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The making of the President

Houston on the short list for the 2020 DNC

One in three shot at it.

Democratic Party officials have culled the list of potential host cities for the 2020 Democratic National Convention from eight to four, and Houston is still in the mix, Mayor Sylvester Turner said Wednesday.

The mayor kicked off Wednesday’s regular city council meeting with the announcement, noting that Milwaukee, Denver and the Miami area are the other remaining finalists. By the end of the meeting, however, he said he was told Denver had withdrawn its bid, leaving Houston as one of three finalists.

“Our chances have gotten exponentially better,” Turner said. “I’m excited about the proposal we submitted.”

[…]

Turner said he also wants to bid on hosting the 2024 Republic National Convention when the time comes.

“It’s all about marketing and selling the city of Houston,” the mayor said.

See here, here, and here for the background. All three sites have their pros and cons, so it’s probably just a matter of how each bid gets sold to the city. I’m hopeful but not overly optimistic. As for the 2024 RNC, all I can say is that it better be a post-Trump Republican Party by then, or there’s no amount of marketing value that could make it worth the effort. The Trib has more.

Houston submits its DNC 2020 bid

From the inbox:

Houston, recognized for its record of successfully hosting mega-events, today submitted an official bid to host the 2020 Democratic National Convention.

The bid document of about 600 pages shows how Houston’s convention infrastructure and its people put the city in a superior position to host the presidential nominating convention.

The downtown Toyota Center indoor arena and the close-by, expanded George R. Brown Convention Center in the Avenida Houston convention campus would provide the main gathering spaces for the July 13-16, 2020 convention. A Metro light rail system crisscrosses downtown nearby. Delegates and other participants traveling by air would arrive at Houston’s two international airports. Both have a 4-star rating from Skytrax, making Houston the only U.S. city with two.

About 24,000 hotel rooms would be available within 14 miles of the convention sites, placing the city well ahead of other cities on hospitality logistics. A record-high 20 million visitors traveled to Houston in 2016.

Houston’s specialty in hosting major events shone through with the 2017 Super Bowl, the 2016 NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament finals and the continuing annual Offshore Technology Conference, Houston Livestock Show & Rodeo, Comicpalooza and others.

The city hosted the Republican National Convention in 1992 and the Democratic National Convention in 1928. Houston has since become the fourth most populous U.S. city and its most diverse, attracting new residents from across the nation and the globe. The city is praised as a pluralistic society that lives as one. (“Nothing less than the story of the American city of the future,” – Los Angeles Times, 5/9/2017)

Houston is strong and resilient. The city showed exceptional mettle, bravery and neighborliness in the aftermath of the floods caused by Harvey. “Houston has bounced back from Harvey faster than anyone predicted, inspiring the Twitter hashtag #HoustonStrong,” The New York Times said on 11/23/2017.

“I am confident that we are the right city and this is the right time to bring the convention to Houston,” Mayor Sylvester Turner said in letter to DNC Chairman Tom Perez that introduces the bid package.

“Houston is a proven event town and has excelled in hosting high profile national events,” the mayor said in the letter. “Whether celebratory, such as the Super Bowl or somber, such as the recent memorial events for former First Lady Barbara Bush, we meet the producer’s goals while exceeding expectations with seamless execution and constant attention to public safety.”

See here and here for the background, and here for the Chron story. Video from the Council meeting where the bid effort was discussed and approved is here. Houston has definitely shown it can handle big events, and I’ll be delighted if we win, but we’re one of many, so keep expectations realistic. We should know in a few months.

Council passes resolution to support 2020 DNC

Cool.

Houston bolstered its bid for the 2020 Democratic National Convention on Wednesday as City Council affirmed the city’s safety and logistics services will be marshalled sufficiently to support the gathering if Houston is chosen as the host city.

Houston has joined seven other cities in taking initial steps to host the event. A memo to council that accompanied the resolution language this week says local officials will make a presentation to the DNC this month, hoping to make a “short list” of cities in contention for the convention. DNC officials have confirmed Houston was one of eight potential host cities to receive formal requests for proposals.

“This city has changed quite a bit since 1992,” said Mayor Sylvester Turner, referencing the last national political convention held in Houston, the one heralding former President George H.W. Bush’s reelection bid that year. “This is about showcasing our city. It’s about inviting people from all over the globe to our city. It’s intended to be a bipartisan effort being presented saying, ‘This is Houston.’”

[…]

City officials said if Houston is chosen to host the event, a committee will be formed to raise private dollars to help pay for it, revenues that will be used in part to reimburse the city for its share of the costs, as was done after last year’s Super Bowl; the Houston Rockets, the memo adds, have agreed to provide the Toyota Center as the official Convention site.

See here for the background. I remember that 1992 Republican convention. I spent two weeks doing “dawn patrol” clinic defense at the Planned Parenthood, then on Fannin before they reconfigured to move their entrance off the street. Those were interesting times, to say the least. Anyway, Houston is one of several cities to make a bid, unlike the other guys. I’m rooting for Houston to win here, but I’ll understand if another city does.

Houston in the running for 2020 DNC

Seems like there’s a few more places bidding for this one.

Eight cities are in consideration to host the 2020 Democratic National Convention as the party prepares for a presidential contest that is expected to include an unusually large number of candidates.

The Democratic National Committee sent requests for proposals to eight cities last month that expressed interest in hosting the event.

The cities are: Atlanta; Denver; Houston; New York; San Francisco; Milwaukee; Miami Beach; and Birmingham.

The DNC previously sent letters to a longer list of cities to gauge their interest. Birmingham and New York City were considered in 2016, but passed over.

Meanwhile, the Republican National Committee, is eyeing several cities for its own 2020 convention, including Las Vegas and Charlotte, North Carolina, according to the Charlotte Observer.

Guess it’s easier to get a city to take your call about a convention if you’re not shackled to the hateful garbage fire known as Donald Trump. Houston last hosted a national convention in 1992 when the Republicans were in town. That was a different time, and we’re a different city now. I’ve no idea how Houston’s bid will stack up against those other cities, and I honestly don’t really care if we get it or not. But I’m glad we’re bidding, and being taken seriously. In a different year and with a different President, I’d be fine with the city bidding on the RNC, too. The Chron has more.

No GOP convention for San Antonio

Wise decision.

The city of San Antonio will not submit a bid to host the 2020 Republican National Convention, a decision announced after council members met Thursday in closed session to discuss the matter.

The cost of pursuing the event — an international spectacle that could draw 40,000 visitors, including 15,000 reporters — outweighs the potential economic impact that could be $200 million, Mayor Ron Nirenberg and most council members agreed.

The host city, through a local committee that would be composed of business leaders, would be expected to raise about $70 million, including about $6 million from public coffers.

“As a whole, the City Council did not feel it was worth it to move forward,” Nirenberg said shortly after concluding the closed-session meeting with his colleagues.

[…]

Though there was no actual vote in the council’s executive session, the mayor said the consensus in the room was not to proceed with a bid for the multi-day convention scheduled for August of 2020. The decision, he said, extends to the Democratic National Convention.

San Antonio has not bid on a national political convention in two decades, Nirenberg said.

The RNC issue has come to the forefront because party leaders specifically asked for a bid from San Antonio, and the GOP representative in charge of site selection visited San Antonio in March to personally ask for leaders here to consider submitting a bid.

See here for the background. Seems to me that the RNC doesn’t exactly have cities beating on their door to host this thing, and given the lead time necessary to raise the money and make the preparations, time is beginning to run short. That’s not San Antonio’s problem, however. There are some people who aren’t happy with Mayor Nirenberg’s decision, and they’ll get their chance to express that next May. I doubt it’s a serious problem for him, but you never know. Good luck finding a sucker city willing to put in a bid, RNC. The Current and the Rivard Report have more.

San Antonio and the 2020 Republican convention

Beware.

The campaign manager for President Donald Trump wants San Antonio to host the 2020 Republican National Convention and has taken to Twitter to voice his frustration at the city’s lack of response to bid for the event.

San Antonio Mayor Ron Nirenberg said he had been encouraged by some local business leaders — notably Brad Parscale, Trump’s campaign manager — to submit a bid to host the convention. But the mayor said Wednesday he had gotten some mixed signals about the city’s chances of securing the bid.

He said representatives from the RNC were in San Antonio late last month to meet with political and business leaders about hosting the convention in the summer of 2020. Nirenberg said an RNC staff member told him shortly afterward that Republicans no longer were interested in San Antonio, so he did not raise the issue with the City Council.

In an email to Nirenberg Wednesday, Parscale pressed for a response. “It is very important that I let the group here in DC know that San Antonio is going to pass on this opportunity. Many cities are killing to have this,” Parscale wrote.

[…]

In an email to council members Wednesday, Nirenberg wrote: “Today, I learned that the GOP has renewed its interest in San Antonio and is now actively seeking a convention bid.”

Nirenberg invited council members to a closed-door discussion next week about whether the city should attempt a late bid to host the event, which could be an economic bonanza for San Antonio. He said he has reservations.

“There’s a reason San Antonio has not pursued a national political convention since 2000. The local community has to commit tens of millions of dollars up front, and prudent fiscal stewards have good reason to question whether that expense is worthwhile for the community,” Nirenberg said in an interview.

He remarked: “For all intents and purposes, there was nothing happening on this front until Parscale started blowing up the phones.”

There’s more on this from the Rivard Report here and here. Despite Parscale’s insistence that lots of cities want to have the 2020 GOP convention, the Current notes that only the city of Charlotte has made a bid so far. Both Dallas and Houston have passed, for example. I’ve no doubt that the convention would be good for the hotel business, but I can’t imagine it will do much for San Antonio’s image. The point that Nirenberg has made that a city that’s almost two-thirds Latino would not want to be particularly welcoming to Donald freaking Trump is unassailable. All of this is without taking into account the likelihood of massive protests, and Lord knows what else. Who wants to deal with that? I don’t know what decision Nirenberg and the San Antonio City Council will make, but I know what decision I’d make.

Julian 2020 still in the works

He says he’s still thinking about it, but I’m guessing it’s a “yes unless something unexpected happens” situation.

Julian Castro

In an interview this week, former San Antonio Mayor Julián Castro gave the strongest indication yet that he’s interested in running for president in 2020.

Castro, a Democrat who led the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development under President Barack Obama, told NBC News that he has “every interest in running.” His speech next week at an awards dinner in New Hampshire will help him take the temperature of voters in the early primary state.

“Part of the process of figuring out whether I’m going to run is going to listen to folks and feel the temperature” of voters, he said.

Castro told the San Antonio Express-News last week that he’d make a decision on whether to run by “the end of 2018.”

It’s way too early to think about who I’d like to support in 2020, but I’m all in favor of Castro running. The best thing he can do now to build a base and engender good will among the faithful is make that Congressional PAC of his as successful as he can. Be sure some of that action is here in Texas, too. We’ll await the go/no go decision, but we’ll be watching until then. The Current has more.

Julian 2020?

He has raised the possibility.

Julian Castro

Texas Democrat Julian Castro confirmed Sunday he is seriously considering running for president in 2020 and former state Sen. Wendy Davis left open the possibility she will take another run at running for governor in 2018.

“I might,” Castro told more than 350 people at a political conference near the University of Texas on Sunday morning. Davis’ comments came at the same event.

Castro, the secretary of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development under President Barack Obama, said the country needs a very different president than what is in office now and he will spend 2018 weighing a bid. He said the country needs someone “fundamentally honest” in the White House.

“We’ve had too much lying out of the White House,” Castro said.

