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Battlegound Texas officially launches

You have probably heard by now that Battleground Texas has officially launched.

Spearheaded by organizers of Obama’s re-election campaign in 2012 — when Republican nominee Mitt Romney handily carried the Lone Star State — a new push, called “Battleground Texas,” officially launched Tuesday with the goal of seizing shifting demographics to make the state eventually winnable for a Democratic presidential candidate.

Organizers are not, however, projecting when that might happen. Nor are they saying how much money they will need to raise and spend to give Democrats a fighting chance in Texas, where the party hasn’t won a statewide office since 1994.

“With its size and diversity, Texas ought to be a place where local races are hotly contested and anyone who wants to be president has to compete,” said Jeremy Bird, a senior adviser to Battleground Texas who served as field director of Obama’s re-election bid.

Lynda Tran, a spokeswoman for 270 Strategies, the firm behind Battleground Texas, said the group is registered with the Federal Election Commission and the Texas Ethics Commission.

About 70 percent of Hispanics nationwide voted for Obama over Romney in November. The booming Texas population is being driven by Hispanic growth — minorities accounted for nearly 9 of every 10 new residents in the past decade— and Democratic organizers believe the changing face of the state will boost their chances.

I’m just going to point you to some other coverage of this – the Chron, the Trib, Trail Blazers, Politico, BOR, EoW, Jason Stanford, and via PDiddie, some skepticism. There really isn’t that much for me to say here. If these folks do what they way they want to do, they’ll be doing what should have been done starting 20 years ago and has been done successfully of late in several other states. We just won’t know if it’s real or if it’s just more talk until we’ve had a few more elections.

There’s no question that this will be a long-term project, and everyone involved seems to see it that way. As long as the funding is there for that, it’s all good. But recognizing that we’re in for a long, hard slog doesn’t mean that we can’t have some short term goals, too.

But Perry, for one, isn’t buying that Texas will cease to be a Republican stronghold.

In an interview with the Wall Street Journal last weekend during the National Governors Association meeting in Washington, Perry said the University of Texas would adopt the rival maroon-and-white colors of Texas A&M before the state ever goes blue.

“Democrats are about government getting bigger and bigger and government providing more and more,” Perry told the newspaper. “Texans have never been for that, and Texans never will.”

Never, to paraphrase Prince, is a mighty long time. But I’m here to tell you, there’s something else: The 2014 elections. The stated goal of Battleground Texas is to make Texas a swing state in Presidential elections. I’m totally down with that, but we shouldn’t have to wait till 2016 to see a meaningful progress report. While Democrats made a huge stride in turnout from 2004 to 2008 – they backslid a bit in 2012 but were still a good half million votes ahead of 2004 last year – turnout in non-Presidential years has essentially been flat this past decade. Since 2002, only two Democrats have gotten as many as two million votes in an off-year election: John Sharp in 2002 (2,082,081) and Bill White in 2010 (2,106,395). Everyone else has generally been stuck in the 1.6 million to 1.8 million range. Republicans, outside of Rick Perry in the four-way 2006 gubernatorial race, have never been below 2.1 million since 2002. If Battleground Texas wants to show it’s got some game going into 2016, I’d like for them to have a goal of helping every statewide Democrat get at least two million votes next year, with a stretch goal of 2.5 million at the top of the ticket. That’s still unlikely to be enough to win, though it could happen in a 2006 turnout year for Republicans, but it would be close and it would be a loud announcement that they’re very much headed in the right direction. Hand in hand with that would be goals of generally winning races in counties like Harris, Fort Bend, and Hays, winning legislative seats in Dallas and Williamson, and winning seats on the First and Fourteenth Courts of Appeals. Making some headway in the suburbs and boosting turnout along the Rio Grande would be nice, too.

Am I asking too much? Maybe, but I don’t really think so. I presume that whatever steps Battleground Texas will take will begin well before the 2014 elections, and I’m sure they’d like to at least have some proof of concept before the 2016 season begins. The good thing about an off-year election is that you already know about a lot of the voters you’d like to target. You just have to persuade them to show up. I don’t know if Battleground Texas plans to make public any goals for 2014, and if they do I won’t blame them if they have a more modest set of targets in mind. But if it were up to me, this is where I’d like the starting point to be.

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5 Comments

  1. PDiddie says:

    Jeremy Bird relayed the statistics yesterday in the interview with Chuck Todd (which you linked to above; thanks). My takeaway from what he said was that the initial effort — after voter registration and GOTV, that is — begins with county races.

    That is exactly the right place to begin in Harris County (and likely the other urban ones). That is where Democrats can build a bench for statewide offices, because the Austin and DC incumbents show no inclination to trade their comfortable legislative legacies for something that requires more effort to stay in office — but would build a better, stronger brand… as a Republican might say.

  2. Norman says:

    I would like to see the group break out of the South Texas and urban/suburban box and consider that large swaths of West Texas are ripe for taking. The Trans-Pecos, already very purple, could be made deep blue. Hispanics are now a majority in Ector County, but no one has ever mounted an effort to turn Odessa blue. Since family farms are increasingly a thing of the past and replaced with industrialized agriculture, the Panhandle and South Plains are seeing their non-Hispanic population drop and a growing Hispanic population move in. Some of these counties now have Hispanic majorities. Those regions, however, remain deeply red since many of those counties don’t even have local party organizations capable of even conducting primary elections.

  3. […] previously suggested some metrics for Battleground Texas to see how they’re doing in preparation for 2016. I’m definitely […]

  4. Per what I’ve said elsewhere, there’s no guarantee that all the Hispanics, or even nearly all, are going to vote Democratic. I’m with Kuff that part of the 2014 metrics is turning out more white voters. There’s potential, for example, in a place like Waco, where both the mayor and county judge want Perry to expand Medicaid.

    On why Hispanics aren’t guaranteed Democrats, more here: http://socraticgadfly.blogspot.com/2013/02/texas-dems-should-be-circumspect-about.html

  5. […] Finally, the bits about county races and trying to show some measurable progress next year are music to my ears. I so can’t wait to see these guys get off the […]

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