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Mitt Romney

Abbott v Davis

It’s getting real out there.

Rep. Sarah Davis

In what promises to deepen divisions in the Texas Republican Party, Gov. Greg Abbott on Monday endorsed a GOP challenger to incumbent state Rep. Sarah Davis of Houston.

Abbott gave his public thumbs-up to Susanna Dokupil, a more-conservative Republican like Abbott, who is running against the more moderate Davis, who also touts herself as “a conservative voice in Austin.”

The announcement was the first endorsement of a legislative challenger by Abbott, who had announced last summer that he would support legislative candidates who supported his positions on issues. In the past, it has been relatively rare for governors to get involved in legislative races so early — if at all.

[…]

Davis, an attorney, has challenged Abbott’s positions on a number of issues in the past year, including the bathroom bill. She has represented a district that includes West University Place for four terms in the Texas House.

“We need leaders in Austin who will join me to build a better future for Texas,” Abbott said in his endorsement statement. “I trust Susanna, and I know voters in House District 134 can trust her too to fight for their needs in Austin, Texas. Susanna is a principled conservative who will be a true champion for the people of House District 134, and I am proud to support her in the upcoming election.”

Dokupil, who is CEO of Paladin Strategies, a strategic communications firm based in Houston, worked for Abbott as assistant solicitor general while he was Texas attorney general, before becoming governor. There, she handled religious liberty issues, he said.

Abbott said he has known Dokupil for more than a decade.

Davis is a part of the House leadership team. She chairs the House General Investigating and Ethics, serves as chair for health and human services issues on the House Appropriations Committee and is a member of the influential Calendars Committee that sets the House schedule.

In a statement, Davis appeared to dismiss the Abbott endorsement of her challenger, who said she represents the views of her district.

“I have always voted my uniquely independent district, and when it comes to campaign season I have always stood on my own, which is why I outperformed Republicans up and down the ballot in the last mid-term election,” Davis said.

This ought to be fun. Davis has survived primary challenges before, though she hasn’t had to fight off the governor as well in those past battles. She is quite right that she generally outperforms the rest of her party in HD134. Not for nothing, but Hillary Clinton stomped Donald Trump in HD134, carrying the district by an even larger margin than Mitt Romney had against President Obama in 2012. If there’s one way to make HD134 a pickup opportunity for Dems in 2018, it’s by ousting Davis in favor of an Abbott/Patrick Trump-loving clone. Perhaps Greg Abbott is unaware that he himself only carried HD134 by two points in 2014, less than half the margin by which he carried Harris County. Bill White won HD134 by three points in 2010. HD134 is a Republican district, but the people there will vote for a Democrat if they sufficiently dislike the Republican in question. This could be the best thing Greg Abbott has ever done for us. The Trib and the Observer, which has more about Davis’ opponent, have more.

The rural/suburban tradeoff

Martin Longman returns to a point he has been making about the way the vote shifted in the 2016 election.

Let’s try to be clear about what we mean. Hillary Clinton won a lot of votes in the suburbs from people who had voted for John McCain and Mitt Romney. She lost even more votes from folks in small towns and rural areas who had voted for Barack Obama.

So, if I understand what Jeet Heer and David Atkins are saying, it’s basically that the Democrats can’t make much more progress in the suburbs than they’ve already made and that the easier task is to win back Democrats that they’ve recently lost. Either that, or they’re just wrong about how likely Romney Republicans are/were to defect.

I don’t have a strong opinion on which would be the easier task. But I do know that so far this trade has not favored the Democrats. The left’s votes are already too concentrated and I can make this point clear fairly easily.

When suburban Chester County was voting 50-50 in the presidential elections of 2008 and 2012, it was possible for the Democrats to also win down ballot seats. And the Democrats have succeeded in electing representatives from Chester County to the state legislature. Gaining 25,000 votes at the top of the ticket helps, but the area is still competitive. But in many other counties in Pennsylvania, the Democrats went from winning 50 percent or 40 percent to winning only 30 percent or 20 percent. The result is that many more legislative seats became so lopsidedly red that downticket Democrats no longer have a fighting chance.

In this sense, not all votes are equal. It’s more valuable for the Democrats to add a voter in a rural area than one in a competitive suburb, and rural votes are definitely of more use than added votes in seats where Democrats are already winning by comfortable margins.

Longman confines his analysis to Pennsylvania, which is obviously a critical state in Presidential elections as well as one that has been greatly affected by strongly partisan gerrymanders. Be that as it may, I wanted to look at how this perspective applies to Texas. It’s been my perception that Texas’ rural legislative districts, which had already been strongly Republican at the federal level but which still elected Democrats to the State House, had become more and more hostile to Democrats since the 2010 election, when nearly all of those Democratic legislators from rural districts were wiped out. If that’s the case, then the increased redness of these districts, while problematic as a whole for statewide purposes, doesn’t change anything in terms of legislative opportunities. On the other hand, if the suburbs are becoming less red, that would open up new possibilities, both now and in the future as this is where much of the population growth is.

That’s my hypothesis, anyway. To check it, I took the electoral breakdown of the State House districts for the 2012 and 2016 elections from the Legislative Council, and put the results from the Presidential election into a new sheet. I also added the results from the Keasler/Burns (2016) and Keller/Hampton (2012) Court of Criminal Appeals races in there, to act as a more neutral comparison. I then sorted the spreadsheet by the Romney percentage for each district, in descending order, and grouped them by ranges. I calculated the change in R and D vote from 2012 to 2016 for each district in both the Presidential and CCA races, then summed them up for each of the ranges I defined. That’s a lot of words, so let’s see what this looks like, and I’ll explain it again from there:


Romney 70%+ (42 districts)

Trump     + 143,209    CCA R   + 267,069
Clinton   +  36,695    CCA D   -   8,330


Romney 60-70% (31 districts)

Trump     +  15,054    CCA R   + 135,280
Clinton   + 164,820    CCA D   + 116,534


Romney 50-60% (23 districts)

Trump     -  32,999    CCA R   +  69,230
Clinton   + 148,633    CCA D   + 101,215


Romney 40-50% (9 districts)

Trump     +   3,081    CCA R   +  16,418
Clinton   +  45,233    CCA D   +  39,721


Romney 30-40% (20 districts)

Trump     -   9,360    CCA R   +  17,429
Clinton   +  84,385    CCA D   +  69,785


Romney < 30% (25 districts)

Trump     -   3,485    CCA R   +  23,031
Clinton   +  90,251    CCA D   +  76,447

Let’s start at the top. There were 42 district in which Mitt Romney collected at least 70% of the vote in 2012. In those 42 districts, Donald Trump got 143,209 more votes than Romney did, while Hillary Clinton gained 36,695 more votes than Barack Obama. In the CCA races, Republicans gained 267,069 votes while Democrats lost 8,330 votes. Which tells us two things: The pro-Republican shift in these already very strong R districts was pronounced, but even here there were some people that refused to vote for Trump.