Well, it’s hard to argue with that. There has been talk of Julian Castro running for President in 2020 – it’s even had an effect on Joaquin Castro’s consideration of running for Governor this year. I’ve no doubt that Julian Castro has been thinking about running since approximately November 9 of last year. It’s mostly a question of how he goes about it. I’ll be happy to see Julian run and will give strong consideration to supporting him, but for now all I care about is 2018.

Speaking of 2018, from the same story:

At the same event, Davis meanwhile left open the possibility that she will be running for governor again in 2020.

The former state senator from Fort Worth said although she was defeated in 2014 by Gov. Greg Abbott, it was before voters knew how far right he would go in supporting legislation like SB 4, which she called the “show me your papers” law that threatens every citizen with brown skin. Supporters of SB 4 have said the legislation was to outlaw so-called sanctuary cities and allow local law enforcement to check the immigration status of people they pull over.

Davis made clear she’s only considering it largely because other Democrats have failed to step forward to run.

“Because no one else is stepping forward,” Davis said when asked by moderator Evan Smith of The Texas Tribune why she was not ruling it out.

I love Wendy Davis. I don’t know how many other Democrats love her at this point. It’s a hard thing, losing an election like she did. This story came out before Dallas County Sheriff Lupe Valdez put her name out there, and I think it’s safe to say that if Valdez gets in, Davis will not. But she’s there, maybe, just in case.

One of the other brand-name candidates who is at least thinking about “stepping forward” is Andrew White, who as this Trib story about the same event notes was criticized by Davis fr being anti-choice. White has since updated his website to address some issues; he says “Roe v Wade is the law of the land, and I respect the law” in the Women’s Health section, which doesn’t tell us very much about what sort of bills he would sign or veto if he were to be elected. You can see what he has for yourself – I’m more concerned about his Border Security position, which doesn’t make any sense to me. Filing begins this weekend, so one way or another we’ll begin to get some clarity.

Our electors can continue to be faithless

So much for that.

The momentum seemed to be there.

After Donald Trump easily defeated Hillary Clinton in Texas, two of the state’s 38 Electoral College members cast ballots for someone other than the Republican nominee — a less-than-flattering moment for a state with a strong GOP tradition. In the days — even hours — after the Electoral College meeting in December, some of the state’s top Republicans rallied around proposals to “bind” presidential electors to the result of the statewide popular vote.

“This charade is over,” tweeted Gov. Greg Abbott shortly after the meeting ended. “A bill is filed to make these commitments binding. I look forward to signing it & ending this circus.”

Yet no such legislation made it to Abbott’s desk over the course of the legislative session that ended in May. Instead, lawmakers are now seeking to study the issue during the interim, an anticlimactic end to a session that began with major-league support for the cause.

“We were kind of stuck,” said Eric Opiela, the former general counsel for the Texas GOP — which ended up opposing the way one of several filed bills dealt with “faithless electors.”

The debate appeared to boil down to whether such electors should be fined after going rogue or be immediately disqualified if they submit a ballot for someone other than the winner of the statewide popular vote.

See here for the whole saga. The rest of the article tells the story of the bills that failed, which is what it is. The Electoral College is a dumb anachronism, but I say we should either honor the original intent and let the electors make their own choices, or get rid of it altogether and go with a popular vote. I don’t see us getting the latter any time soon, so at least we made it through this session without making what we do have worse.

The other “faithless elector” speaks up

Meet Bill Greene, political science professor at South Texas College, and the other Texas member of the Electoral College who did not cast a vote for Dear Leader Trump.

Greene, who has kept a low profile since the vote, explained his decision Monday, telling The Texas Tribune he had wanted to “bring the process back into the classroom” and affirm the founders’ view that the Electoral College should not necessarily be a rubber stamp for the popular vote.

“I take very seriously the oath of office that we had to take and what the framers of the Constitution, what the founders, wanted electors to do … to basically come up with their idea for who would be the best person in the entire United States to be the president,” Greene said in a phone interview. “I take the job very seriously, and I did. I felt Ron Paul was the best person in the United States to be president, and that’s who I voted for.”

[…]

Unlike Suprun — who became a well-known Trump critic weeks before the vote — Greene said he “had no desire for publicity or anything like that in advance.” He immediately went on vacation for a week after the vote then fell ill when he came home. He said Monday he was just catching up on emails and calls — which electors were deluged with in the lead-up to the vote, many begging them to vote against Trump. (For the record, Greene said he was “not swayed by the 80-100,000 emails I received.”)

Greene said the “vast majority” of feedback he has gotten since the vote has been positive. Top Texas Republicans, however, have taken a different view, using the defections by Suprun and Greene to push for legislation that would require electors to vote in accordance with statewide popular vote. That’s currently the rule in 29 other states.

Greene made clear he is not a fan of so-called “elector-binding” laws.

“God forbid they actually do what the Constitution bounds them to do,” Greene sarcastically said of electors. The elector-binding bills, he added, are “completely unconstitutional legislation, and my hope is that it does go into the courts.”

See here for the full saga, and here for the first time we heard Bill Greene’s name. Greene has a long history with Ron Paul, whom he supported in past Presidential campaigns. You just knew that there would be a Ron Paul connection, right? It would have been an upset if there hadn’t been at least one elector going full on for Ron. Beyond that, I agree with him about the unconstitutionality of forcing electors to cast their votes for a specific candidate. Whatever you think about the Electoral College, the intent of the framers is pretty clear, and in the absence of an amendment I don’t see how you get around that. I don’t have any particular point to make, I just wanted to note this for the record. What do you think are the odds that the state GOP does a more thorough job of vetting their electors for the 2020 campaign?

Two “faithless electors”

In the end, Donald Trump got thirty-six of Texas’ 38 electoral votes.

All but two of Texas’ 38 electors voted Monday to officially put Donald Trump in the White House, with one elector casting a ballot for Ohio Gov. John Kasich and another casting a ballot for a fellow Texan, former U.S. Rep. Ron Paul.

The votes from Texas were the ones that clinched the presidency of the United States for Trump, pushing the real estate mogul past the 270-vote threshold, according to Politico.

Elector Chris Suprun of Dallas had previously announced he would not support Trump. Another elector, Art Sisneros of Dayton, resigned as an elector, also in protest of Trump.

As electors voted, protesters’ chants picked up outside and could be heard from in the House chamber. They appeared to be saying specific electors’ names, followed by, “Save our democracy!”

The vote was unusually closely watched but largely expected: Both Suprun and Sisneros had shared their plans weeks in advance of the meeting. Suprun, however, did not announce until hours before the vote that he would instead vote for Kasich.

It was not immediately known who voted for Paul, the longtime congressman from Lake Jackson and three-time presidential hopeful. The process is secret ballot, meaning electors’ votes are not public unless they choose to disclose them.

According to the Statesman, the other maverick was a fellow named Bill Greene. As far as I know, he has not said why he did what he did. Art Sisneros was replaced as expected, as were three others who were apparently ineligible to serve.

I didn’t expect anything more exciting to happen, mostly because there was no one else out there joining Chris Suprun in his little exercise of conscience. I admit I harbored a teeny bit of hope that the Electoral College would Do Something about this, but I never really expected that. While I believe that the original intent of the founders was precisely for the Electoral College to prevent a man like Donald Trump from winning this election and that any legislative attempts to coerce them into voting a particular way are thus inherently unconstitutional, I agree that referring to such an intervention as being in any way “democratic” was misguided. The Electoral College is what it is, and we either accept that or we amend the Constitution to get rid of it. The extreme divergence between the popular vote and the electoral vote in this race is as strong an argument as one could want to make a change, but don’t hold your breath waiting for it.

You can’t stop the faithless electors

So says Carolyn Shapiro, associate professor at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law, where she is co-director of the Institute on the Supreme Court of the United States.

Earlier this week, in a New York Times op-ed, Texas presidential elector Chris Suprun announced that he would not be casting his vote for Donald Trump. Even though Texas voters chose Trump, Suprun—along with a small group of electors from around the country calling themselves “Hamilton Electors”—will vote for a yet-to-be-identified compromise Republican. As Suprun explained in his op-ed, and as I and others have detailed elsewhere, Donald Trump’s conduct since the election has demonstrated that he is dangerously unqualified and unfit to be president.

Can electors legally do this? While the nearly universal expectation is electors’ votes will reflect the popular vote in their states, the Constitution doesn’t require them to. As others have explained, Alexander Hamilton’s justification for the Electoral College in Federalist No. 68 shows that the Framers intended for electors to exercise their own judgment when necessary.

Many states, however, have laws that prohibit these so-called “faithless electors” (perhaps a better term would be “conscientious electors”) from bucking the state popular vote. This week, two electors filed suit in federal court arguing that Colorado’s version is unconstitutional. (Hillary Clinton won Colorado, but the plaintiffs hope that a victory in their lawsuit will effectively invalidate all such laws, allowing electors in Trump states to defect.) In addition to arguments based on the Framers’ intent, there is a strong argument based on constitutional structure and text, and on Supreme Court precedent, that these electors should prevail.

The Constitution gives the states authority over how to choose electors. Article II, Section 1 provides that “[e]ach State shall appoint, in such manner as the Legislature thereof may direct, a Number of Electors…” But the Constitution does not authorize states to tell the electors, once selected, how to vote.

The Twelfth Amendment, which was ratified in 1804, spells out the electors’ duties in more detail. And it, too, defines the duties of electors without giving the states or state officials any role in defining or enforcing those duties. “The Electors shall meet in their respective states, and vote by ballot for President and Vice-President …,” it says, and then goes on to explain that the electors should each cast two ballots: one for president and one for vice president. The electors, and only the electors, are directed to count, certify, and seal their votes, and to send the results directly to Washington. This allocation of responsibilities suggests that the Framers wanted to insulate the electors from the states’ influence or interference once they are appointed.

See here for the background, and be sure to read the rest. I kind of doubt Dan Patrick’s effort to bound electors will go anywhere, mostly because I doubt he’ll care enough to spend time and effort on it when he has much bigger fish he wants to fry, but you never know. What I do know is that I welcome the conversation about the role of the Electoral College, both as originally envisioned and in today’s world. Either we own and embrace what it was designed to do, or we should admit that it’s an anti-democratic anachronism and get rid of it.

No faithless electors!

Dan Patrick has had enough of this nonsense.

Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick said Wednesday that a Texas Republican elector’s decision not to vote for Donald Trump may lead state legislators to pass a law requiring electors to support the winner of the statewide popular vote.

Christopher Suprun, an elector from Dallas, announced Monday that he will not cast his ballot for Trump, the president-elect, when Texas’ electors meet Dec. 19 in Austin. In a radio interview, Patrick called Suprun’s decision a “slap across the face” to the voters who helped Trump beat Democratic rival Hillary Clinton by nine points in Texas, handing him the state’s 38 electoral votes.

“This is the type of action by an individual that will probably prompt us in the upcoming session to look at passing a law, as 29 other states have done … that says their electors must follow the will of the people,” said Patrick, who chaired Trump’s campaign in Texas. “We thought that people in Texas here who run for elector would keep their word.”

See here and here for the background. Whatever else one thinks about this, I would just note that Chris Suprun is acting in exactly the manner that the framers of the Constitution, like Alexander Hamilton, envisioned. If one argues for binding the electors to the popular vote of the state, then the Electoral College truly serves no purpose and should be abolished. That of course is not what Patrick is proposing, and in truth his plan is no more ridiculous than what we have now. I just wanted to be clear about that, since we are so often subjected to lectures by the likes of Ted Cruz and Greg Abbott about what the Constitution really means. It means what they say it means, except when they say it means something else.

Another non-Trump elector

I don’t know if this is becoming a thing, but it is interesting.

