I continue to not understand the belief that some folks have that Dallas is a swing county.
Ridgewood Park was a battlefield staging area for riled-up Republicans determined to take back their legislative district, their city and their county. In shorts, T-shirts and walking shoes and fortified by breakfast tacos and orange juice, approximately 50 grass-roots volunteers gathered for a couple of hours of going door to door in a legislative district that fell to a Democrat in 2006. It also is a district where Democrat Bill White has a fighting chance of making inroads against Republican Rick Perry in his uphill race for governor.
Dallas-area Congressman Pete Sessions rallied the troops, reminding them that the now-Democratic county once again is in play.
“Dallas County has turned into a battleground again because of the seeming success of Barack Obama and Nancy Pelosi,” he told them, “but, you know, that change thing didn’t work out all that well, did it? We are out here this morning as Republicans and as tea party members to do the hard work to close the deal.”
The legislative district this bit is set in is HD107, held by Rep. Allen Vaught, who won it in 2006 and then won a rematch against the guy he ousted, Bill Keffer. It’s a legitimate swing district – you’ll note that John McCain carried it by a small margin – and could very well be taken back by the GOP in a good year, especially if they can convince some ticket-splitters to stick with their party. But as I said before, Dallas County in 2008 was far more Democratic than Harris County was Republican in 2004. If Dallas County is genuinely competitive this year, it won’t be just bad for Texas Democrats statewide, it’ll be a disaster of Biblical proportions.
Now I can understand why a guy like Pete Sessions is deluded. But I’d have thought the local GOP chair would have a better grasp of the situation:
In 2006, Democrats transformed traditionally red Dallas County into a sea of blue when they won every county race they entered, including a victory by District Attorney Craig Watkins and an upset by County Judge Jim Foster that was almost as unexpected as the 2004 election of Sheriff Lupe Valdez, an openly gay Hispanic woman. Buoyed by Obama two years later, Democrats reinforced their advantage by racking up an average of 57 percent of the total vote.
“We lost because we lost our base and we lost the independents,” said Jonathan Neerman, the GOP’s Dallas County chairman.
Dallas County is Democratic for the same reason that Harris County went Democratic in 2008 and Fort Bend County is trending that way: Changing demographics. The vast majority of people who vote Republican are Anglos. A little more than a third of Dallas County is Anglo. That ain’t enough for them to win. If by “we lost our base” Neerman means “too many of the Anglo voters we depend on have died or moved to the suburbs”, then I’d agree with him. I suppose I can understand it if he wouldn’t want to say that on the record.
Perry, as SMU political scientist Cal Jillson pointed out, should be able to carry northern Dallas, Denton, Collin and Tarrant counties by a 70-30 margin without too much trouble. If White carries Dallas County as expected and is able to cut into Perry’s suburban margin, maybe inching up to a 34 percent share, “that,” in Jillson’s words, “is a great strategy.”
I have no idea where Cal Jillson is getting these numbers from, but there’s no way in hell Perry gets 70% of the vote in Denton, Collin, and Tarrant Counties. Here’s how he did in those three counties in 2002 and 2006:
Candidate County 2002 2006 ============================== Perry Collin 75.6 67.6 Patterson Collin 75.4 67.9 Perry Denton 72.9 66.9 Patterson Denton 72.5 66.0 Perry Tarrant 60.7 56.3 Patterson Tarrant 60.2 57.7
I threw in Jerry Patterson, who was on the low end of Republican performance each year, as a point of comparison. Perry’s 2006 vote share is just the straight two-party percentage – his vote total divided by his plus Chris Bell’s. Because Tarrant had more total votes each year than Collin and Denton combined, his overall percentage in these three counties is near the midway point. That’s 66.3% for Perry in 2002, 61.0% for him in 2006. Again, I don’t know what “north Dallas” amounts to in this context, but I strongly doubt it was red enough or populous enough to move those numbers northward by much, if at all.
Bottom line, then, is that Tony Sanchez hit that 34% target Jillson is talking about for Bill White. Putting aside the fact that it didn’t help him much, that’s far too low a total for White to aim for, especially given the Democratic improvement in 2006. If I’m the White campaign, I’m shooting for 40% in Collin and Denton, and I want to carry Tarrant County or come real close to it. Maybe that’s too high a bar to clear, but for damn sure 34% isn’t nearly high enough.