Now that doesn’t address the urban/suburban/rural divide. You get into some rhetorical issues here, because West Texas includes some decent-sized metro areas (Lubbock, Midland, Abilene, etc), but is still more rural in character than anything else, and some primarily suburban counties like Montgomery and Williamson include sizable tracts of farmland. Keeping that in mind, of the 42 counties in this group, I’d classify nine as urban/suburban, and the other 33 as rural. To be specific:


Dist  County      Romney   Trump   Obama  Clinton     Diff
==========================================================
015   Montgomery  57,601  56,038  16,348   24,253 D +9,468
016   Montgomery  45,347  52,784  10,229   12,666 R +5,000
020   Williamson  49,271  56,644  17,913   20,808 R +4,478
024   Galveston   49,564  51,967  16,936   20,895 D +1,556
033   Collin      51,437  56,093  18,860   27,128 D +3,612
063   Denton      50,485  53,127  18,471   24,600 D +3,487
098   Tarrant     58,406  57,917  18,355   25,246 D +7,390
128   Harris      40,567  40,656  14,907   17,165 D +2,347
130   Harris      53,020  55,187  15,928   22,668 D +4,583

These are urban/suburban districts among those were 70% or more for Mitt Romney. Hillary Clinton gained votes everywhere except in the two, with the two exceptions being the most rural among them; HD16 is the northernmost part of Montgomery County, including Conroe, while HD20 has most of its population in Georgetown and includes Burnet and Milam Counties as well. In the other 33 districts, all of which I’d classify as rural, Clinton did worse than Obama in all but three of them, CDs 82 (Midland County, Tom Craddick’s district, where she had a net gain of 16 – yes, 16 – votes), 81 (Ector County, which is Odessa and Brooks Landgraf’s district, net gain of 590 votes), and 06 (Smith County, home of Tyler and Matt Schaefer, net gain of 871).

I’ve thrown a lot of numbers at you here, so let me sum up: Hillary Clinton absolutely got blitzed in rural Texas, with the gap between her and Donald Trump increasing by well over 100,000 votes compared to the Obama/Romney difference. However, all of this was concentrated in legislative districts that were far and away he least competitive for Democrats to begin with. The net loss of potentially competitive legislative races in these parts of the state is exactly zero.

Everywhere else, Clinton gained on Obama. More to the point, everywhere else except the 60-70% Romney districts, downballot Democrats gained. Even in that group, there were big steps forward, with HDs 66 and 67 (both in Collin County, both held by Freedom Caucus types) going from over 60% for Romney to under 50% for Trump, while HD26 in Fort Bend went from nearly 63% for Romney to barely 50% for Trump. They’re still a challenge at lower levels, but they’re under 60% red and they’re the swing districts of the immediate future.

Now I want to be clear that losing the rural areas like this does have a cost for Democrats. The reason Dems came as close as they did to a majority in 2008 is because they held about a dozen seats in rural areas, all holdovers from the old days when nearly everyone was a Democrat. Those seats went away in 2010, and with the exception of the one that was centered on Waco, none of them are remotely competitive going forward. The end result of this is that the most optimistic scenario I can paint barely puts the Dems above 70 members, not enough for a majority. To have a real shot at getting a majority sometime in the next decade or two, Dems are going to have to figure out how to compete in smaller metro areas – Lubbock, Abilene, Tyler, Odessa, Midland, San Angelo, Amarillo, Wichita Falls, etc etc etc – all of which are a little bit urban and a little bit more rural. Some of these places have growing Latino populations, some of them are experiencing the same kinds of problems that the larger urban areas are facing. Becoming competitive in the suburbs is great, but there’s still a lot more to this very large state of ours.

Anyway. I can’t speak for places like Pennsylvania and Ohio, but in Texas I’d call the rural/suburban tradeoff we saw in 2016 to be a positive step. There are plenty more steps to take, but this was a good one to begin with.

We have a candidate in CD02

Todd Litton

Meet Todd Litton, the first declared Democratic candidate of which I am aware for CD02, which is entirely within Harris County and which is held by Rep. Ted Poe, who has been there since 2004. I don’t know much about Litton – you can see his biographical information, he’s clearly spent a lot of time with various committees, boards, and organizations. What I do know is that CD02, like several other urban/suburban Congressional districts held by Republicans, moved in a Democratic direction in 2016. It was still a nine-point win for Trump, though after having been a 27-point win for Mitt Romney in 2012. As with a lot of these districts, it’s going to be a matter of boosting Dem turnout, and hoping for a lackluster showing on their side.

Litton’s campaign Facebook page is here. I don’t see any campaign events yet, but I’m sure there will be something soon. I am aware of at least one other person who is supposed to be interested in CD02, but as yet Litton is the only one to take action. Now we need someone to come forward in CD22, where Pete Olson is making his claim to be the worst member of the delegation, and you know how fierce the competition is for that.

On a related note, June appears to be a busy month for judicial campaigns to get off the ground as well, at least here in Harris County. I’ve seen four such announcements so far, three from friends and the other from a “people you may know” person I clicked on. All four are women, and three of them have not been on a ballot before. I don’t know if 2018 is the non-Presidential year that Democrats break through in Harris County, but if you’re a Democratic attorney who wants to wear a robe, it is almost certainly your best chance. After the sweep of 2016, your only options in 2020 will be to primary someone, to hope for a retirement, to move to another county, or to run for an appellate or statewide bench. Maybe 2018 will be the year and maybe it won’t, but the path to a bench is the clearest it will be until 2022.

Precinct analysis: Congressional districts

The Texas Legislative Council now has full data from the 2016 elections on its site, so this seemed like as good a time as any to take a look at the data from Congressional districts. I’m much more limited in what I can do when I have to rely on precinct data from counties because most of Texas’ Congressional districts span multiple counties. But now statewide data is available, so here we go. I’m just going to look at districts where the Presidential numbers were interesting.


Dist  Clinton  Trump  Obama  Romney
===================================
02      42.8%  52.0%  35.6%   62.9%
03      39.9%  53.8%  34.1%   64.2%
06      41.6%  53.8%  40.7%   57.9%
07      48.2%  46.8%  38.6%   59.9%
10      42.8%  51.9%  38.8%   59.1%
21      42.1%  51.9%  37.9%   59.8%
22      43.9%  51.7%  36.7%   62.1%
23      49.4%  45.9%  48.0%   50.7%
24      44.3%  50.5%  38.0%   60.4%
31      40.1%  52.6%  38.1%   59.4%
32      48.4%  46.6%  41.5%   57.0%

Some of this we’ve covered before – CDs 07, 23, and 32 are well-known and are on the national radar for next year. CD03 will be open following the retirement of Rep. Sam Johnson. CDs 24, which is mostly in Dallas County, and 22, which is of course Tom DeLay’s old district, deserve a bit more attention and would fall into the next tier below the top three, with CDs 02 and 10 right behind them. And as a matter of personal pleading, I’d really really love to see strong challenges to Lamar Smith in CD21 and Smokey Joe Barton in CD06, two of the worst anti-science and pro-pollution members of Congress.