I am a Republican presidential elector, one of the 538 people asked to choose officially the president of the United States. Since the election, people have asked me to change my vote based on policy disagreements with Donald J. Trump. In some cases, they cite the popular vote difference. I do not think president-elects should be disqualified for policy disagreements. I do not think they should be disqualified because they won the Electoral College instead of the popular vote. However, now I am asked to cast a vote on Dec. 19 for someone who shows daily he is not qualified for the office.

[…]

Mr. Trump urged violence against protesters at his rallies during the campaign. He speaks of retribution against his critics. He has surrounded himself with advisers such as Stephen K. Bannon, who claims to be a Leninist and lauds villains and their thirst for power, including Darth Vader. “Rogue One,” the latest “Star Wars” installment, arrives later this month. I am not taking my children to see it to celebrate evil, but to show them that light can overcome it.

Gen. Michael T. Flynn, Mr. Trump’s pick for national security adviser, has his own checkered past about rules. He installed a secret internet connection in his Pentagon office despite rules to the contrary. Sound familiar?

Finally, Mr. Trump does not understand that the Constitution expressly forbids a president to receive payments or gifts from foreign governments. We have reports that Mr. Trump’s organization has business dealings in Argentina, Bahrain, Taiwan and elsewhere. Mr. Trump could be impeached in his first year given his dismissive responses to financial conflicts of interest. He has played fast and loose with the law for years. He may have violated the Cuban embargo, and there are reports of improprieties involving his foundation and actions he took against minority tenants in New York. Mr. Trump still seems to think that pattern of behavior can continue.

The author of this op-ed is Christopher Suprun, who is from Dallas. He joins Art Sisneros in being unwilling to cast his vote for Trump, though he parts ways with Sisneros by remaining an elector. There are faithless electors from time to time, with two of them this century, but I think it’s fair to say that we may see more of them than usual this year. Whether it becomes more than a footnoted curiosity some day or something more I couldn’t say, but it is interesting. The Trib and Think Progress have more.

Dropping out of Electoral College

I have some respect for this.

A Texas Republican elector is resigning over the election of Donald Trump, saying he cannot “in good conscience” vote for the incoming president.

The elector, Art Sisneros of Dayton, detailed his decision in a blog post Saturday that said he believed voting for Trump “would bring dishonor to God.” The remaining 537 members of the Electoral College will choose Sisneros’ replacement when they convene Dec. 19 in state capitals across the country.

[…]

Sisneros has previously been critical of Trump, raising the prospect that he could turn into a “faithless elector” — one who votes against the winner of the popular vote in his or her state. He ruled out that option in his blog post, writing that it “would be difficult to justify how being faithless could be a righteous act.”

The post in question is here, and it’s rather wordy but worth a read. Basically, Sisneros felt constrained because the Texas GOP requires people who want to become electors to sign a pledge affirming that they will only vote for the candidate who won the vote in the state, which if you want to get all original-constructionist is a perversion of the intent of the Electoral College. He admits he shouldn’t have signed the pledge (and thus not been chosen as an elector), but sign it he did, and thus was faced with voting for a candidate he couldn’t abide, being a “faithless elector” (a term he says he despises), or resigning. His reasoning comes from a place that I don’t share, but given his starting point, I do agree that this was the honorable path for him to take. Not that any of this matters in the grand scheme of things, nor does it address the underlying tension of the huge disparity between the popular vote and the electoral vote, but there you have it.

Sid and Donald, BFFs

Birds of a feather.

Sid Miller

At a rally Sunday in Las Vegas, Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump paused his usual meditation on the latest polls to direct his crowd’s attention to a “great guy on television today.”

“His name was Sid Miller from Texas,” Trump said, drawing a round of cheers as he invoked the state’s agriculture commissioner, known for his cowboy hats and — like Trump — political incorrectness.

“Oh, they know Sid Miller,” Trump continued, sounding somewhat surprised. “We create yet another star.”

In the home stretch of a zany presidential race, Miller’s star has no doubt risen, at least among the many Trump supporters skeptical of the notion that their candidate is headed for defeat. In recent days, Miller has become Trump’s go-to guy when it comes to arguing the presidential race in Texas and elsewhere is not exactly what polls say it is, an on-message ally in Trump’s pursuit to convince Americans it ain’t over ’till it’s over.

“He said, ‘Trump is going to win by massive numbers, bigger than anyone’s ever seen,'” Trump said at the Las Vegas rally, paraphrasing Miller’s remarks earlier in the day on Fox News. “And he said, ‘So I don’t know what you people are talking about on television, where they’re saying the vote in Texas is going to be very close.’ He said, ‘I don’t know what you people are talking about. You must be talking about a different Texas than the one I’m from.'”

Miller, who sits on Trump’s Agricultural Advisory Committee, appears to be reveling in the moment, committing to more media appearances and flooding his social media accounts with pro-Trump messages. And he seems to have seriously caught the attention of the nominee, who has not only shouted him out at multiple rallies but also personally sent him an email thanking him for his help.

“Sid Miller has become Donald Trump’s biggest cheerleader and champion in the state of Texas,” said Todd Smith, a spokesman for the agriculture commissioner. “Sid thinks it’s vitally important for not only our nation, but for farmers and ranchers and agricultural producers, to really fight hard this week on behalf of our nominee, and he’s doing that.”

Have two politicians ever been more made for each other than Sid Miller and Donald Trump? It’s hard to imagine. My goal is to do what I can to make sure people remember this two years from now.

And hey, it looks like ol’ Sid will do his best to provide reminders as well.

A since-deleted tweet sent from Texas Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller’s account on Tuesday used an obscene term to describe Hillary Clinton, the Democratic presidential nominee.

After initially claiming he was hacked, Miller said the tweet came from a staffer who did not realize the full extent of what he or she was sharing. The agriculture commissioner, a vocal Trump supporter, said he had been working all day and had instructed campaign staff to use his Twitter account to broadcast pro-Trump messages.

“I said, ‘Why don’t y’all just do some retweets?'” Miller told The Texas Tribune. “They didn’t notice it had a derogatory term in it and they tweeted it out.”

The episode instantly plunged the outspoken Miller into controversy. He earned a stern rebuke from Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, who said, “No true Texas gentleman would ever talk this way.”

So, misogyny, inattention to detail, and blaming others for one’s own actions. It’s like they were separated at birth. The Chron, BOR, the Current, TM Daily Post, and Juanita have more.

Endorsement watch: What’s the matter with Waxahachie?

Donald Trump goes one for Texas in newspaper endorsements.

Hillary Clinton

While recent polls suggest Republican Donald Trump is just a few points ahead of Democrat Hillary Clinton among Texas voters, the presidential race is far more lopsided among the state’s leading newspapers.

Among the editorial boards of the top 40 newspapers across the state, only one — the Waxahachie Daily Light — has endorsed Trump. On Oct. 17, the newspaper, which has a circulation of less than 5,000, endorsed Trump, writing that “any other choice for President of the United States would be an irresponsible and dangerous one.”

Meanwhile, several of the state’s largest papers — including the Dallas Morning News, Houston Chronicle and San Antonio-Express News — have endorsed Clinton. The Dallas Morning News endorsement drew national attention as the newspaper’s editorial board noted it had not endorsed a Democrat for president in more than 75 years.

“We’ve been critical of Clinton’s handling of certain issues in the past,” the Dallas Morning News’ editorial board wrote. “But unlike Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton has experience in actual governance, a record of service and a willingness to delve into real policy. Resume vs. resume, judgment vs. judgment, this election is no contest.”

Several other Texas papers, including the Austin American-Statesman and the San Angelo Standard-Times, have said they will not endorse in this year’s presidential race.

On Friday, the Fort Worth Star-Telegram’s editorial board took the unusual stance of recommending voters reject Trump but abstaining from endorsing any of his opponents.

I doubt this makes any difference, and I’m more amused than anything at the way some of these papers heroically avoided making a choice. Given some of their audiences, I guess I can’t really crime them for weaseling out. Consider this a nice piece of pub trivia to keep in your back pocket, like “who was on base when Bobby Thompson hit his famous home run to win the 1951 pennant for the New York Giants?”

(Oh, you want the answer? Whitey Lockman and Clint Hartung, who was pinch-running for Don Mueller. And Larry Jansen was the winning pitcher, in relief of Sal Maglie. You’re welcome.)

Republicans: Still worried about the Trump effect in Texas

The continuing story.

Texas Republicans are slowly coming to grips with the unthinkable: Hillary Clinton has a shot at winning the nation’s most iconic red state.

The odds are long, they say, in a state that hasn’t voted Democratic for president in 40 years. But in recent polling data and early voting results, they are also seeing signs of the perfect storm of demographic and political forces it would take to turn Texas blue.

According to some Republican and nonpartisan pollsters, Donald Trump is turning off enough core GOP constituencies and motivating Hispanic voters in ways that could pump up Clinton’s performance to higher levels than a Democratic nominee has seen in decades. In 2012, Mitt Romney won the state in a 16-point blowout. The current spread is just five points, according to the the RealClearPolitics polling average.

“I think that Texas is competitive this year,” said Brendan Steinhauser, an Austin-based GOP operative. “I think it’ll be much closer than usual. I think it’s because of the Trump factor.”

Steinhauser still expects Trump to end up on top. But the very idea that Texas — which gave Romney a nearly 1.3 million-vote winning margin — might be in play is an affront to some Republicans, a notion that would have seemed preposterous at the beginning of the election year. Texas is the beating heart of the modern Republican Party, and the cornerstone of any GOP nominee’s electoral strategy. It’s also home to the last Republican president, George W. Bush, and to two serious recent GOP contenders for the White House, Sen. Ted Cruz and former Gov. Rick Perry.

[…]

There’s still no indication that Clinton will even make a concerted effort to win the state’s 38 electoral votes. Allies described limited paid media buys touting her Dallas Morning News endorsement; one of her top Texas surrogates, 2014 gubernatorial candidate Wendy Davis, has largely been deployed to more competitive swing states.

Davis was skeptical of Clinton’s odds of winning the state this year, saying it’s too soon to read much into early voting figures or polling.

“It’s certainly the case that there’s a perfect storm right now, where we have a candidate, Donald Trump who’s particularly reviled by Latinas, African-Americans and women,” she said, pointing out that even a whisper of hope for Democrats this year could pay dividends in down-ballot races and in future elections.

Trump’s candidacy, she said, will be used as a bludgeon in 2018 when a slew of elected Republicans — from Abbott to Cruz — seek reelection. And any inroads Democrats make this year, Davis said, could encourage other Democrats to seek office.

“I think it could,” she said. “A lot of people in Texas who are considering running statewide in the future are going to be closely watching what the indications are coming out of this election and re-analyzing the possibilities of when it makes sense to try to launch again a statewide race in Texas. I think we’re going to see a lot of new Hispanic voters in this election, African-American voters and of course fair-minded Anglos that we can build a coalition around.”

Republicans aren’t thinking that far ahead. They’re busy fretting over the possibility that even if Trump wins, a weak finish could leave a trail of vanquished down-ballot Republicans behind.
“Would [Democrats] rightly consider it a moral victory if Trump were held to single digits in Texas? Maybe,” said Travis County Republican chairman James Dickey. “But the real question is, if the margin slides from double digits to low single digits, who else becomes jeopardized?”

Three points to make here. One is what James Dickey says, which is simply that races that Republicans won comfortably when Mitt Romney was carrying the state by 16 points might not be so comfortable if Donald Trump is winning by three. And two, as Wendy Davis says, this does give Democrats a starting point and rallying cry for 2018. If Donald Trump can motivate people to vote this year, then maybe he can help motivate them to vote in 2018. There’s a lot more to it than that, but you have to start somewhere.

