Texas has been a Republican bastion for a quarter century, leaving little incentive for national Democrats to invest in local candidates and help them get back in the game.
Instead, Democratic and Republican candidates have used Texas as an ATM on their way to winning offices in other states.
But now, Republicans nationwide and in Texas are in trouble. Democrats have performed well in solid GOP congressional districts in various special elections, including Tuesday’s contest in Ohio.
The trend could continue in Texas, where Democrats are eager to turn the tables after the election of President Donald Trump. They have their first chance to win a statewide contest since 1994 — the U.S. Senate race between Beto O’Rourke and incumbent Republican Ted Cruz. They even have a strong shot at picking up at least three congressional seats, including the one held by longtime Dallas Rep. Pete Sessions.
Because of these opportunities, Democrats should urge their donors to deposit the resources needed to flip the longtime Republican stronghold.
Texas is the biggest prize in politics. Once it becomes a true battleground, Republicans’ ability to win the White House will be seriously diminished. It could spell the end of the Republican Party as we know it and shorten the controversial era of Trump. There’s no GOP path to the White House without Texas.
Tight Senate race
For his part, Cruz has acknowledged that it’s going to be a tough race. He’s urged conservatives to take the threat from the El Paso Democrat seriously, telling supporters in Dallas that there are only two ways to run: “Scared or unopposed.”
A recent Texas Lyceum poll has Cruz leading O’Rourke by 2 percentage points. Another from Quinnipiac University puts the spread at 6 points.
O’Rourke is raising more campaign cash than Cruz, and his large crowds indicate an enthusiasm Democrats haven’t seen in Texas since Barack Obama toured the state in 2008.
Cruz is still the favorite, and there are usually more Republican voters than Democrats. But the Trump effect has scrambled many of the norms. It’s hard to forecast what turnout will look like.