Now as we know, the Presidential numbers only tell us so much. So as I have done before, here’s a look at the Court of Criminal Appeals races in these districts – just the one in each year that had three candidates, for apples-to-apples purposes – and for this chart I’m going to chow number of votes, to give a feel for how big the gap that needs to be closed is.


Dist    Burns   Keasler  Hampton   Keller  D Gain
=================================================
02    106,167   157,226   84,547  149,242  13,636
03    109,738   187,916   84,352  163,247     717
06    108,272   151,766   98,393  139,344  -2,043
07    107,250   136,246   88,992  134,699  16,711
10    122,499   172,155  100,660  149,355    -961
21    133,428   198,190  110,841  177,330   1,827
22    123,063   171,694   89,624  152,471  14,216
23    105,145   106,067   86,991   92,805   4,892
24    107,986   152,545   87,300  143,217  11,424
31    104,601   159,173   85,689  134,433  -5,828
32    113,659   146,526   99,453  136,691   4,371

A bit more daunting when looked at this way, isn’t it? The “D Gain” column is the net change in the difference between the Republican and Democratic candidates’ vote totals each year. In 2012 in CD02, Sharon Keller beat Keith Hampton by 64,695 votes, but in 2016 Mike Keasler beat Robert Burns by “only” 51,059 votes, for a net Democratic gain of 13,636. This is intended to give a rough guide to what the partisan shift in each district was, and as you can see it was much bigger in some than in others, with there being a net loss in CDs 06, 10, and 31. I have to pause for a moment here to tip my cap to Rep. Will Hurd in CD23, who held his seat in a much less Republican-friendly environment that elected Pete Gallego in 2012. No one in CD23 will ever have an easy election, and 2018 may well be more challenging for Hurd than 2016 was, my point here is simply to say that we should not underestimate this guy. He’s already shown he can win in adverse conditions.

Still, sufficient Democratic turnout could swamp Hurd’s boat, as has happened to other strong candidates of both parties in the past. (A less-Republican redrawn map could also do him in.) The Keasler/Burns numbers suggest that the other two on-the-radar districts (CDs 07 and 32) are also good targets for concentrated turnout efforts. In all cases, though, I believe a key component to any winning strategy will be to make a vote for Congress as much about “sending a message” to an unpopular and incompetent President as anything else. The more Rs you can flip, and the more who decide to stay home, the lower your turnout-boost goals need to be. I don’t know what the conditions will be like in a year and a half, but I do know that energy spent between now and then in these districts to register new voters (and re-register those who have fallen off the rolls) will be energy well utilized.

I will close by noting that there is in fact a candidate for CD21 at this time, Derrick Crowe, who has a pretty good looking background for a first-time candidate. We’ll see how he does in fundraising and other metrics, but for those of you in the district or who are looking for someone to support against the odious Lamar Smith, check him out. It’s never too early to get off to a good start.

Precinct analysis: The targets for 2018

Ross Ramsey recently surveyed the 2018 electoral landscape.

Election numbers recently released by the Texas Legislative Council point to some soft spots in this red state’s political underbelly — places where Republicans hold office now but where Democrats at the top of the ticket have recently done well.

Specifically, they are the districts where Republicans won federal or state legislative races in 2016 while the same voters electing them were choosing Democrat Hillary Clinton over Republican Donald Trump.

Trump won Texas, but not by as much as Republicans normally do.

The non-prediction here is that every single one of these officeholders might win re-election next time they’re on the ballot.

On the other hand, a political fishing guide, in this instance, would tell you that these are districts Democrats should examine if they’re trying to win seats in the congressional delegation or in the Texas Senate or House.

We covered some of this before, when the Senate district data came out. In that spirit, I’ve put together a list of all reasonably competitive State House districts, which follows below. Many of these will be familiar to you, but there are a few new ones in there. First, all districts by Presidential numbers:


Dist  Clinton   Trump  Clint%  Trump%   Obama  Romney  Obama%  Romney%
======================================================================
134    50,043  35,983   54.7%   39.3%  34,731  46,926   41.7%    56.4%
102    30,291  24,768   52.3%   42.7%  24,958  29,198   45.3%    53.0%
114    35,259  29,221   52.1%   43.2%  28,182  35,795   43.5%    55.2%
105    25,087  20,979   52.1%   43.6%  20,710  23,228   46.5%    52.1%
115    30,897  26,158   51.5%   43.6%  23,353  29,861   43.2%    55.3%
108    39,584  34,622   50.3%   44.0%  27,031  40,564   39.3%    59.0%
113    27,532  26,468   49.1%   47.2%  23,893  27,098   46.3%    52.5%
112    26,735  26,081   48.3%   47.1%  22,308  28,221   43.5%    55.0%
138    24,706  24,670   47.6%   47.5%  18,256  27,489   39.3%    59.2%
136    37,324  35,348   46.7%   44.2%  26,423  35,296   41.2%    55.1%


135    28,233  29,486   46.6%   48.6%  21,732  32,078   39.8%    58.8%
047    48,658  48,838   46.5%   46.7%  34,440  50,843   39.3%    58.0%
065    28,774  30,078   46.1%   48.1%  22,334  31,456   40.8%    57.5%
066    33,412  35,728   45.5%   48.7%  24,895  40,639   37.4%    61.0%
026    31,636  35,022   45.5%   50.4%  22,554  39,595   35.9%    62.9%
132    31,489  34,495   45.4%   49.7%  21,214  31,432   39.8%    58.9%
052    32,184  33,185   45.3%   46.7%  23,849  30,763   42.4%    52.7%
045    34,468  38,038   44.2%   48.8%  26,757  35,298   41.8%    55.2%

067    33,461  37,741   43.9%   49.5%  24,866  40,763   37.2%    60.9%
054    23,624  27,379   43.6%   50.5%  21,909  25,343   45.7%    52.9%
043    22,716  27,549   43.6%   52.9%  22,554  25,017   46.9%    52.0%
121    33,956  40,371   42.7%   50.8%  27,422  44,391   37.5%    60.7%
126    26,483  32,607   42.7%   52.6%  21,191  35,828   36.7%    62.1%
097    29,525  36,339   42.1%   51.8%  25,869  39,603   38.9%    59.6%

They’re grouped into districts that Clinton carried, districts where Clinton was within five points, and districts where she was within ten. The Obama/Romney numbers are there to add a little context, and to show where the most movement was. Some of these are in places you may not expect. HD136 is in Williamson County, as is HD52. HD 65 is in Denton, with HDs 66 and 67 in Collin. HD97 is in Tarrant. Note that while there were some big swings towards Clinton, not all of these districts were more favorable to Dems in 2016, with HD43 (held by turnout Republican JM Lozano) being the clearest exception. And a few of these are little more than optical illusions caused by deep-seated Trump loathing among a subset of Republicans. HD121 is Joe Straus’ district. It’s not going to be in play for the Dems in 2018. I would suggest, however, that the weak showing for Trump in Straus’ district is a big part of the reason why Straus is less amenable to Dan Patrick’s arguments about things like the bathroom bill and vouchers than many other Republicans. There are a lot fewer Republicans from the Dan Patrick wing of the party in Joe Straus’ district.