These are things we’ve discussed before. The third point I want to make is to note the dog that hasn’t barked. In 2012, Republican pollsters Mike Baselice and Chris Perkins released results that showed Mitt Romney with a comfortable lead in the Presidential race in Texas. Both polls were firmly in the range of the others that were made public, and both were pretty accurate on both the margin and the percentage for Romney and President Obama. Neither has released a poll result this cycle. I’m sure they have conducted polls this year – they’re top-level Republican operatives, they work for Republican campaigns, this is literally what they get paid to do, it beggars the imagination to think they haven’t done polls this year. Yet they haven’t released any poll numbers this year. Why do you think that might be true? The obvious answer is that their data would confirm what all the other polls have been saying, which is that this is a historically close race. It’s even possible they’re seeing worse numbers than what the other polls have shown. Surely if they had data to contradict the current narrative of a close race, it would be in their interest to put it out there. The fact that they haven’t done so isn’t conclusive of anything, but it sure as hell is suggestive.

UT/Trib: Trump 45, Clinton 42

Even the UT/Texas Trib poll shows a tight Presidential race in Texas.

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump held a three-percentage-point lead over Democrat Hillary Clinton on the eve of early voting in Texas, according to the latest University of Texas/Texas Tribune Poll.

Trump and his running mate, Mike Pence, had the support of 45 percent of likely Texas voters, compared with 42 percent for Clinton and Tim Kaine; 7 percent for Libertarian Gary Johnson and William Weld; and 2 percent for the Green Party’s Jill Stein and Ajamu Baraka. The remaining 5 percent said they would vote for someone else for president and vice president.

“This is the trend that we’ve been seeing in polling for the last two weeks,” said Jim Henson, co-director of the UT/TT Poll and head of the Texas Politics Project at the University of Texas at Austin.

In spite of the closeness of the race and the margin of error, the number of polls showing similar distance between the candidates, with Trump in front, “is probably a telling us where this race really stands,” Henson said. Close, with a Trump lead, in other words.

The survey was in the field from Oct. 14 to Oct. 23; early voting in Texas began Oct. 24.

Trump was ahead with men, 46 percent to 39 percent, while the two candidates each had 45 percent of women’s support. While 93 percent of Democrats support Clinton, 83 percent of Republicans and 46 percent of independents support Trump. Only 19 percent of independents said they support Clinton. And there is a big divide on racial and ethnic lines: Trump led Clinton 57 percent to 28 percent among white voters, but Clinton led 95 percent to 4 percent among black voters and 56 percent to 33 percent among Hispanic voters.

Trump’s voters are split when asked for the reason behind their vote: While 47 percent said they want Trump to be president, 53 percent said their position would better be explained as not wanting Clinton to become president.

Clinton’s voters were more positive about their own choice, with 66 percent saying they want her to be president. Still, 34 percent of those voting for Clinton said they were with her because they don’t want Trump to be elected.

“The lack of enthusiasm amongst Republicans is remarkable,” said Joshua Blank, who supervised the poll. He said the Democrats are voting in favor of their candidate while more Republicans are voting against their opponent than are voting for Trump.

Again, a lot of this is what we have been seeing all along, with a little extra boost from the apparent enthusiasm gap. If we step into the Wayback Machine and set it for late October of 2012, we see that the final UT/Trib poll had Romney leading Obama 55-39. That was dead on as far as the gap between the two candidates was concerned, but underestimate their totals by about two points each. Make of that what you will. This poll, like the Statesman poll that also came out this week and which I will blog about tomorrow, was conducted before early voting started. If there are any further polls for the cycle, I hope they will ask people if they have already voted and if so for whom.

Donald who?

Never heard of him.

As national polls show Hillary Clinton widening her lead just two weeks before the presidential election, Texas Republicans mostly have gone silent about the candidate at the top of their ticket, presidential nominee Donald Trump.

Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, Trump’s Texas campaign chairman, is the only one who seems to be pushing The Donald’s candidacy much in public. On Monday, he tweeted a get-out-the-vote message to Keep Texas Red with the #TrumpPence16 hashtag at the end.

Other elected officials who earlier were public in their support of the candidate now are circumspect about referring to him, a not-uncommon tactic that political observers say is aimed at protecting down-ballot candidates when the party nominee is running behind in the home stretch of a presidential election.

“When a campaign starts, everyone wants to be up there on stage with the nominee to get attention for their campaigns,” said Cal Jillson, a political scientist at Southern Methodist University who has studied campaigns for years. “But when things start going south, in politics, you have no friends any more. That’s what you’re seeing with Donald Trump right now. He doesn’t have a lot of friends left.”

On Monday, more than a dozen elected officials in Texas who earlier publicly supported Trump declined comment on whether they would be out campaigning for him in the final two weeks before the Nov. 8 election.

[…]

For many Texans, including more than a dozen who were touring the Texas Capitol on Monday, the absence of Trump’s name in the final campaign days is a blessing.

“Unfortunately, even though he’s right about a lot of things, especially about needing to throw out the political establishment in this country, no one wants to hear from him now because he’s radioactive,” said Sharon Ridener, a San Antonio resident who says she will vote for GOP candidates but will not cast a ballot in the presidential race. “As much as I hate to say this, Hillary Clinton has won. Let’s move on.”

WillaLee Moseley, of Dallas, echoed that: “I’m a Republican, but I’m through hearing from him. And about him.”

That’s the danger for the Trump campaign, and possibly for the Republicans as a whole. If enough Rs do what Sharon Ridener did, then maybe Hillary Clinton really could carry Texas. And maybe there are some slightly less-committed Republicans than WillaLee Mosely who just decide not to bother showing up. It’s early days, but keep those possibilities in mind. As for Dan Patrick, he should be forced to wear his unwavering support of Donald Trump like a cheap suit for the rest of his life. Every time any Texas Democrat speaks of or to him, they should mention Patrick’s BFF Donald Trump as well. Any time Patrick tries to invoke morality or religion or any other sense of righteousness in his rhetoric, he should be met with a full litany of the things he happily overlooked to support his man Donald. Let us never, ever forget about that.

CBS/YouGov: Trump 46, Clinton 43

Texas is being tracked as a battleground state. I can’t even believe I just typed that.

Hillary Clinton holds a three-point lead over Donald Trump in Florida, while in Texas – a state that has voted Republican by wide margins in recent years – Trump leads by a mere three points.

[…]

In 2012 Republicans won a double-digit victory in Texas, as they often do; it’s one of the most reliably Republican states in the nation. Today Texas is close, and is more a story of Trump underperforming rather than Clinton over-performing typical Democrats, and why despite the tightness it may still be difficult for the Democrats to actually get those last points and win the state outright. Clinton is doing about as well with key groups as President Obama did in 2008, but Trump is under-performing the Republican benchmarks by roughly ten points among white men, white women, and college whites in particular. Many of those not with Trump are unsure or voting third-party rather than Clinton.

In 2008 then-candidate Obama lost white men in Texas by more than fifty points and Clinton is down 35 points today. That’s still a big gap but the sheer number of voters that represents is part of the reason for the difference in the race. Meanwhile, Hispanics in Texas, who are supporting Clinton, say they feel very motivated to vote this year.

Scroll down for the polling data. Much of what is there is stuff we have talked about before. Clinton has consolidated Democratic voters better than Trump has done with Republicans. 93% of Dems are with Clinton, with four percent for Trump, one percent for Gary Johnson, and one percent for “someone else”, while only 84% of Rs are voting Trump, with 7% for Clinton, 5% for Johnson, and 2% for “someone else”. Clinton leads among all voters under 45, with a 21-point lead with the under-30 crowd. Trump as noted isn’t doing as well among white voters as Republicans have done in the past, but he is once again weirdly above 30% with Latino voters. I continue to believe those results are off, and that we’ll see numbers more in line with national Latino preferences once we have actual data. But look, the big deal here is that Texas is being tracked as a Florida-like battleground state. Who would have thunk it?

On a side note, Real Clear Politics has Trump leading Clinton 44.2 to 39.6 in the two-way race and 43.6 to 38.8 in the four-way race, while FiveThirtyEight has it at Trump 49.1, Clinton 43.9. That would be the highest total for a Democrat in a Presidential race in Texas since Jimmy Carter won the state in 1976.

The state of the polls

Hillary Clinton

I’m just trying to get a handle on the numbers, with the idea of establishing some kind of guide for what to expect in the Presidential race in Texas. Bear with me.

The RCP average for the two-way Trump/Clinton race is 44.0 for Trump and 38.3 for Clinton. The FiveThirtyEight polling averages, which includes some other sources, come in at Trump 45.6, Clinton 37.6. However, once you apply the 538 secret sauce, you wind up with projected totals of 49.7% for Trump and 43.2% for Clinton.

RCP does not do this kind of modeling/forecasting – it’s a straight up polling average. As such, it can underestimate final totals, since it doesn’t try to guess what undecided voters may do. The 2012 RCP average for Texas had President Obama at 39.0 and Mitt Romney at 55.7; they finished at 41.4 and 57.2, respectively. Similarly, in 2008, Obama was averaging 40.5 and John McCain was at 53.5; the final numbers were 43.7 and 55.5. In other words, RCP underestimated Obama by three points in 2008 and by 2.5 points in 2012.

(I couldn’t find 538’s data for Texas in past years, so we’ll just skip that part of the analysis.)

There are so many variables in play here that I’ve been very reluctant to even begin to guess at what the final numbers might look like. Here are some of the things that factor in:

1. Overall turnout – Voter registration is at an all-time high, but that correlates weakly at best to turnout. However, the overall voting age population is way up, and even in a modest turnout-to-VAP scenario like we had in 2012, we’re easily looking at a half million or more extra voters than we’ve ever had, and that number could be quite a bit higher without setting a record for turnout as a share of the adult population. Nine million votes is not out of the question. I have to believe that beyond a certain point, extra voters will break Democratic. Where that point is, how blue they are, and how likely that is to happen, I have no idea.

2. Undecided voters – In 2008, the Obama/McCain share of the vote in the averages was 94.0%; in 2012, the Obama/Romney share was 94.7%. This year, it’s 82.3% for Trump and Clinton. Even adding in Johnson and Stein only gets you to 91.6%. That’s a lot more undecided voters. Do they show up? Which way do they lean? There’s a lot of room for candidates to gain ground here.

3. The third-party candidates – Just as a reminder, Gary Johnson and Jill Stein combined for 1.42% of the vote in Texas in 2012. Their RCP combined average is 9.3% right now. Poll numbers for third-party candidates are almost always overstated, often by quite a bit, but we don’t have any useful data for comparison from 2012. I’m sure there are some Republicans who will vote for Johnson over Trump, but nearly the entire state GOP establishment is in Trump’s corner, so it’s not like there’s an organized #NeverTrump movement. As with the undecided voters, there’s a lot of room for the Trump and Clinton numbers to change here if as has been the norm historically the L and G numbers are exaggerated. But if there was ever a year where maybe they’re not, you’d think this would be it.

4. The other polls – There are national polls showing Hillary Clinton with a double-digit lead. That’s a landslide by any measure, and if it’s what we get, it’s entirely possible that the polls we have for Texas are underestimating her by a considerable amount, as state polling tends to lag the national trends. The fact that the one most recent poll we have is also the closest one we’ve seen since that weird Washington Post poll suggests that possibility as well. We also know that there’s a lot of polling data that is not made public but from which we can make inferences based on the actions taken by the campaigns and other actors who have that data. Here, we have multiple suggestions of Republicans being worried about their turnout in Texas, plus Hillary Clinton actually running a week’s worth of ads in Texas, online and on TV. Draw your own conclusions about that.

