It’s not even a question.
In order for Davis to defeat Attorney General Greg Abbott, her likely Republican opponent next November, political strategists say she needs to win big among two key demographics: Hispanics and white women. Among Hispanics in particular, Davis can’t let her Republican opponent claim more than about 30 percent of the vote.
Texas has a wealth of Hispanics not registered to vote, but with only a year before the election, Davis will need to focus on winning over and turning out registered Hispanic voters. That’s a taller order than in many states; against the national trend, in Texas Hispanics have been more open to supporting Republicans. Because 2014 is not a presidential election year, getting the base to turn out and vote could be a battle.
“The Latino vote will be more important in the Texas 2014 election than it has ever been before in the history of the state,” said Matt Barreto, co-founder of the polling group Latino Decisions. “If Davis can somehow find a way to engage and mobilize Latinos, she will have a very real chance to win.”
That’s where Obamacare comes in – though Davis is unlikely to call it that. Instead, she would be smart to talk about expanding Medicaid.
When Gov. Perry decided not to expand the state’s Medicaid program, turning down $100 billion from the federal government over the next decade under the Affordable Care Act, he consigned up to 2 million Texans to live without health insurance. According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, Hispanics make up 60 percent of the non-elderly uninsured and 34 percent of the poor in Texas. In other words, there are a lot of Hispanics who will not get coverage, or have to pay significantly more for health insurance, without the expansion. Davis needs to persuade them that it is Perry’s fault.
Unlike the rest of the country, or even the rest of Texas, Texan Hispanics do not distrust the Affordable Care Act. Polls last year showed 58 percent of Texan Hispanics want to keep the law, while 60 percent said the government should ensure access to health insurance. “Our polling data has clearly documented access to affordable health care is a very important issue to Latinos in Texas and this could be one of the issues, along with immigration, that could very much help Wendy Davis reach out to [them],” Barreto said. So Davis can issue Hispanics a stark choice: Vote for me and you’ll get health care; stay home or vote for Abbott, and you won’t.
I don’t dispute any of this, but it’s even more basic than that. Before we get to that long awaited/prophesied/hoped-for increase in Latino turnout, before we get to any Anglo suburban women who might be willing to cross over, Wendy Davis needs to make sure that base Democrats turn out. Not just off-year Democrats, but Presidential year Democrats. Some full-throated attacks on Rick Perry, Greg Abbott, and the rest of the Republicans for their fiscally irresponsible and morally reprehensible resistance to every effort to expand access to healthcare in Texas on top of their decade-plus record of doing absolutely nothing to address the problem themselves would be an effective way to get the faithful fired up. It’s a bread-and-butter Democratic issue, and I feel confident saying that Democratic voters want their candidates to be on the offensive. There aren’t enough voters at the margin to put us over the top if we’re not maximizing the voters we know we already have. It ain’t rocket science.