And because I’ve repeatedly said that we can’t just look at Presidential numbers, here are the numbers from the two three-way Court of Criminal Appeals races, which I have used before as a shorthand of true partisan leanings:


Dist    Burns Keasler  Burns%  Keasl% Hampton  Keller  Hampt%  Keller%
======================================================================
105    23,012  21,842   49.0%   46.5%  19,580  21,745   45.8%    50.8%
113    25,411  26,940   46.4%   49.2%  22,651  25,693   45.6%    51.7%
115    26,876  28,999   45.8%   49.4%  21,431  28,402   41.5%    55.0%
134    39,985  44,560   45.4%   50.6%  33,000  42,538   42.3%    54.5%
102    26,096  28,210   45.3%   49.1%  23,232  27,295   44.3%    52.1%
043    21,812  25,213   44.3%   51.2%  21,565  22,434   47.5%    49.4%
112    23,798  27,901   43.9%   51.4%  20,942  26,810   42.4%    54.3%
135    25,998  31,365   43.7%   52.8%  20,745  30,922   39.2%    58.4%
138    22,119  26,669   43.6%   52.6%  17,470  26,224   38.9%    58.4%
114    28,774  35,129   43.3%   52.8%  26,441  33,128   43.1%    53.9%
136    32,436  37,883   42.7%   49.9%  23,925  32,484   39.3%    53.3%
132    29,179  36,667   42.7%   53.6%  20,237  30,515   38.9%    58.6%
065    26,010  32,772   42.4%   53.4%  20,732  30,377   39.1%    57.3%
052    28,698  34,976   42.2%   51.4%  21,947  28,562   40.8%    53.1%
054    22,114  27,979   42.0%   53.1%  20,110  24,571   43.5%    53.2%
045    31,530  39,309   41.7%   52.0%  24,897  32,734   40.6%    53.3%
026    28,138  38,544   41.0%   56.2%  21,232  38,332   34.8%    62.8%
047    41,032  54,388   40.5%   53.7%  32,028  47,181   38.1%    56.1%
126    24,261  34,679   39.8%   56.8%  20,309  34,351   36.3%    61.3%
108    30,706  42,923   39.6%   55.4%  24,685  37,529   38.1%    57.9%
066    27,709  39,675   39.5%   56.6%  22,409  37,693   36.0%    60.6%
067    28,298  40,926   38.9%   56.7%  22,539  37,932   35.8%    60.3%
097    26,454  39,254   38.5%   57.2%  23,967  37,732   37.6%    59.2%
121    28,995  43,743   38.0%   57.3%  25,683  42,350   36.5%    62.0%

Clearly, this is a much less optimistic view of the situation than the first table. I am certain that some anti-Trump Republicans will be willing to consider voting against a Trump surrogate next year, but it’s way too early to say how many of these people there are, and we need to know what the baseline is in any event. Note that even in some of the less-competitive districts, there was a big swing towards the Dems, most notably in HD26 but also in HDs 115, 135, 138, and 66. It may be that some of these districts won’t be competitive till 2020, and it may be that some will need a real dampening of Republican enthusiasm to be on the board. But whatever the case, these are the districts where I would prioritize recruitment efforts and promises of logistical support.

As goes Tarrant

The Trib ponders the one big urban county that is not like the others.

Among the state’s five biggest counties, Tarrant is the only one that hasn’t backed a Democratic presidential candidate in the past decade. The 2016 presidential election heightened Tarrant’s status as an outlier. Even as the rest of the state’s big-city territories moved deeper into the Democratic column, Tarrant steadfastly emerged as America’s most conservative large urban county.

President-elect Donald Trump, who takes office this week, won the county by an 8.6-point margin. It was the narrowest win for a GOP presidential nominee in decades in Tarrant. But among the country’s 20 largest counties, Tarrant was only one of two that swung Trump’s way in November — and it had the wider margin.

Across Tarrant County, Democratic pockets are fewer and less powerful than their Republican counterparts. All four of the state senate districts that fall in Tarrant County are represented by Republicans. The GOP also holds eight of the county’s 11 state House seats. Four of the five county commissioner court seats are held by Republicans.

Residents, elected officials and experts here point to a nuanced union of demographic, cultural and political forces to explain why.

“There’s just all kinds of interesting numbers out there that make Tarrant County a lot different,” said U.S. Rep. Marc Veasey of Fort Worth, the only Democrat holding one of the county’s five congressional seats.

Tarrant’s minority population, which tends to lean Democratic, hasn’t caught up to the state’s other big urban counties. At the same time, many Tarrant voters have a storied history of preferring practical governance to partisanship, according to officials and political observers. They say that helps support the moderate faction of the GOP, especially in Fort Worth, the nation’s 16th-largest city.

Then there’s the county’s development pattern. A lot of Tarrant remains rural. And, unlike Harris, Dallas and Travis counties, many of Tarrant’s affluent suburbs and conservative bedroom communities lie within its borders, not outside them. That’s helped give rise to the NE Tarrant Tea Party, a passionate and organized group that simultaneously supports far-right local candidates and serves as a powerful base for statewide Republicans.

[…]

Part of what has helped Tarrant become the state’s lone Republican urban county is that its minority populations, which largely and traditionally tend to lean Democratic, haven’t caught up to the state’s other big urban counties.

White residents’ share of the Tarrant population is falling, but it hasn’t declined as quickly as it has in Harris, Dallas, Travis and Bexar, said state demographer Lloyd Potter. The county’s Hispanic population is growing quickly, but it still lags behind the other big counties in terms of raw numbers, Potter added.

But that’s likely to change.

While Tarrant remains more white than Texas as a whole, it’s experienced a more significant drop in its share of white residents in the past 10 years compared to the state. In 2015, the county’s white population dropped to 48.5 percent — down from 56.4 percent in 2005.

Whites’ falling numbers in the county aren’t limited to its urban core in Fort Worth. In fact, the white population experienced a bigger drop in its share of the population in the suburbs from 2005 to 2015.

Here’s a fun fact, which I believe I have mentioned before: Tarrant County is a really good predictor of the overall Presidential race result in Texas. Witness the past four elections:

2004

Statewide – Bush 61.09%, Kerry 38.22%
Tarrant – Bush 62.39%, Kerry 37.01%

2008

Statewide – McCain 55.45%, Obama 43.68%
Tarrant – McCain 55.43%, Obama 43.43%

2012

Statewide – Romney 57.17%, Obama 41.38%
Tarrant – Romney 57.12%, Obama 41.43%

2016

Statewide – Trump 52.23%, Clinton 43.24%
Tarrant – Trump 51.74%, Clinton 43.14%

Almost spooky, isn’t it? One perfectly rational answer to the question “when will Texas turn blue?” is “when Tarrant County also turns blue”.