5. Latino voters – This is baked into some of the other factors, but I keep being struck by the differences between what national polls say about Latino support for Donald Trump – in short, he may be lucky to get 20% of the Latino vote nationally, well below what Mitt Romney got – and what the state polls have said. The latter have generally had his support in the 30s, with Clinton in the 50s or low 60s. This may be a function of small sample sizes combined with excessive weighting to compensate, or it may simply indicate that Texas Latinos are different than Latinos elsewhere. Bear in mind that we have some data to indicate that lower-propensity Latino voters tend to be more Democratic than high-propensity Latino voters, which is a fancy way of saying that higher Latino turnout correlates with better Democratic performance among Latinos.

6. Crossover voters – Mark Bluenthal wrote yesterday that the key to Hillary Clinton’s increased national lead is that she has consolidated the Democratic vote better than Donald Trump has done with the Republican vote. Another way to put that is there are more Republicans who are voting for other candidates, including Clinton, than there are Democrats who are voting for other candidates. We see that in Texas as well, specifically in that UH poll, which showed ten percent of Rs voting for Clinton or Johnson, but only five percent of Ds voting for other candidates. Hillary Clinton’s better performance in Texas is two parts turnout – there are more Democrats and fewer Republicans voting than usual – and one part crossover voting. If that latter group is bigger than we think, that will affect the outcome.

In the end, I’m less interested in the margin between Trump and Clinton – given what we do know so far, barring anything unexpected that margin is going to be smaller than the McCain-Obama margin – as I am in the absolute totals. How many people actually vote for Hillary Clinton? The high-water mark is 3,528,633, set by Obama in 2008. Just on the increase in population alone, she could top that while receiving a lower percentage of the vote (for example, 3.6 million votes for Clinton out of 8.4 million total = 42.9%; Obama got 43.7%), but I would consider that a huge disappointment. Can she get to 3.8 million, or (be still my heart) 4 million? Can she reach 44 or even 45 percent, a level not reached since Jimmy Carter in 1976? I hope to have some small amount of clarity on this before voting concludes, but I doubt I’ll get much.

I think that about covers it. What it all means, I still don’t know. But when it’s all over and we’re doing the autopsy, these are the things I’ll want to look back on.

UH Hobby School: Trump 41, Clinton 38

Damn!

Hillary Clinton

Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump has one of his slimmest leads yet over Democratic rival Hillary Clinton in Texas, 41 percent to 38 percent, according to a new poll among registered voters. Trump’s support falls within the survey’s margin of error, which is plus- or minus 3 percent, meaning the race is a statistical dead heat.

Released Tuesday by the University of Houston’s Hobby School of Public Affairs, the poll also found that 16 percent of respondents were undecided or refused to answer. Four percent chose Libertarian Party candidate Gary Johnson and 1 percent selected Green Party nominee Jill Stein.

“The national gains Hillary Clinton has made in the last two weeks are evident in Texas, where she has closed within three points of Donald Trump,” said Richard Murray, political science professor and director of the Hobby School’s Survey Research Institute. “With such a close margin, the key question will be which candidate can actually get their supporters to the polls over the next three weeks.”

Trump’s lead jumps one point – to 4 percent – when the poll considered voters who said they were certain to vote on or before Election Day. Among independent voters in Texas, Clinton dominates Trump, 30 percent to 14 percent. The GOP candidate, however, won the support of a plurality of male respondents, 44 percent to Clinton’s 35 percent, while women support Clinton by a four-point margin, 42 percent to 38 percent.

There’s also another WaPo/Survey Monkey poll that shows Trump up 2, 48-46. That same poll had Clinton up 46-45 in early September. I’m not putting too much weight into this because its methodology is weird, but for those of you that saw news of this poll, I’m letting you know that I saw it as well. Here’s the info for the UH poll. I’ll quote from their intro:

The Hobby School of Public Affairs at the University of Houston completed live telephone interviews with 1,000 registered voters in Texas who reported they were certain (77 percent) or very likely to vote (23 percent) on or before election day on November 8, 2016.
Interviews were conducted by Consumer Research International between October 7 and October 15, 2016. Interviews were conducted on landline (54 percent) and cell phones (46percent).

The margin of error for the survey is +/- 3 percent (at the 95 percent confidence level). The survey was conducted under the supervision of co-directors Richard Murray, director of the Hobby School’s Survey Research Institute, and Robert Stein, research associate at the Hobby School.

The sample was weighted to reflect the racial and ethnic composition of the electorate based on the 2008 and 2012 presidential elections.

This is consistent with their earlier poll of Harris County that showed Clinton with a lead. As I said then, you can’t have Trump leading the state by less than half of Mitt Romney’s margin – hell, less than half of John McCain’s margin – and not see that reflected at the local level as well. One could argue that the composition of the Texas electorate this year will be more favorable to Democrats this year than 2012 and possibly 2008 were, but we’ll leave that discussion for after the election. In any event, a few quick points to make here:

– I can’t overstate how shocking it is to see a Republican candidate in Texas in a top-of-the-ticket race score only 41% in a poll in October. Forget the three-point margin for a minute, how is it that Trump so consistently can’t even come close to fifty percent?

– Even worse from Trump’s perspective is there’s not that much room for him to grow. He and Clinton have about the same share of their own voters – 80% of Dems say they support Clinton, 78% of GOPers are with Trump. More to the point, here aren’t a lot of undecided Republicans out there – twelve percent fall under None, Don’t Know, or Refused, while 14% of Dems are in one of those buckets. Trump does lose more of his own voters than Clinton does – ten percent of Republicans are voting for someone else (5% Johnson, 5% Clinton) while only five percent of Democrats are defecting (2% Trump, 2% Johnson, 1% Stein). Maybe some of them will come home for him.

– There’s a large share of undecided independents (29%), but 1) Clinton leads 30-14 among indies who do have a preference, 2) we don’t know how big a slice of the sample indies are, and 3) these are probably your least likely voters in the sample.

– Unfortunately, the provided poll data does not include breakdowns by age or by race. I’d bet that Clinton leads among voters under 50, as has been the case in other polls, but I can’t confirm that based on what we have.

FiveThirtyEight has this poll incorporated into their data set for Texas, but as of this writing Real Clear Politics had not noticed it. You should also read this 538 post about the poll and why Clinton is doing as well as she is in red states overall and Texas in particular.

I’ll have some more thoughts on the state of the polls tomorrow.

Clinton campaign to run ads in Texas

It’s come to this.

Hillary Clinton

Hillary Clinton’ campaign is going on the air in solid-red Texas, a remarkable move by a Democratic presidential nominee as her Republican rival, Donald Trump, struggles across the country.

Clinton is launching a one-week ad buy in the Lone Star State that highlights the Dallas Morning News’ recent endorsement of the former secretary of state, according to a campaign aide. The 30-second commercial will air on TV in Dallas, Houston, Austin and San Antonio, as well as online. Clinton’s campaign did not detail the size of the buy.

When the Dallas Morning News editorial board endorsed Clinton earlier this year, it was the board’s first endorsement of a Democratic presidential hopeful since before World War II. The Clinton spot notes the historical significance of the endorsement, going on to quote its criticism of Trump’s judgment and praise of Clinton’s bipartisan credentials.

“At this moment in time, for Texas and for America, Hillary for president,” a narrator concludes.

The ad buy comes as polls continue to show the presidential race in Texas closer than usual. A WFAA/SurveyUSA poll released Thursday found Trump leading by only 4 points, much less than Mitt Romney’s 16-point margin in 2012 and John McCain’s 12-point margin in 2008.

“The Dallas Morning News points out Trump’s values are out of step with Texas,” Garry Mauro, who chairs Clinton’s efforts in Texas, said in a statement on the ad buy. “As more and more Texans realize this — and turn to Hillary — the polls will get better and better.”

Here’s the ad:

Nice. Is it likely to have any effect on persuasion or turnout? Maybe a little bit at the margins, but who cares? The Chron goes into some detail.

Though Clinton still is a long shot in Texas, political analysts see it as a sign of her recent strength nationally and in the critical battleground states of Pennsylvania and Florida.

“I don’t think it’s knowable at this point what a Texas ad buy would accomplish,” veteran Texas Democratic operative Harold Cook said. “But I will say this: If the Democrat is buying ad time in Texas in a presidential election, it ain’t a good year for the Republican.”

[…]

“I think they’re playing with house money right now,” said Craig Goodman, a political scientist at the University of Houston in Victoria, citing reports that the Clinton campaign is flush with cash compared to Trump, who has taken in less than half of the $373 million reported so far by the Democrat. “They’ve got excess resources.”

I’m just glad I lived long enough to see a Democratic Presidential candidate decide it was worthwhile to run some general election ads in Texas for Texas voters. Trail Blazers has more.

WFAA/SurveyUSA: Trump 47, Clinton 43

The margin keeps narrowing.

Hillary Clinton

After perhaps the most damaging week of his campaign, Donald Trump’s lead in Texas has slipped to four percentage points – within the margin of error – according to a new poll released Thursday night.

The survey, commissioned by WFAA-TV and Texas TEGNA television stations, shows Trump leading Hillary Clinton by 47 percent to 43 percent. The margin of error is four percent.

“I think to put these numbers in context – it shows that Trump’s position has eroded a little bit. His lead is down to four percentage points according to this poll, but even in the wake of some really terrible news for him, he still leads in Texas, which shows what a tough nut Texas is to crack for Democratic candidates right now,” said Matthew Wilson, Associate Professor of Political Science at Southern Methodist University in Dallas.

SurveyUSA conducted the poll between Monday and Wednesday of this week – after both the 2005 video in which Trump used lewd comments describing women and the second presidential debate in St. Louis on Sunday night.

In recent weeks, two other statewide polls showed Trump up by six and seven points, respectively.

“It pretty consistently shows that Trump is struggling in Texas more than a Republican typically would,” Wilson added. “He’s still highly likely to win the state in the end but we typically see double digit margins for Republican candidates and Trump seems unlikely to produce that.

For perspective, Mitt Romney won Texas by 16 points in 2012, John McCain won this state by 13 points in 2008, George W. Bush carried his home state by 23 points in 2004, and 22 points in 2000 when he was elected to his first term.

The eroding support in the largest Republican state in the country could suggest deeper problems for Trump nationwide, Wilson explained.

Survey data can be found here. It’s fairly consistent with other polls we have seen – voters under 50 go for Clinton, Trump has less support among Anglos than Republicans usually get but has weirdly high levels of black and Latino support, which may be a function of small samples and over-weighting (see the story of the most influential 19-year-old black voter in Illinois ever for an example of that). The main thing I want to highlight is that this is not only Hillary Clinton’s highest poll total (not counting that one weird SurveyMonkey result), it’s the best Democratic result in any poll since President Obama recorded 43% in a PPP survey in April of 2012. All other close poll results had one or both candidates in the 30s, with upwards of 20% undecided, while this poll has only five percent undecided.

What that means is this: Given the high levels of voter registration, if we have as Texas Monthly posits the same level of turnout as we had in 2012, we’re looking at nearly 3.8 million Democratic Presidential votes, given 43% support for Clinton. That’s an increase of over 400,000 from 2012 and over 200,000 from 2008, and that’s before we take into account any other possible factors. (Trump, in this calculation, would be a bit above 4.1 million voters.) It’s still just one result, and it counts a a bit of an outlier (though not by much), but if you’re a Democrat you have to like the direction this appears to be going. The Trib, the Current, and the Star-Telegram have more.

