• May 18, 2022
 Analysis: Why Texas Republicans Hope 2018 Won’t be Like 1990

Analysis: Why Texas Republicans Hope 2018 Won’t be Like 1990

Unpopular presidents regularly get their parties clobbered in mid-term elections, but Texas Republicans have a couple of layers of political insulation. Donald Trump is still popular with the party’s voters, and Texas Democrats would have to have an unusually strong year to win big even if there’s a Trump slump in 2018.

When Texas Republicans won the last round of state elections in 2014, the margins of victory were almost as important as the victories themselves.

In contested statewide races, the average Republican candidate finished 13 percentage points ahead of the average Democrat.

To win in an environment like that, a Democrat would have to outperform the rest of his or her ticket by a huge margin.

Of course, some Democrats won, but not statewide and not in districts that performed like the rest of the state. Those who won did so in districts drawn to favor Democrats, or more accurately, in districts where Republicans couldn’t legally configure the maps to favor their own candidates.

There are a number of congressional and legislative districts in Texas where Hillary Clinton beat Donald Trump in 2016. National apparatchiks from both parties have their eyes on U.S. Reps. John Culberson of Houston, Will Hurd of Helotes and Pete Sessions of Dallas — Republicans seeking reelection where Trump was weak.

That’s interesting, but so is this: In Culberson’s district in 2014, Republican Greg Abbott beat Democrat Wendy Davis by 21.8 percentage points. The spread in Hurd’s district was 13.8 percent; below the state average of 20.4 percentage points, but still formidable. In Sessions’ district, Abbott beat the Democrat by 15.8 percent.

Texas Democrats and their candidates weren’t completely responsible for that performance; they were running against the political winds in a mid-term election during the Obama administration. If you flip the logic, lots of Democrats are hoping Trump will do for Republican contestants what Obama did for his.

In that sense, 2018 potentially provides a clean test of where the parties stand. Texas voted against Obama twice, and thumped his side in both of his midterm elections. And Texas was relatively kind to George W. Bush, the Texas president who preceded him.

Trump’s a break from all of that. Still, Texas Democrats have a lot to overcome, and doing that will require locating a standard-bearer to run well enough against the Republicans to attract voters to the polls.

What they’re hoping for is something like the 1990 election, which was a big break for Republicans, who pinned their hopes that year on Midland oilman Clayton Williams Jr. He lost, famously, to Democrat Ann Richards. But U.S. Sen. Phil Gramm won reelection and the Williams-Richards race was close enough to get a couple of down-ballot Republicans — Kay Bailey Hutchison and Rick Perry— past their Democratic rivals.

Those two wins — Hutchison as state treasurer and Perry as agriculture commissioner — were key to the eventual Republican takeover of Texas state government.

The loudest part of the election was the governor’s race, but the wins came elsewhere on the ballot.

Texas Democrats haven’t been able to put that formula together. They’ve certainly tried, running South Texas oilman Tony Sanchez Jr. against Perry in 2002, former Houston Mayor Bill White against him in 2010 (the year Perry beat Hutchison in a GOP primary) and Davis in 2014. The odd year out was noisy enough, with Perry facing Democrat Chris Bell and independents Carole Keeton Strayhorn and Kinky Friedman in 2006.

None of those races got any other statewide Democrats close enough to snag a victory. But this kind of thinking is what has so many eyes on the race for U.S. Senate between incumbent Republican Ted Cruz and Democratic challenger Beto O’Rourke, a congressman from El Paso. It’s the statewide race getting the most attention to date, both inside and outside of Texas. Cruz, after an unsuccessful run for president and an attention-seeking first term in the Senate, is a national figure. He remains popular with Texas Republicans and unpopular with the state’s Democrats — a perfect figurehead for a big political race.

O’Rourke has never run statewide, but has put together a voter-charming road-trip candidacy that has generated a lot of attention, news coverage and small donations to his campaign. It’s got a lot in common with the campaign Cruz ran as an upstart candidate in 2012.

It’ll be interesting and, perhaps, competitive. Maybe the president’s ratings will have an effect. And the rest of the people on this year’s ballot — no matter their party — will have something more than a sporting interest in the outcome.

The other Republicans on the ticket don’t want to end up like Jim Hightower or Nikki Van Hightower, the losers in those two 1990 upsets.

Read related Tribune coverage:

Author: ROSS RAMSEY – The Texas Tribune

The Texas Tribune


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1 Comment

  • Texas republicans are oppressors and voter suppressor cheaters! They all know that they rule the state of Texas with all their illegal GERRYMANDERING of the states voting districts.Voter ID laws and everything they can come up with to scare minorities away from the ballot box.
    That is how they got in and that is how they manage to control all legislative power in Texas. Many right wing conservatives immigrated to Texas when it was still a decent BLUE State! back in the 70’s,80’s and 90’s.
    Overwhelmingly that took over state politics that included the Bush family take over of our once use to be great state.Other degenerates followed like Ted Cruz and his family.
    They are all hypocrites and they are all mostly evangelicals, but there is no Christian in them all, they hide under the Shield of Christianity as they are all FAKE!
    And they all support the indecency and crooked corruption of Donald Trump aka Don The Con!
    Every democrat regardless of ethnicity race color or religion or sexual preference needs to go out and VOTE these DEMON Republicans OUT of Office!
    Republicans! when they lose the presidency the first thing that comes in their mind is state Secession from rest the Union! Yeah they’ll try to take Texas from underneath us all.
    It’s NOT THEIRS! it’s not for sale and it don’t belong to them, they are after all the INVADERS from other parts of the country that immigrated to Texas. It’s time that they all leave and go back to Coal Country or the rust belt,and take your HATE with you and don’t let the door hit you behind your butts. Just GET OUT and leave! And you to, vendidos that have forgotten your roots and can’t speak a word of your native tongues.
    Since Ted Cruz has been in the United States senate, HOW many times did he come to El Paso before! ANSWER: “NEVER BEFORE’ not until he heard of congressman Beto O’Rourke’s bid to unseat him for the US senate. He’s been here three times in under one year,just to NOSE AROUND O’ROURKE COUNTRY! make himself look good. A pretender at the most.
    COME ON TEXAS! OPEN YOUR EYES and Vote in the November 6th 2018 Midterm, I’ll even buy Ted Cruz a one way ticket back to Canada where he is originally from if he loses to Beto. But with one promise never to come back to Texas Again. PERSONA NON GRATA! to Ted Cruz!
    Make the BLUE WAVE COME FROM ALL DIRECTIONS east,west,north and south and WIPE OUT ALL THE republicans in the state of Texas.

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