Anyway. The article is correct that Tarrant differs from the other big urban counties in that it’s actually a lot less urban than they are. Much of Tarrant is suburban, even rural, and that’s just not the case in Harris, Dallas, Bexar, and Travis. Tarrant’s demographics are changing, as the story notes, but I have no idea if there’s anything to suggest its demographics are changing any faster than the state’s are. The statewide judicial races and the one contested district court race were all in the 13-16 point range, which is consistent with the statewide results. I wish I could say I saw something to suggest change was coming faster, but at least in the numbers, I can’t. Maybe someone who is more familiar with the county can chime in.

Having said all this, one big opportunity in 2018 is in Tarrant, and that’s SD10, the Senate seat formerly held by Wendy Davis. Even in the dumpster fire of 2014, freshman Sen. Konni Burton only won by nine points, with 52.83% of the vote. If 2018 is a less hostile year, this is a winnable race, and as I’ve said before, any competitive Senate race is a big deal. Whatever we can do to hasten change in Tarrant County, 2018 would be a good time to do it.

Precinct analysis: Dallas County Presidential numbers

News flash: Hillary Clinton won every Dallas County State Rep district. See for yourself:


Dist      Trump  Clinton  Johnson  Stein
========================================
CD32    117,758  127,824    5,751  1,056
				
HD100     8,405   33,647      647    217
HD102    24,768   30,291    1,312    287
HD103     8,710   28,689      683    205
HD104     6,941   25,168      414    200
HD105    20,979   25,087      855    246
HD107    24,162   29,159      991    274
HD108    34,621   39,583    2,106    290
HD109    10,714   53,220      573    247
HD110     4,006   31,137      248    128
HD111    11,700   44,926      599    262
HD112    26,081   26,735    1,119    231
HD113    26,468   27,530      898    261
HD114    29,221   35,259    1,586    246
HD115    26,158   30,895    1,501    319

CD32     46.66%   50.65%    2.28%  0.42%
				
HD100    19.58%   78.40%    1.51%  0.51%
HD102    43.71%   53.46%    2.32%  0.51%
HD103    22.75%   74.93%    1.78%  0.54%
HD104    21.21%   76.91%    1.27%  0.61%
HD105    44.48%   53.19%    1.81%  0.52%
HD107    44.26%   53.42%    1.82%  0.50%
HD108    45.20%   51.67%    2.75%  0.38%
HD109    16.55%   82.19%    0.88%  0.38%
HD110    11.28%   87.66%    0.70%  0.36%
HD111    20.35%   78.15%    1.04%  0.46%
HD112    48.15%   49.36%    2.07%  0.43%
HD113    47.99%   49.91%    1.63%  0.47%
HD114    44.07%   53.17%    2.39%  0.37%
HD115    44.43%   52.48%    2.55%  0.54%

I included the CD32 numbers as well since we were just discussing CD32. As before, remember that CD32 also includes part of Collin County, so this is not all of CD32.

You know by now that the Clinton numbers do not tell the most accurate story about the partisan levels in a given district. I have relied on judicial race numbers to highlight swings, trends, and opportunities, and I will do the same here in subsequent posts. I can tell you from the numbers that you will see in these posts that there were probably 20K to 25K crossover voters for Clinton, and it seems clear that a lot of them came in the most Republican districts in Dallas. A big difference between Dallas and Harris is that while the latter has several untouchably red districts, Dallas really doesn’t. HD108 is the closest thing Dallas has to that, and it was 59-39 for Romney in 2012. By contrast, eight of the 11 districts won by Romney in Harris County were redder than that, three of them by double digits. Dallas is a solid blue county (57-42 for Obama over Romney in 2012) drawn to give the Republicans an 8-6 majority of their legislative caucus. There’s no margin for error here.

And they didn’t have that margin in this election. Dems picked up HD107, and lost HD105 by 64 votes. As you will see, three other districts – HDs 102, 113, and 115 – present strong opportunities to accompany HD105 going forward. The Republicans are going to have some interesting decisions to make when it comes time to redraw the lines in 2021.

Precinct analysis: Texas Congressional districts

From Daily Kos:

Texas’s GOP-drawn congressional map was designed to create 24 safely red seats and 11 safely Democratic districts, with only the 23rd District in the western part of the state being truly competitive. In 2012, Mitt Romney carried the state 57-41 and won those 24 red seats by double digits, while Barack Obama easily carried the 11 Democratic districts; the 23rd backed Romney 51-48.

Things were a lot more interesting in 2016, with Donald Trump defeating Hillary Clinton by a smaller 52.5-43.5 margin, the closest presidential election in Texas in decades. Clinton won all the Obama districts, as well as the 23rd and two solidly Romney seats, the 7th and 32nd. However, the GOP still holds all the districts that Romney won in 2012, while Democrats have all the Obama/Clinton districts. The map at the top of this post, which shows each district as equally sized, illustrates all this, with the three Romney/Clinton districts standing out in pink.

We’ll start with a look at Texas’s 23rd District, which stretches from El Paso to San Antonio and went from 51-48 Romney to 50-46 Clinton. However, the swing wasn’t quite enough for Democrats downballot. Republican Will Hurd narrowly unseated Democrat Pete Gallego in the 2014 GOP wave, and he won their expensive rematch by a similarly tight 48-47 margin.

Surprisingly, two other Texas Republicans have now found themselves sitting in seats Clinton won. Romney easily carried the 7th, located in the Houston area, by a wide 60-39 spread, but the well-educated seat backed Clinton by a narrow 48.5-47.1. Republican Rep. John Culberson still decisively turned back a challenge from a perennial candidate 56-44, and it remains to be seen if Democrats will be able to field a stronger contender next time—or whether the GOP’s weakness at the top of the ticket was a one-time phenomenon due solely to Trump.

The 32nd in the Dallas area also swung wildly from 57-41 Romney to 49-47 Clinton. However, Democrats didn’t even field an opponent against longtime GOP Rep. Pete Sessions, a former head of the NRCC who’s capable of raising as much money as he needs to in order to win. This is another well-educated seat where we’ll need to see if Democrats will be able to take advantage of Trump’s weaknesses, or if The Donald’s 2016 problems don’t hurt the GOP much downballot in future years.

Seven other Republican-held seats also moved to the left by double digits. The closest result came in Rep. Kenny Marchant’s 24th District in the Dallas-Forth Worth suburbs, which Trump won just 51-45 after Romney cruised to a 60-38 win four years earlier. Marchant beat a penniless opponent 56-39, so this district could also wind up on Democratic watch lists.