Interview with David Cay Johnston

makingofdonaldtrump

This interview is a little different than the ones I usually present. Barbara Radnofsky got in touch with me a couple of weeks ago to say that Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and author David Cay Johnston was going to be in town to promote his new book, The Making of Donald Trump, and would I like to talk to him? I don’t get a whole lot of invitations like that, so of course I said Yes. I’d listened to Johnston’s earlier interview with Jacob Weisberg of Slate, and I’ve begun reading the book, and the main thing to take away from all this is this: Whatever you think you know about Donald Trump, the reality is so, so much worse. No, seriously, you may think you know all of the awful things about Donald Trump, but until you read the book (or listen to these interviews, if you want to take the modern day Cliff Notes route), there’s much you don’t know. Here’s my interview, so you can see what I mean:

(Also, too, for those of you who remember Spy Magazine from back in the day, here’s a little bit of good news for you, and a classic revisited for today’s audiences. You’re welcome. Now I’ll get out of the way so you can listen.)

KTVT/Dixie Strategies: Trump 45, Clinton 38

This is post-debate but pre-“grab her by the pussy”.

In a state where it is generally accepted that a GOP nominee is almost guaranteed a win in a presidential election, real estate mogul and presidential nominee Donald Trump has “under-performed” in Texas according to Pollster Brian Graham of Dixie Strategies.

In the latest KTVT-CBS 11 / Dixie Strategies Poll released Wednesday, if the election were held today, 45 percent of respondents said they would vote for Trump. About 38 percent indicated they would vote for former Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton. About 10 percent of those asked said they are still undecided.

Pollster Brian Graham of Dixie Strategies joined CBS 11’s Jack Fink on Facebook Live Wednesday afternoon to discuss the results.

While Trump is clearly still ahead in the race, Graham said, “He really should be doing a lot better. There’s no reason why, at this late stage in the game that he should be under 50 percent in the state of Texas.”

Not much has changed for Trump since early August in a previous KTVT – CBS 11 / Dixie Strategies poll while Clinton has actually gained 3 percentage points. In August, about 46 percent of respondents said they would vote for Trump if the election were held at that time and 35 percent said they would vote for Clinton.

When asked why he thinks Trump is under-performing, Graham said he thinks that Donald Trump probably did not help himself in the last debate. “The headlines are often times worse than what happens in the debate…but the headlines afterwards really do hurt a candidate and I think you saw that with Donald Trump.”

“The more time that Donald Trump spends defending himself and what he says — and his actions — and not attacking Hillary Clinton…he is really distracting himself,” Graham continued.

See here for more on the previous poll. Let’s just draw a curtain over pollster Graham’s analysis, which was perfectly reasonable on Wednesday but doesn’t mean anything today, and note that the crosstabs (embedded as images in the story) are kind of wack. This poll has Trump leading among white voters by only a 59-32 margin – remember, Mitt Romney was comfortably above 70% with whites in 2012 – while collecting nearly 20% of black voters and 39% of Latinos. I’m going to bet the under on those last two. Be all that as it may, Trump led by 11 in this poll in August, and now leads by only 7. That may just be drift, but Dixie was a bit of an outlier before, as the only pollster putting Trump’s lead in double digits. Either they’ve fallen in with the pack, or the pack is closer to even with them still above it. I am not unhappy with those choices.

“Grab her by the p—-“

Donald Trump, ladies and gentlemen:

Donald Trump bragged in vulgar terms about kissing, groping and trying to have sex with women during a 2005 conversation caught on a hot microphone, saying that “when you’re a star, they let you do it,” according to a video obtained by The Washington Post.

The video captures Trump talking with Billy Bush, then of “Access Hollywood,” on a bus with the show’s name written across the side. They were arriving on the set of “Days of Our Lives” to tape a segment about Trump’s cameo on the soap opera.

The tape includes audio of Bush and Trump talking inside the bus, as well as audio and video once they emerge from it to begin shooting the segment.

In that audio, Trump discusses a failed attempt to seduce a woman, whose full name is not given in the video.

“I moved on her, and I failed. I’ll admit it,” Trump is heard saying. It was unclear when the events he was describing took place. The tape was recorded several months after he married his third wife, Melania.

“Whoa,” another voice said.

“I did try and f— her. She was married,” Trump says.

Trump continues: “And I moved on her very heavily. In fact, I took her out furniture shopping. She wanted to get some furniture. I said, ‘I’ll show you where they have some nice furniture.’”

“I moved on her like a bitch, but I couldn’t get there. And she was married,” Trump says. “Then all of a sudden I see her, she’s now got the big phony tits and everything. She’s totally changed her look.”

At that point in the audio, Trump and Bush appear to notice Arianne Zucker, the actress who is waiting to escort them into the soap-opera set.

“Your girl’s hot as s—, in the purple,” says Bush, who’s now a co-host of NBC’s “Today” show.

“Whoa!” Trump says. “Whoa!”

“I’ve got to use some Tic Tacs, just in case I start kissing her,” Trump says. “You know I’m automatically attracted to beautiful — I just start kissing them. It’s like a magnet. Just kiss. I don’t even wait.”

“And when you’re a star, they let you do it,” Trump says. “You can do anything.”

“Whatever you want,” says another voice, apparently Bush’s.

“Grab them by the p—y,” Trump says. “You can do anything.”

I don’t have any snark to bring for this. It’s hardly a surprise, given all we know about Donald Trump, though it’s still shocking in a way that I didn’t think I could still be shocked. The coordinated national Republican response has been rolled out, and I’m sure we’ll be hearing a lot of it over the next thirty-something days.

And sure enough, Dan Patrick was quick to “condemn” Trump for what he said. Of course, there’s literally nothing Trump could say or do that would persuade Dan Patrick that Donald Trump is manifestly unqualified and incapable of being President, so take it for what it’s worth. That leaves Ted Cruz, John Cornyn, Greg Abbott, Ken Paxton, George P. Bush, Sid Miller, and every other Texas Republican that has endorsed and worked to help elect Donald Trump to let us know what they have to say for themselves. Because as with Patrick, what they have to say about it will say a lot about themselves as well.

UPDATE: What Josh Marshall says.

YouGov: Trump 50.1, Clinton 41.5

So says the YouGov Election Model for Texas. Here is how that works.

The raw data for our analysis is a rolling sample of over 30,000 respondents to YouGov’s polling over the past two weeks, updated with around 3,000 new interviews every day; however turning that into state-level estimates involves several other sources of data to ensure that we are generating a representative portrait of the electorate, not just of those who respond to our polls.

The approach we are following, which is referred to as multilevel regression and post-stratification (MRP), has three components. Here we will use a bit of shorthand that is useful for describing the approach: when we refer to a `voter type’, we mean someone’s measurable characteristics. This includes age, gender, education, who they voted in 2012, where they live, and so on. So one type of (potential) voter in the election might be a female, age over 85, with post-graduate education, living in the 9th Congressional district of Massachusetts, who voted for Obama in 2012. Change any of those characteristics, and you have another type. For each of these types, there are three important quantities that we would like to know.

What proportion of people of that type will vote for Clinton, Trump, Johnson, Stein, etc, among those who do vote?
What proportion of the individuals in each voter type will turn out to vote?
How many (voting eligible) individuals are there of that type?

If we knew all three of these for every type, we could simply multiply the vote shares for each candidate (1) by the turnout share (2) by the number of voters of each type in the voting eligible population (3), add the results for every type together, and we would have the number of votes for each candidate overall. The difficulty is in forming high quality estimates of each of these from the available sources of data that we have to work with. Here is how we have formed our estimates.

We estimate the proportion of people of each type who will vote for Clinton, Trump, Johnson, Stein and everyone else, among those who vote, using the roughly 50,000 YouGov panelists who have responded to surveys in the last fourteen days. We estimate how support for each candidate varies as a function of 2012 vote choice, age, education, gender, race, marital status and date of interview, as well as many interactions between these. In addition to the ways that voters vary in their intentions by their individual characteristics, we also model how they vary on average by the congressional district, state, and region (census division) that they live in.

We estimate the proportion of people of each type who will turnout using a similar model based on individual-level and geographic-level variables, however, this model is not fit on the YouGov panel. We use the November 2012 Current Population Survey, which asked about election turnout in addition to a variety of other attributes of individuals. We use the CPS to calibrate the likely demographic profile of turnout because the CPS is a large (about 100,000 respondents) random survey of individuals in all 50 US states, it gets a relatively high response rate, and it is not primarily about politics. This means that it is likely to yield a more representative picture of voter turnout, and how it varies across different groups in the population. We have made a judgment call that we would rather use a high quality estimate of the patterns of turnout from the 2012 general election than a low quality estimate of the patterns of turnout for the 2016 election. Given the historical stability of turnout patterns we think this is a good bet, but this is a key place where we might get things wrong if there is a large change in turnout patterns. A similar strategy worked well for our analysis of the UK referendum on leaving the EU earlier this year, even though turnout was substantially higher in that referendum than in the preceding general election.

We augment this data by imputing 2008 turnout for each individual onto each observation using the information in state-level voter files about the rate at which voters and non-voters in 2008 voted again in 2012. This information is important because mostly the same people vote and do not vote in every election, and one of the critical tasks of the turnout model is to get the right mix of 2012 voters and non-voters in our 2016 estimates. The best place to estimate this is through comparing 2008 and 2012, although patterns in 2016 versus 2012 could of course be different.

We estimate how many people there are of each type in the electorate primarily based on the 1% microdata sample from the 2010 US Census, with updated distributions of race, age, gender and educational qualifications based on the American Community Survey conducted by the Census Bureau each year. We then augment this data by imputing 2012 election turnout and vote of each of these 2.3m individuals using CPS and YouGov survey data from around the 2012 election, plus the knowledge of how many people voted for each party in each congressional district and state. The logic of this approach is that, at the very least, we know we have the right number of 2012 general election supporters of each party (and non-voters) in each congressional district and state, as well as the right mixes and combinations of age, gender, etc.

This general approach worked well in the UK referendum on leaving the European Union earlier this year, albeit with entirely different data sources. It also works well when we go back and re-evaluate YouGov’s polling for the 2012 US presidential election. YouGov’s polling in September of that year, analysed in the same way as we are analysing the 2016 data, with the data sources available at that time, predicted a 4.1% Obama margin, versus the 3.9% that resulted on election day. Only two states were incorrectly predicted, New Hampshire and North Carolina. YouGov’s polling in October and November yielded similar estimates, the final polling in November yielded the same 4.1% predicted margin, and only erred on North Carolina.

You can see some limited details on the data on the Texas page, which are as of October 3. Clinton is trailing with white voters by a 68-23 margin, which sounds like a lot but is actually closer than it was with Romney-Obama in 2012. Romney was over 70% with white voters in Texas; one poll had him up 77-17 among whites. I think that was an overstatement, but he still had a wider lead than Trump does. YouGov also has Trump trailing among Latinos by the seemingly too close margin of 57-33. Given Trump’s absolutely abysmal national numbers among Latinos, I have a hard time with this. Romney finished with something like 31% among Latinos in Texas, and it should be noted that while YouGov was fairly accurate in Texas, they claimed Romney had 42% support among Latinos in their final poll. I’m betting the under on this one, is what I’m saying.

Anyway. YouGov was fairly accurate in Texas in 2012; their final result underestimated Obama by three points, but they had been right on for him before that. I’m not sure what their update frequency will be for this, but I’ll keep an eye on it. Take a look at their results from other states as well. In all of the tossups they have except for Georgia (yes! Georgia is a tossup!), they show Hillary Clinton leading. Make of that what you will.

Endorsement watch: Who stands with Trump?

Texas Monthly wonders if any Texas newspaper will endorse Donald Trump.

