Texas Republicans Are Worried About Their State Turning Blue

I’ll admit to having a fascination with Texas politics. It isn’t just because I spent many of my formative years in the state. There is a realignment that is happening in southern politics that will play out over decades. And while that is affecting several states like Virginia, North Carolina, Georgia, and Arizona, the impact will be greatest in the state with the second highest number of Electoral College votes.

Nothing has done more to wake the body politic up to what is happening in Texas than the senate race between Ted Cruz and Beto O’Rourke. But it didn’t start there and it won’t end there. Back in 2012, Jeb Bush warned that, unless Republicans reached out to the growing Hispanic population, the state would turn blue. No one, especially in the GOP, paid much attention.

But apparently the 2018 midterm elections made some of the wealthy Republicans in Texas a little nervous. David Drucker at the conservative Washington Examiner has the story.

Wealthy Republican donors are preparing a multimillion-dollar effort to register more than 1 million new GOP voters in Texas for 2020 amid anxiety that President Trump could be in more trouble in this reliably red state than some in the party realize.

Richard Weekley, a Houston real estate developer and veteran Republican campaign contributor, is spearheading the new group, dubbed Engage Texas. According to GOP sources, the organization was set up as a 501(c)4, political nonprofit organization and plans to raise and spend $25 million by Election Day next year.

True to form, Mr. Weekley and his friends assume that the threat they face in Texas can be addressed by spending massive amounts of dark money. They claim that there are as many as 2 million unregistered Republicans in the state who can be mobilized. But here are the obstacles they face:

Republican insiders in Texas are worried about the impact of a potential political realignment that could see affluent, college-educated voters in the suburbs permanently defect from the GOP to the Democratic Party. Additionally, they fret that thousands of Americans who move to Texas every month, attracted by the booming economy and low cost of living, will bring their liberal politics with them.

As I chronicled recently, four metropolitan areas in Texas—Dallas-Fort Worth, Houston, Austin, and San Antonio—are among the top 15 fastest growing in the country, with Dallas-Fort Worth and Houston occupying the top two slots. Republicans are beginning to recognize that that kind of migration to the state poses a threat to their dominance.

To the extent that college-educated suburban voters are defecting to the Democratic Party, while more liberals migrate to the state, Mr. Weekley and his friends don’t seem interested in promoting policies or candidates that would persuade them to vote for Republicans. Instead, they are focused exclusively on mobilizing unregistered voters.

Given all of the media attention that has been focused on whether Democrats should emphasize persuasion or mobilization, the same questions aren’t being asked of Republicans in a state like Texas. I would assume that, with a man like Donald Trump at the top of the ticket, persuasion is not an option.

Republican Governor Greg Abbot handily won reelection in 2018 by 13 points, so obviously, turning Texas blue is still an uphill climb. But for 2020, Quinnipiac polling has already indicated that the presidential race in that state could be extremely close, while Trump’s approval rating has dropped seven points since last summer. In the long term, the fact that O’Rourke beat Cruz by almost 20 points among voters who were 18-40 years of age spells big trouble down the road for Republicans. As that voting group continues to grow, Republicans will need every one of those one million unregistered voters just to keep up.

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Nancy LeTourneau

Nancy LeTourneau is a contributing writer for the Washington Monthly. Follow her on Twitter @Smartypants60.