They mention a few other districts in which Clinton exceeded Obama’s numbers by a significant amount; I’ll get to that in a minute. I’ve discussed CD07 and CD32 before. We know that while Clinton carried CD07, it was largely due to Republican crossovers, as the average judicial race clocked in at a 56.5% to 43.5%b advantage for Trump. I can now make a similar statement about CD32, as I have been working my way through the canvass data in Dallas County. (CD32 reaches into Collin County as well, but I don’t have canvass data for it. The large majority of the district is in Dallas County, however.) Hillary Clinton won the Dallas County portion of CD32 by ten thousand votes, basically 127K to 117K. No other Democrat in Dallas County carried CD32, however. Looking at the judicial races there, Trump generally led by 20K to 25K votes, so the crossover effect was significant. The closest any Dem came to matching Clinton in CD32 was two-term Sheriff Lupe Valdez, who trailed in the Dallas portion of CD32 by a 125K to 116K margin.

I may go back later and look at CD24, about forty percent of which is in Dallas County, and I will definitely look at CD23 when we have full statewide numbers. If you had told me that Clinton would carry CD23, I’d have been sure that Pete Gallego would reclaim the seat, but that didn’t happen. I’ve got to give credit to Rep. Will Hurd for that, though I doubt he will ever have an easy time of it going forward. As for the other districts, I’ll just say this: Back when we were all getting intoxicated by the alluringly tight poll numbers in Texas, I ran the numbers in every district to see what might happen if you adjusted the 2012 returns to reflect a 50-50 Presidential race. The short answer is that while several Congressional districts become a lot more competitive, none of them swing to majority Dem, even under those much more favorable circumstances. This is a testament to how effective that Republican gerrymander is, and a sobering reminder of how much ground there is to recover before we can make any gains. The 2016 Presidential numbers may tantalize, but they are illusory.

One more thing: The full 2016 Congressional numbers, along with the corresponding 2012 numbers, are here. Let me break them down a bit:


Trump up, Clinton down

Dist   Romney   Trump   Obama  Clinton  R Diff  D Diff
======================================================
CD01     71.6    72.2    27.5     25.3    +0.6    -2.2
CD04     74.0    75.4    24.8     21.8    +1.4    -3.0


Trump down, Clinton down

Dist   Romney   Trump   Obama  Clinton  R Diff  D Diff
======================================================
CD05     64.5    62.7    34.4     34.3    -1.8    -0.1
CD11     79.2    77.8    19.6     19.1    -1.4    -0.5
CD13     80.2    79.9    18.5     16.9    -0.3    -2.6
CD14     59.3    58.2    39.5     38.4    -1.1    -1.1
CD15     41.5    40.0    57.4     56.7    -1.5    -0.7
CD19     73.6    72.5    25.0     23.5    -1.1    -1.5
CD27     60.5    60.1    38.2     36.7    -0.4    -1.5
CD28     38.7    38.5    60.3     58.3    -0.2    -2.0
CD30     19.6    18.3    79.6     79.1    -1.3    -0.5
CD34     38.3    37.7    60.8     59.2    -0.6    -1.6
CD36     73.2    72.0    25.7     25.2    -1.2    -0.5

Trump down, Clinton up

Dist   Romney   Trump   Obama  Clinton  R Diff  D Diff
======================================================
CD02     62.9    52.4    35.6     43.1   -10.5    +7.5
CD03     64.3    54.8    34.2     40.6    -9.5    +6.4
CD06     57.9    54.2    40.8     41.9    -3.7    +1.1
CD07     59.9    48.5    38.6     47.1   -11.4    +8.5
CD08     77.0    72.7    21.7     23.9    -4.3    +2.2
CD09     21.1    18.0    78.0     79.3    -2.9    +1.3
CD10     59.1    52.3    38.8     43.2    -6.8    +4.4
CD12     66.8    62.9    31.7     32.7    -3.9    +1.0
CD16     34.5    27.2    64.2     67.9    -7.3    +3.7
CD17     60.4    56.3    37.7     38.8    -4.1    +1.1
CD18     22.8    20.0    76.1     76.5    -2.8    +0.4
CD20     39.7    34.3    58.9     61.0    -5.4    +2.1
CD21     59.8    52.5    37.9     42.5    -7.3    +4.6
CD22     62.1    52.1    36.7     44.2   -10.0    +7.5
CD23     50.7    46.4    48.1     49.7    -4.3    +1.6
CD24     60.4    50.7    38.0     44.5    -9.7    +6.5
CD25     59.9    55.1    37.8     40.2    -4.8    +2.4
CD26     67.6    60.9    30.7     34.4    -6.7    +3.7
CD29     33.0    25.4    65.9     71.1    -7.6    +5.2
CD31     59.6    53.5    38.3     40.8    -6.1    +2.5
CD32     57.0    46.6    41.5     48.5   -10.4    +7.0
CD33     27.1    23.7    72.0     72.9    -3.4    +0.9
CD35     34.6    30.5    63.0     64.1    -4.1    +1.1

You want to know why we’ll never get rid of Louie Gohmert? He represents CD01, one of two districts where Trump improved on Mitt Romney’s numbers. That’s why we’ll never get rid of Louie Gohmert. In the other districts, the main difference between 2016 and 2012 is the performance of third party candidates, especially Libertarian Gary Johnson. I don’t have vote totals, and the dKos spreadsheet doesn’t include the other candidates, so it’s hard to say exactly what happened at this time. For sure, in some of these districts, there was a shift towards the Democrats. I’ve noted before that the “true” level of Democratic support in CD07 was about 43.5%, but that’s still four or five points better than it was in 2012. When the full statewide numbers come out, probably next month, I’ll be able to do more detailed comparisons. For now, this is what we have. Look over the dKos data and see what you think.

Rep. Sam Johnson to retire

One of Texas’ longest-serving members of Congress will call it quits next year.

Rep. Sam Johnson

U.S. Rep. Sam Johnson announced Friday morning that he will not seek re-election to represent his Plano-based seat in Congress.

Johnson, a Vietnam War veteran, made the announcement over email Friday.

“After much prayer, I have decided I will not seek re-election to serve the Third District of Texas in the U.S. House of Representatives in 2018,” he wrote. “This will be my final term in the appropriately named ‘People’s House.'”

[…]

His 3rd District is strongly Republican, and the GOP primary will most likely determine who will replace him in Congress. Names floated as possible contenders include state Sen. Van Taylor, a Plano Republican, and Collin County Judge Keith Self.

Johnson has been in Congress since 1991, though offhand I can’t think of much that he has done. He did serve in the Korean War as well as the Vietnam War, and was a prisoner of war in Hanoi for seven years, so to say the least he has a compelling personal story. I wish him all the best in his future retirement.