Between the three newspapers with the largest circulations in Texas—the Houston Chronicle, the Dallas Morning News, and the San Antonio Express-News—there have been exactly two endorsements of a Democratic presidential nominee in the last forty years (the Chronicle and Express-News backed Barack Obama in 2008 and 2012, respectively). This year, however, all three papers have endorsed Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton, the first time the trio has gone completely blue in at least 75 years. This weekend, two smaller Texas papers, the Corpus Christi Caller-Times and the El Paso Times, also raised their flags for Clinton. That’s a 5-0 newspaper endorsement lead for the Democratic nominee in Texas—a lead that jumps to 6-0 if you count the endorsement of the University of Texas-Austin’s student paper, the Daily Texan. This is fairly shocking considering Texas hasn’t voted Democrat since a peanut farmer named Jimmy Carter won the presidency in 1976.

There’s about a month left until election day, and plenty of Texas newspapers still have yet to make an endorsement. But it’s worth noting that Texas seems to be part of a nationwide trend that’s seeing papers that have historically backed conservative candidates turn away from Republican nominee Donald Trump. The Cincinnati Enquirer went with a Democrat for the first time in nearly a century. The Arizona Republic had never chosen a non-Republican since it started publishing in 1890, until it endorsed Clinton last week. And the San Diego Union-Tribune broke a 148-year streak of endorsing Republicans on Friday when it implored its readers not to vote for Trump.

The Dallas Morning News‘s streak was nearly as impressive, stretching back to 1940, when the paper backed Franklin Delano Roosevelt in his successful campaign for a third term. “We don’t come to this decision easily,” the Morning News wrote in an editorial explaining the Clinton endorsement in September. “Resume vs. resume, judgment vs. judgment, this election is no contest.” The newspaper went on to say “Trump’s values are hostile to conservatism,” and that he “plays on fear… to bring out the worst in all of us.” The story garnered more than 3,500 online comments and drew about a dozen protesters to the steps of the Morning News‘ building in downtown Dallas. The endorsement also seemed to rile up the Republican nominee himself:

The Houston Chronicle was an early endorser of Clinton, jumping on board way back in July. Like the Morning News,

the Chronicle pulled no punches, writing: “Any one of Trump’s less-than-sterling qualities—his erratic temperament, his dodgy business practices, his racism, his Putin-like strongman inclinations and faux-populist demagoguery, his contempt for the rule of law, his ignorance—is enough to be disqualifying. His convention-speech comment, ‘I alone can fix it,’ should make every American shudder. He is, we believe, a danger to the Republic.” Meanwhile, the San Antonio Express-News chose not to analyze the characters of Trump and Clinton and instead focused on policy issues, eventually concluding that “Clinton is the only logical choice in this presidential election.” Before their recent Obama endorsements, the last time the papers picked a Democrat was 1976, when the Express-News endorsed Jimmy Carter, and 1964, when both the Chronicle and the Express-News endorsed Lyndon B. Johnson.

The El Paso Times went after Trump pretty hard for his border policies and his well-documented racist outbursts against Hispanic people. “A Trump presidency would be a disaster for our country, and worse for those of us on the border,” the newspaper wrote in an editorial. “His promises to make Mexico pay for a needless wall between our nations, and his vow to unilaterally terminate vital trade agreements, would disrupt one of the United States’ most important international relationships and set the border economy back decades.” The Times proceeded to quote, in entirety, Trump’s infamous remarks from June, when he described Mexican immigrants as rapists. It called the prospect of a Trump presidency “detestable.” And it said a vote for Clinton “allows El Pasoans to push back on efforts to marginalize and demonize our community.”

The Corpus Christi Caller-Times was far more pro-Hillary than its primarily Donald-dumping newsprint siblings. “She is not, as has been sold, a mere lesser of two evils,” the Caller-Times wrote. “Her experience and intellect would make her a standout in any group of candidates.” But the paper still got in a few well-placed jabs at Trump, saying he’s “an insult to voters’ intelligence” and that “voting for Trump is a form of nihilism,” and even implying that Trump doesn’t know how to change a diaper.

There are a few more major newspapers in Texas that have yet to announce an endorsement—the biggest being theAustin American-Statesman, but it’s hard to imagine the newspaper that services our state’s most liberal city will side with Trump, especially considering no major newspaper in the country has done such a thing as of right now, aside from the New York Observer (which is published by Trump’s son-in-law) and the Onion-esque National Enquirer. Even if Clinton sweeps the Texas newspaper endorsement circuit, it may not make much of a difference in the final poll, at least in the Lone Star State, where Trump has held on to a modest lead of about six points despite this first handful of non-endorsements.

Let’s put aside the question of how much these endorsements matter – most likely, the answer is “not very much” – and ask the question “will newspapers in heavily Republican areas still endorse Trump?” I’m thinking the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal, the Midland Reporter-Telegram, the Odessa American, and so forth. I mean, if the Morning News pissed off some people enough to make them angrily protest in front of their building, what happens if one of those papers declines to toe the party line? Maybe they’ll go the route a few Republican-aligned papers have gone and stump for Gary Johnson, or maybe they’ll make like USA Today and denounce Trump but not endorse anyone. I figure Sundays are the days where they’re most likely to publish their choice, so I’ll keep an eye on it. But if any paper will go for Trump, I would bet its one of these. Mother Jones has more.

Endorsement watch: Let your conscience be your guide

That Ted Cruz sure does stay firm to his principles, doesn’t he?

Not Ted Cruz

Not Ted Cruz

U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz endorsed Donald Trump on Friday after months of withholding his support from the Republican presidential nominee who defeated him in the primaries.

“After many months of careful consideration, of prayer and searching my own conscience, I have decided that on Election Day, I will vote for the Republican nominee, Donald Trump,” Cruz said in a statement released to The Texas Tribune.

Cruz’s support coincided with Trump’s decision to release a list of additional people he would appoint to the U.S. Supreme Court as president. On the list was U.S. Sen. Mike Lee of Utah, a close Cruz ally and another Trump holdout.

“Our country is in crisis. Hillary Clinton is manifestly unfit to be president, and her policies would harm millions of Americans. And Donald Trump is the only thing standing in her way,” Cruz said in the statement. “A year ago, I pledged to support the Republican nominee, and I will honor that commitment.”

In the heat of the pair’s feud in late July, Trump proclaimed that he had no interest in winning the backing of the man he called Lyin’ Ted. “I don’t want his endorsement,” Trump said. “If he gives it, I will not accept it.”

Trump shifted gears in a brief statement after Cruz’s announcement.

“I am greatly honored by the endorsement of Senator Cruz,” the statement said. “We have fought the battle and he was a tough and brilliant opponent. I look forward to working with him for many years to come in order to make America great again.”

Cruz’s endorsement is an astonishing reversal. Since he dropped out of the race in May, Cruz has declined to express any support for a Trump presidency — including during a speech at the Republican National Convention that caused an uproar and cast uncertainty over Cruz’s political future.

Those two are just made for each other, aren’t they? There’s so much more I could say, but for now let me go with this:

Boy, nobody tells Ted Cruz what to do. He just can’t be pushed around by anyone. Don’t mind me, I’m just going to be laughing my head off all weekend. The Trib, the Current, and Erica Greider, who probably needs a drink, have more.

Two more Clinton campaign offices opened in Texas

In Austin:

Hillary Clinton

The Democratic National Committee opened its Austin headquarters on Sunday.

The move comes amid a surprisingly narrowing gap (given the longtime deep-red status of the state) between Clinton and her GOP rival, Donald Trump, for the presidency. The office is located at 61 N. Interstate 35 at Holly Street, serving as the base for local organizing activity and house volunteers operating phone banks and organizing meetings, KXAN-TV reported.

Members of the public were invited to the opening in quintessentially Texas manner, with barbecue. The office also comes just days before Clinton running mate Tim Kaine makes his second visit to Austin on Sept. 23 to raise campaign money.

And in San Antonio:

Last week the Democrats opened an office in Houston and another Saturday in San Antonio.

The San Antonio campaign office will be the hub for the push to elect Clinton and other Democrats on the Texas ballot in November.

Organizers there will put volunteers to work at phone banks and canvassing neighborhoods.

Democrats expect to hold events at the Alamo City office as we get closer to the general election.

These go along with the Houston office. We were told at that time that more such offices would be coming, though the campaign did not specify any details. If I had to guess, I’d say maybe an office in Dallas, one in El Paso, and one in the Valley, but I’m just guessing. In my fondest dreams, we’d have them in places that aren’t Democratic but which have growing populations and voters who really ought to be contacted – Fort Bend, Williamson, Collin, you know the placews I’m thinking of. Maybe some year when there are more resources and Texas is seen as a legit swing state. For now, however many we do get, it’s good to have them.

So what’s going on with these polls of Texas?

Republicans are feeling a little touchy about them.

“I think the emerging picture is one that looks a little bit tighter in the presidential election than we’ve seen in recent elections in the state,” said Joshua Blank, whose Texas Lyceum poll, released Thursday, found GOP nominee Donald Trump leading Democratic rival Hillary Clinton by only 7 percentage points among likely voters. “The Lyceum poll is another data point in a trend for a race that increasingly looks in the single digits at this time.”

That means Trump is behind where a generic Republican would be at this juncture in a general election in Texas — 10 to 12 points ahead of his Democratic opponent, added Blank, the manager of polling and research at the Texas Politics Project at the University of Texas at Austin.

[…]

The Lyceum Poll was the third survey in recent weeks to find a single-digit race in Texas, which the past two GOP nominees, Mitt Romney and John McCain, won by 16 and 12 points, respectively. According to a polling average compiled by the website RealClear Politics, Trump is now ahead of Clinton by 7.2 points in Texas.

Democrats are expressing cautious optimism about the state of the race in Texas, saying the polling, at the least, bodes well for down-ballot candidates and the post-2016 future of the beleaguered state party. Few are openly talking about winning the state this time around, though they cannot help but wonder what the margin will look like on Election Day if it is so irregularly narrow two months out.

“Three polls in a row can’t be wrong, right?” Texas Democratic Party Chairman Gilberto Hinojosa told the Texas Tribune on Saturday as he left the opening of a Clinton campaign office in Houston. It was there that U.S. Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee of Houston declared, “We are going to win Texas,” on the heels of a Washington Post/SurveyMonkey poll that showed the race tied in the Lone Star State.

Such declarations draw long eye rolls from Texas Republicans, who frequently refer to Democrats’ largely failed efforts to move the state in their direction during the 2014 elections. While some concede Trump may not carry the state as much as, say, Romney did, GOP operatives are skeptical of the methodologies used for recent public polls and suggest private surveys have found Trump leading by double digits, a more normal result.

“The theory that Texas is in play from the presidential standpoint — currently, as of right now — is just not the case,” said Chris Perkins, a top Texas pollster.

If the Trump campaign is worried about the numbers, it is not entirely showing it. While the nominee has taken the unusual step of tacking public appearances on to his fundraising swings through Texas, his advisers and allies have not given the impression it is meant to do anything more than soak up the free media attention that greets him wherever he goes.

“The margin in Texas from the public polls may be different from what we saw a few years ago, but it’s not enough to warrant a change in going after the true battleground states,” said Mike Baselice, a seasoned Austin-based pollster working for the Trump campaign. “The short of it is … anybody that’s looking at these polls may see some difference with what few polls existed in 2012, but the difference s irrelevant because this is going to go Republican.”

The list of GOP objections to recent public surveys is long and varied. The polls have been criticized for being conducted online, leaving out cell phone interviews, over- or under-sampling certain groups, ignoring the fact Texas does not have party registration and generally producing results out of sync with national trends.

Some pollsters, their critics say, just have a bad record in Texas. Emerson College, for example, released a poll shortly before the Texas Republican presidential primary that showed Cruz up by only 3 points. He went on to win the contest by nearly six times that.

