percent in 2008, 71 percent in 2012), in Texas, Democrats hold less sway (63 in 2008, and unknown in 2012 because there weren’t any exit polls).

Indeed, the Texas GOP is a different animal from the national party, and it wins Hispanic support in larger numbers than the national party, making it more difficult for Texas Democrats to make inroads. Gov. Rick Perry’s 2010 re-election, for example, won 39 percent of Hispanics, and Real Clear Politics reports that in 2012, “the Texas GOP increased the number of Hispanic elected officials from 58 to 78.” (RELATED: Gallup report: GOP unlikely to gain much traction with Latinos)

These statistics, plus Texas GOP policies that include a softer stance on immigration than neighboring Republicans, have led some on the right to dismiss the prospect of a blue Texas. “The Texas Republican Party is different and far stronger than its counterparts in other states,” Americans for Tax Reform President Grover Norquist wrote in a Jan. 31 column entitled “Dems shouldn’t mess with Texas.”

But the Dems are very capable of messing with Texas through three steps. And that’s just what they’re fixing to do, starting with voter registration.