As it happens, the Daily Kos database of Presidential results by Congressional district now includes Texas CDs. Here’s a look at the numbers in CD03:

2012 – Romney 64.3%, Obama 34.2%
2016 – Trump 54.8%, Clinton 40.6%

The data only includes percentages and not vote totals, so it’s hard to say how much of that difference can be accounted for by crossover votes. The data on the Texas Redistricting webpage likely won’t be updated to include 2016 numbers for a few more weeks, so I won’t be able to do any comparisons till then. I did apply the 2016 percentages to the actual result in CD03 to get an estimate:

2012 – Romney 175,383, Obama 93,290
2016 – Trump 173,424, Clinton 128,486 (estimated)
2016 – Johnson 193,684, Bell 109,420

Like I said, I’ll know more once I see the full 2016 data. The 2012 data is here. The Presidential numbers make it look like maybe there could be something competitive under the right circumstances, while the numbers from Johnson’s own race do not. Of course, Dems would have to find a candidate first, and given that they don’t hold any state or county offices in Collin County, that limits their options. Maybe a City Council member from Plano or something like that might be willing to give it a go? I’m just spitballing here. At least we have plenty of time to locate someone. The DMN has more.

Precinct analysis: Brazoria County

I had some time to spare, so I spent it with the canvass reports from Brazoria County. You know, like you do. Here’s what I was able to learn.


        Trump   Clinton   R Avg   D Avg   Weber    Cole
=======================================================
Votes  36,572    15,127  37,036  14,996  37,917  14,678
Pct    68.58%    28.23%  71.18%  28.82%  72.09%  27.91%


        Trump   Clinton   R Avg   D Avg   Olson  Gibson
=======================================================
Votes  36,219    28,073  39,026  26,713  40,179  26,178
Pct    54.08%    41.92%  59.37%  40.63%  60.55%  39.45%


        Trump   Clinton   R Avg   D Avg   Thomp   Floyd
=======================================================
Votes  40,666    30,564  43,599  29,181  44,713  28,505
Pct    54.83%    41.21%  59.95%  40.05%  61.07%  38.93%

Votes  32,125    12,636  32,462  12,528
Pct    69.23%    27.23%  72.15%  27.85%

Brazoria County is part of two Congressional districts, CDs 14 and 22, and two State Rep districts, HDs 25 and 29. The latter two are entirely within Brazoria, so the numbers you see for them are for the whole districts, while the CDs include parts of other counties as well. The first table splits Brazoria by its two CDs, while the second table is for the two HDs. Incumbent Republican Randy Weber was challenged by Democrat Michael Cole in CD14, while Republican Pete Olsen was unopposed in CD22. The second group of numbers in the first table are the relevant ones for CD22; I didn’t include Olsen because there was no point (*). There were no contested District or County Court races, so the “R Avg” and “D Avg” above are for the four contested district Appeals Court races; these are the 1st and 14th Courts of Appeals, which as you know includes Harris County.

The second table is for the State Rep districts. In HD29, incumbent Republican Ed Thompson faced Democrat John Floyd, while Republican Dennis Bonnen was unchallenged in HD25. You can sort of tell from the tables and I can confirm from the raw data that HD29 mostly overlapped CD22, and HD25 mostly overlapped CD14. As I have done before, the percentages for the Presidential races are calculated including the vote totals for Gary Johnson and Jill Stein, which is why they don’t add to 100%. The other contested races all had only two candidates.

Still with me? If so, you can see that HD29 was much more interesting than HD25, and was where basically all of the crossover Presidential votes were. Trump lagged the Republican baseline in HD25, but those voters mostly either skipped the race or voted third party. Viewed through the Presidential race, HD29 looks like a potentially competitive district, but if you pull the lens back a bit you can see that it is less so outside that, and that Thompson exceeded the Republican baseline on top of that. It would be nice to point to this district as a clear opportunity, but we’re not quite there. There is another dimension to consider here, however, and that is a comparison with the 2012 results:


       Romney     Obama    Cruz  Sadler   R Avg   D Avg   Weber Lampson
=======================================================================
Votes  35,571    13,940  34,618  13,865  33,931  14,444  33,116  14,398
Pct    70.82%    27.75%  69.34%  27.77%  70.14%  29.86%  69.70%  30.30%


       Romney     Obama    Cruz  Sadler   R Avg   D Avg   Olsen  Rogers
=======================================================================
Votes  35,291    20,481  34,879  19,879  34,466  20,164  35,997  17,842
Pct    62.49%    36.27%  62.14%  35.42%  63.09%  36.91%  66.86%  33.14%


       Romney     Obama    Cruz  Sadler   R Avg   D Avg   Thomp   Blatt
=======================================================================
Votes  40,170    22,480  39,657  21,866  39,203  22,204  40,642  21,388
Pct    63.32%    35.44%  62.86%  34.66%  63.84%  36.16%  65.52%  34.48%

Votes  30,692    11,941  29,840  11,878  29,194  12,404
Pct    70.95%    27.60%  69.45%  27.64%  70.18%  29.82%

In 2012, Randy Weber was running to succeed Ron Paul in the redrawn CD14, which had a nontrivial amount of resemblance to the old CD02 of the 90s, which is how former Congressman Nick Lampson came to be running there. He ran ahead of the pack, but the district was too red for him to overcome. Pete Olsen was challenged by LaRouchie wacko Keisha Rogers, Ed Thompson faced Doug Blatt, and Dennis Bonnen was again unopposed. I threw in the numbers from the Ted Cruz-Paul Sadler Senate race in these tables for the heck of it.

The main thing to note here is that HD29 was a lot more Republican in 2012 than it was in 2016. Ed Thompson went from winning by 31 points in 2012 to winning by 22 in 2016, with the judicial average going from nearly a 28 point advantage for Republicans to just under a 20 point advantage. Total turnout in the district was up by about 11,000 votes, with 7K going to the Dems and 4K going to the Republicans. That still leaves a wide gap – 14K in the judicial races, 16K for Ed Thompson – but it’s progress, and it happened as far as I know without any big organized effort.

And that’s the thing. If Democrats are ever going to really close the gap in Texas, they’re going to have to do it by making places like HD29, and HD26 in Fort Bend and the districts we’ve talked about in Harris County and other districts in the suburbs, more competitive. If you look at the map Greg Wythe kindly provided, you can see that some of the blue in Brazoria is adjacent to blue precincts in Fort Bend and Harris Counties, but not all of it. Some of it is in Pearland, but some of it is out along the border with Fort Bend. I’m not an expert on the geography here so I can’t really say why some of these precincts are blue or why they flipped from red to blue in the four years since 2012, but I can say that they represent an opportunity and a starting point. This is what we need to figure out and build on.

(Since I initially drafted this, Greg provided me two more maps, with a closer view to the blue areas, to get a better feel for what’s in and around them. Here’s the North Brazoria map and the South Brazoria map. Thanks, Greg!)

(*) – As noted in the comments, I missed that Pete Olsen did have an opponent in 2016, Mark Gibson. I have added the numbers for that race. My apologies for the oversight.)

Precinct analysis: Don’t be mesmerized by the Clinton/Trump numbers

From the DMN:

Donald Trump may have carried Texas and clinched the White House in November, but support for the Republican presidential nominee waned in parts of the Dallas area — news that, in a typical election year, could spell trouble for some Republican-held congressional seats.