Such a litany. As someone who has done his own fair share of whining about polls in the past, let me just say that while any one poll can be wrong, if a bunch of them are saying the same thing, you’re the one that’s probably wrong if you’re whining about them. Sure, the Washington Post result is an oddball done in a weird way, and a couple of the other pollsters don’t have much of a track record in Texas, but polls by the Trib/Texas Policy Project (which gave Mitt Romney a 55-39 edge in late October of 2012) and the Lyceum (which had Romney up 58-39 in early October of 2012) are also showing a single-digit Trump lead. At some point, the numbers speak for themselves.

Does that mean Texas is a swing state? Not by any reasonable measure – even if we accept that the real, true lead for Donald Trump in Texas is seven points, that’s a pretty comfortable lead by any objective standard. It’s just that it’s less than what we’re used to seeing. It is a big deal – Romney won the state by 16 points in 2012, remember – and it is kind of hilarious seeing the way it’s being downplayed. I think Republicans are a little nervous about the numbers; the fact that Greg Abbott is now all in for Trump and Ted Cruz is publicly worrying about holding the Senate are tells. They’re concerned about turnout in a way that you don’t usually see Texas Republicans be concerned about turnout.

Of course, we don’t know who these unnamed “critics” of the recent polls are, so it’s hard to say how ridiculous they’re being. The people who are quoted are the two GOP pollsters, both of whom seem to take the numbers at face value and make the far more valid point that Texas is still strongly favored to be carried by the Republican candidate this fall, if perhaps at a lesser margin. Those same two pollsters did their own surveys of Texas in 2012 and could certainly provide their own data for this year if they wanted to. The fact that they haven’t is also suggestive.

Maybe things will change in October. I won’t be shocked if polls begin to show Trump moving into double-digit lead territory. There are a lot of undecided/no answer respondents, and it seems likely a decent share of them normally vote Republican. Gary Johnson is also likely pulling some votes from Trump, which may wane as Election Day draws nearer. Against that is a slew of ancillary and anecdotal evidence suggesting that a larger number of non-traditional voters plan to come out this fall to vote against Trump. People are becoming citizens at a record rate. Voter registration is up. Polls of Latino voters show they are more engaged and say they are more likely to vote than in years past. Maybe that all doesn’t add up to much, but to the extent that it does, it probably isn’t being reflected in the polls. Good luck with picking a turnout model this year.

Lyceum: Trump 39, Clinton 32

From the Texas Lyceum, another single-digit poll result.

If the U.S. presidential election were held today, ballot tests show a tighter race at the top of the ticket in deep red Texas than recent history would suggest, according to independent poll results released today by the Texas Lyceum, the nonprofit, nonpartisan premier statewide leadership group.

Among likely voters, GOP nominee Donald Trump leads Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton by just 7 points, 39 – 32 percent among likely voters. Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson polls at 9 percent and Green Party Candidate Jill Stein garners 3 percent in the trial ballot.

Among registered voters, Clinton trails Trump by only 1-point in the 4-way race, and holds a surprising 4-point lead over Trump in a two-way trial ballot, not including Johnson and Stein, 39 to 35 percent. (The margin of error among registered voters is +/- 3.34%, n = 862.)
With only six weeks away from early voting, another 17 percent won’t say or don’t know who they would support. (The margin of error among likely voters is +/- 4.37%, n = 502.)

The Lyceum Poll comes one week after the Washington Post / Survey Monkey Poll 50-state poll showing a tight presidential race in Texas with Clinton leading Trump by one point among registered voters in a two-way matchup, not including Johnson and Stein.

“Registered voters are more diverse than the pool of voters who historically show up in Texas elections, but the combination of the slow march of demographic change and Trump’s rhetoric appears to have made Texas’ registered voter pool more Democratic than we have seen in previous presidential races,” said Joshua Blank, Ph.D., Texas Lyceum Research Director.

Split-Ticket Voting Unlikely

With the low favorability ratings of both Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, many political pundits have speculated about the possibility of increased split-ticket voting, in which voters vote for one party’s candidate at the top of the ticket and another party’s candidate in down ballot races. However, the Texas Lyceum Poll does not find much evidence for this among Texas’ likely voters.

Only 2 percent of Trump supporters, in the two-way trial ballot, say that they’ll vote for a Democratic candidate for Congress, and only two percent say that they’ll vote for a Democratic candidate for the Texas Legislature. Among Clinton supporters, only 6 percent say that they’ll vote for a Republican candidate for Congress, and only 4 percent say that they’ll vote for a Republican candidate for the Texas Legislature.

Texans’ Economic Views Steady

Economic evaluations of Texas’ economy appear to have improved somewhat over last year. Texans aren’t overjoyed about the national and state economy or their own economic situation, but they’re more optimistic.

Looking at personal economic evaluations, the poll asked, “compared to one year ago, are you better off, worse off, or about the same economically?” A majority of Texans (50 percent) say their economic status remains unchanged compared with one year ago and 30 percent say that their personal economic situation is better off (up from 25 percent in 2015), while 19% say they are worse off (down from 23% in 2015).

President Obama and Governor Abbott Enjoy High Job Approval Ratings

Among adult Texans, during his last few months in office President Obama enjoys a high job approval rating (58 percent) in the Texas Lyceum Poll. This result combines those saying that the President is either doing a “very good” or “somewhat good” job as president. Among registered voters, the President’s job approval rating drops by only 2 points to 56%.

As expected, Democrats overwhelmingly approve of the President’s job performance while Republicans overwhelmingly disapprove. Hispanics and African American adults in Texas also give the president high marks, 74 percent and 90 percent respectively, while a majority of Anglos, 63 percent, disapprove of the president’s job performance.

Meanwhile, Governor Abbott maintains a high job approval rating of 61 percent with sharp partisan differences similar to that of the President.

While 88 percent of Republicans hold a favorable view of the job that Abbott has done as governor, only 40 percent of Democrats agree. Abbott’s job approval among racial groups is generally positive, with a majority of Anglos (69 percent), African Americans (51 percent), and Hispanics (53 percent) indicating that the governor is doing a good job — similar to last year’s results.
Methodology

From September 1-11, 2016, The Texas Lyceum conducted a statewide telephone survey of adult citizens. The survey utilized a stratified probability sample design, with respondents being randomly selected at the level of the household. The survey also employed a randomized cell phone supplement, with 40 percent of completed interviews being conducted among cell phone only or cell phone dominant households. A Spanish-language instrument was developed and bilingual interviewers offered respondents a chance to participate in English or Spanish. On average, respondents completed the interview in 19 minutes. Approximately 6,100 records were drawn to yield 1,000 completed interviews. The final data set is weighted by race/ethnicity, age and gender to achieve representativeness as defined by the Texas Department State Health Services 2016 population projections. The overall margin of error for the poll is +/- 3.1 percentage points.

The executive summary is here, toplines and question wording is here, crosstabs are here. There was also an issues-based poll released the day before, which I’ll touch on later, for which the press release is here, the executive summary is here, and the toplines are here. The “who do you support for President?” question is really two questions, with RV and LV results for each. Here’s how that all looks:

Q8A. If the 2016 election for president were held today, would you vote for [RANDOMIZE] the
Republican ticket of Donald Trump and Mike Pence, the Democratic ticket of Hillary Clinton and
Tim Kaine, or haven’t you thought enough about it?


(Among likely voters: n = 502, MOE +/- 4.37%)

1. Trump/Pence                     42%
2. Clinton/Kaine                   36
3. Haven’t thought enough about it 15
4. DON’T KNOW / REFUSED / NA        6

(Among registered: n = 862, MOE +/- 3.34%)

1. Trump/Pence                     35%
2. Clinton/Kaine                   39
3. Haven’t thought enough about it 18
4. DON’T KNOW / REFUSED / NA        8

Q8B. And what if the candidates were [RANDOMIZE] the Republican ticket of Donald Trump and Mike
Pence, the Democratic ticket of Hillary Clinton and Tim Kaine, the Libertarian ticket of Gary
Johnson and Bill Weld, the Green Party ticket of Jill Stein, or haven’t you thought enough about it?


(Among likely voters: n = 502, MOE +/- 4.37%)

1. Trump/Pence                                39%
2. Clinton/Kaine                              32
3. Johnson/Weld                                9
4. Stein                                       3
5. Haven’t thought enough about it/Don’t know 14
6. DON’T KNOW / REFUSED / NA                   3

(Among registered: n = 862, MOE +/- 3.34%)

1. Trump/Pence                                30%
2. Clinton/Kaine                              29
3. Johnson/Weld                               10
4. Stein                                       3
5. Haven’t thought enough about it/Don’t know 24
6. DON’T KNOW / REFUSED / NA                   3

Not sure why there’s a seemingly redundant “Don’t know” option with the “Haven’t thought enough about it” response in Q8B, but whatever. The two points to take home from this are that 1) yet another poll shows a single-digit difference between Trump and Clinton, and this is true in all race combinations, and 2) lower-propensity voters tip the race into tossup status, suggesting that higher turnout really would benefit Democrats. The question about crossover voting suggests that at least in this sample, there aren’t that many Republicans voting for Clinton, though there are more of them than there are Democrats voting for Trump. This is borne out by the crosstabs, which also shows that the “Haven’t thought enough about it” crowd is fairly evenly split among Dems, Republicans, and indies. Some previous polls, like the Beatty poll, suggested that Trump’s lower numbers came primarily from lack of Republican support. There is some evidence of that here, in the slightly higher rate of Republican support for Clinton, which is still in the six percent range, but there is a proportionate share of uncommitted voters across the spectrum. Point being, both Trump and Clinton have the potential to grow. We’re going to need a lot more polls in October to really get a feel for how this will wind up.

One more thing about the crosstabs: Clinton wins the under-45 crowd, by a lot with the under-35 cohort, while losing (by 10-12 points) the 45+ age group. A change is coming, even if it isn’t here yet.

As for the issues poll, there’s something there for everyone. Here’s a bullet-point list from the press release I got:

· A majority of Texans (59 percent) oppose GOP nominee Donald Trump’s proposal to build a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border to try to stop illegal immigration.

· Texans continue to believe that immigration is the number one issue facing the state, but a plurality of Texas adults (45 percent) also say that immigration helps the U.S. more than it hurts.

· Texas adults oppose (51 percent) a ban on immigration from countries with a history of terrorism against the West.

· When asked broadly, Texans (74 percent) believe that requiring an ID at the polls in order to vote is a good idea.

· Texas adults are inclined to think that transgender students should use the public school facilities that match their birth gender (54 percent), but with sharp partisan and age divides.

· Texans’ attitudes about Medicaid expansion under the Affordable Care Act remain unchanged since 2013, with a plurality (49 percent) preferring to keep Medicaid as is.

· A majority of African American, Texas adults (51 percent) say they’ve had a specific instance in which they’ve felt discriminated against by the police because of their racial background, compared to 23 percent of Hispanics and 6 percent of Anglos.

· Texans believe that ride-hailing services like Uber and Lyft should be regulated like taxis, and, by a slim margin, that this regulation should take place at the local level – not in the Texas Legislature.

· The economy remains the most important issue facing the country, with national security/terrorism jumping to number two, followed by immigration.

Compare that to the priorities and agenda of the Republicans for the 2017 Legislature, and you may think that maybe they’re just a tad bit out of sync with the population at large. Of course, it’s the population that votes that matters, and among that crowd there are still a significant number of people who disagree with Republicans on a broad range of issues but vote for them anyway. That may be because they do agree with them more strongly on some other issues, it may be because they don’t care for the alternatives or in the case of legislative races don’t have any alternatives, it may be because they don’t know enough about where various candidates stand on issues, it may be because of habit and comfort, or it may be for any number of other reasons. Whatever the case, that’s the challenge. As I keep saying, nothing will change until the people who get elected change.