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From the “Turning out more Democratic voters will mean more Democratic votes” department

I think that’s a fair way of characterizing this Texas on the Potomac post.

Last November, the Houston Chronicle completed a database analysis of the changing population patterns of the state and the changing voting proclivities of key demographic blocs. Our conclusion: Texas would become competitive by 2020 and a true toss-up state by 2024 if current turnout and partisan voting patterns continued.

But what if Latinos — historically a group that votes with far less frequency than the rest of the population — started voting at the same rate as everyone else, as Battleground Texas is seeking to accomplish? How much would that narrow the Republicans’ advantage in Texas?

To find answers, Texas on the Potomac analyzed 2012’s election results and it found that if Democrats could raise Latino turnout to the same level as non-Hispanic whites, Texas would instantly become a battleground state.

Well, yes. I mean, this is one of the stated goals of Battleground Texas, to increase the participation of Democratic-leaning citizens. Latinos vote predominantly Democratic – we can argue over how predominantly, but no one disputes that they do – so more Latinos voting means more net Democratic votes overall.

Obviously, a lot of assumptions go into an analysis like this. At the end, the article says “unfortunately, no exit polling occurred in Texas in 2012”, so they used national exit poll data as their baseline. As it happens, there was one exit poll done in Texas, specifically for the purpose of divining how Latinos voted. Those numbers are pretty close to the national exit poll numbers, suggesting that Texas Latinos are similar in voting behavior to Latinos elsewhere, so it’s a reasonably good estimate. A better question is whether Latinos in one part of the state – say, the Valley or El Paso – vote the same as Latinos in other parts of the state – say, Houston or Dallas. We can take guesses based on election returns from different legislative districts, but that’s about the best we can do.

The much bigger question is how true any of these results might be going forward. The post flatly states that it “does not intend to predict the future”, for the obvious reason that electorates change over time. It may well be that as immigration reform gets done and divisive social issues like marriage equality fade to the background, Latinos will be more open to hearing from Republican candidates. It may also be that Texas Republicans will fiercely resist the pull of social change despite the changing attitudes of the Texas people and thus become even less attractive to a dynamic and youthful pool of new voters. (Have I mentioned lately that Latinos increasingly support marriage equality? Maybe someone should bring that up the next time there’s a chin-stroking story about GOP Latino outreach efforts.) It shouldn’t be a surprise that one of the last obstacles in the Senate to getting meaningful immigration reform done is our own Ted Cruz. (Do you even need to ask how he feels about marriage equality?) All that is even before you take into account the fact that Latinos are among the biggest supporters of the Affordable Care Act and public education, and tend to believe more strongly than other demographic subgroups in the power of government intervention for doing good. Latinos make up a significant portion of Texas’ vast uninsured population; Rick Perry et al don’t want to expand Medicaid. You do the math.

Anyway. The future, or at least the short-term future, is what really interests me. What level of turnout is likely to be needed in 2014 to have an effect on the partisan makeup of the Legislature? That’s a hard question to answer because unlike Presidential years the turnout level of the other side can vary greatly, as even a cursory glance at the 2006 and 2010 results will show. The best we can do as Democrats is work on improving our numbers and let the rest take care of itself. One tidbit to note from this analysis is that as I have noted before, Rep. Blake Farenthold in CD27 is more vulnerable than his topline numbers might suggest. If there’s a reach goal to set for 2014, that should be it. If we can move the needle in a district race, there’s a pretty good chance we can do it statewide as well.

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5 Comments

  1. Extrapolating election results from demographic data is not party-building or even a campaign strategy.

    It is a hustle:

    This is the season when mercenary political consultants — condottieri laid off from the last campaign season — are foraging.

    Most of the hustle is in election outcome projections that are peddled to large donors in confidential documents — “red herrings” — like unregistered securities. The fact is that political business is obscured in proprietary secrecy that is incompatible with gaining and holding the trust of Democratic partisans.

    Here is the problem Democrats in Harris County have:

    Demography from the 2010 Census and polling data from Rice is multivariate: Thus, things like the age, marital status, household income, employment status … and on and on … allow sampling, polling, and analysis of “surge voters”. But, they are not efficiently distinguishable by race.

    In fact, something on the order of class is probably more predictive of political preferences and behavior than race or its proxies in various databases. However, even databases such a the Obama Narwhal are not even close to what all it takes to register, motivate, mobilize, qualify, and verify or resolve these voters’ ballots.

    It gets worse: the surge voters live in apartments and are, typically, not represented by the Democratic incumbents who dominate state and local party establishments and hoard most campaign finance.

    In gets worse yet: Absent a compelling national campaign that pits someone like Barack Obama against the party establishment and their “inevitable” candidate, the only issues available at the local level pit the rentier class privileged by mercenary campaign consultants against the voters themselves.

    For the next four years, elections will pit the apartment owners against the apart dwellers. How supportive of the Democratic Party be when the surge voters are offered nothing but more and better prisons, regressive taxes, confiscatory fee structures, and extraction of monopoly rent by the large donors who mercenary consultants allow to pick and choose candidates and issues while promising that their “investments” will be “leveraged” by “small donors” constantly barraged with “pink noise”.

    Beating and herding voters like pigs or quail is not really good politics no matter how accurate the setters and pointers.

  2. Mainstream says:

    “But what if Latinos — historically a group that votes with far less frequency than the rest of the population — started voting at the same rate as everyone else, as Battleground Texas is seeking to accomplish?”

    Is anyone distinguishing between Latino citizens and Latino non-citizens, whether here legally or otherwise? If these consultants are trying to sell the idea that they can bring Latino voter participation levels to an equivalent level with blacks or Anglos based on total population data for Latinos, rather than based upon citizen voting age population of Latino citizens, they are delusion at best, and deceptive at worst.

  3. Katy Anders says:

    No matter how fancy we get with the studies or language, it STILL all comes down to something my grandfather said to me years ago:

    “Republicans pray for rain on election day.”

  4. Mainstream – The Chron analysis was based on turnout of registered voters, so they addressed your concern.

  5. […] was an underperformer in 2012. A sufficiently financed challenger, with some name ID and a boost from Battleground Texas, could make a race of it. First, we need someone to file. We’ll see if the DCCC was able to […]

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