A Dallas Morning News analysis of nine North Texas congressional districts revealed that, across the board, fewer voters backed Trump than backed Mitt Romney four years ago.

Dallas Rep. Pete Sessions saw his once-firmly red district turn blue as voters cast a majority of ballots for Democrat Hillary Clinton. Sessions cruised to re-election, as Democrats fielded no candidate.

Coppell Rep. Kenny Marchant, like Sessions, handily won his re-election bid, but the gap between those who voted for the Republican and the Democrat in the presidential race fell to just a single-digit margin.

There are signs the same holds true in other urban parts of Texas, such as Houston, where Republican Rep. John Culberson saw his district turn blue for Clinton and Democrats won every countywide seat.

Texas bucked the trend nationwide, with Trump winning the state with a smaller margin — 9 points — than any GOP nominee in decades. On the surface, that seems to be good news for Texas Democrats. But given the peculiarities of Trump’s candidacy, it’s not so clear-cut.

The drop in Dallas-area Republican support doesn’t necessarily indicate voters are moving away from the GOP, several experts say; rather, that many voters moved away from the controversial candidate.

Republican House members outperformed Trump in each of the GOP-controlled North Texas districts reviewed by The News, and the drop in support for the Republican presidential candidate didn’t result in an equal and opposite rise in support for Clinton.

Had Romney earned the same numbers four years ago, “it would indicate a decline in normal Republican vote share,” said Matthew Wilson, a political science professor at Southern Methodist University. “Romney is very much a normal Republican. Trump is anything but a normal Republican.”

Mark Jones, a political scientist at Rice University, suggested that Romney’s 2012 high numbers were at least partially due to Obama’s low approval ratings.

The drop in support this year could be from “an artificial high … to an artificial low created by the presence of a presidential candidate who alienated a subset of otherwise reliable GOP voters,” he said.

Or, you know, it could simply be that a lot of Republicans voted for Hillary Clinton in Texas. This is why I’ve been emphasizing the judicial races as a more accurate way of measuring partisan support in a given area, and for making comparisons to 2012. I don’t have that data for the Dallas-area districts at this time, but as we know from Harris County, CD07 still looks pretty red when viewed through that lens. I’d say Culberson has a little bit to worry about between now and the next round of redistricting in 2021, when I fully expect more of CD07 will be shifted to the west and north, but barring anything unusual and bearing in mind that no one has any idea what the short term political effects of the Trump regime will be, I’d bet Culberson will still be there.

There’s an image in the DMN story from this tweet by Miles Coleman, which in turn points to this story he wrote about the larger Houston metro area. Basically, it’s a color map of precincts in Harris, Fort Bend, and Montgomery County, all based on the Presidential race. That’s a lot of blue in Harris County, and while it’s concentrated in the center of the county, it’s spread out quite a bit, with a significant incursion into Fort Bend. I’d have liked to have seen Galveston and Brazoria included in this map as well, but what we have is still useful. As is the case with Pete Sessions’ CD32, which pokes into Collin County, there are a lot of districts that cross county borders, and that’s something we need to think about more. That’s for another day. For now, even with the proviso that there’s a lot of crossover votes in the blue of that map, take a look and ponder the potential.

Precinct analysis: Fort Bend Commissioners Court precincts

I have not done Fort Bend precinct analyses in the past because I don’t get easily-worked-with CSV-format canvass reports from them after elections. However, it turns out that their election returns page for this year has a “Reports” button on it from which one can download an Excel-format canvass report. It’s laid out differently than the Harris County reports, in a way that made this all a bit more labor-intensive, but I was able to work with it. I’ve got it in two posts, one for today on the Commissioners Court precincts, and one for tomorrow on the State Rep districts. So with that said, let’s dive on in with a look at the Presidential races from this year and 2012.


President - 2016

Pcnct    Rep     Dem    Lib   Grn   Rep %   Dem %   Lib %   Grn %
=================================================================
CC1   28,737  26,823  1,502   332  50.07%  46.73%   2.62%   0.58%
CC2   11,969  41,887    925   470  21.66%  75.81%   1.67%   0.85%
CC3   44,899  29,891  2,555   472  57.70%  38.41%   3.28%   0.61%
CC4   31,607  35,874  1,916   508  45.21%  51.32%   2.74%   0.73%


President - 2012

Pcnct    Rep     Dem    Lib   Grn   Rep %   Dem %   Lib %   Grn %
=================================================================
CC1   26,771  20,521    362    74  56.09%  43.00%   0.76%   0.16%
CC2   12,354  38,699    274   100  24.02%  75.25%   0.53%   0.19%
CC3   42,394  17,862    528   111  69.62%  29.33%   0.87%   0.18%
CC4   34,607  24,062    555   175  58.26%  40.51%   0.93%   0.29%

Looking at these numbers, your first instinct might be to ask how it is that Commissioner Richard Morrison lost his bid for re-election in Precinct 1. I would remind you that he won in 2012 against a candidate that had been disavowed by the Fort Bend County GOP after it was discovered he had voted in multiple locations in a previous election. I’ll also say again not to be too distracted by the Trump/Clinton numbers, since there were a fair amount of crossover votes. This will become apparent when we look at other county races in the Commissioners Court precincts. The bottom line was that this was the first time Morrison, who was elected in 2008 to succeed a scandal-plagued incumbent, faced a conventional, establishment-type candidate with no obvious baggage, and it was too much to overcome in a precinct that skews Republican. It’s a shame, because Morrison is a great guy who did a fine job as Commissioner, but we were basically playing with house money. Morrison is still a young guy who could certainly run for something else if he wanted to – County Judge is one obvious possibility – so I hope we’ll see him again.

The other point of interest is the Democratic growth in Precincts 3 and 4, especially 4, where Hillary Clinto got a majority of the vote. Again, there are crossover voters here, but as you’ll see in a minute, the growth is real. Precinct 4 will be up in 2018, so this is an obvious target of interest for Fort Bend Democrats. As with all population growth areas, ensuring that new residents are registered will be a key to any strategy, as will making new arrivals who are in line with Democratic values aware of the party’s presence while dispelling the myth that Fort Bend is a Republican stronghold. This growth has implications for the State Rep races as well, which we will get to in the next post.

Now let’s take a look at the contested county-level races, for some perspective on the partisan levels in each precinct.


District Judge,  240th Judicial District

Pcnct    Rep     Dem   Rep %   Dem %
====================================
CC1   31,249  25,475  55.09%  44.91%
CC2   13,490  41,211  24.66%  75.34%
CC3   50,214  26,881  65.13%  34.87%
CC4   36,630  32,260  53.17%  46.83%


District Judge,  400th Judicial District

Pcnct    Rep     Dem   Rep %   Dem %
====================================
CC1   31,481  25,299  55.44%  44.56%
CC2   13,570  41,177  24.79%  75.21%
CC3   50,401  26,694  65.38%  34.62%
CC4   36,803  32,186  53.35%  46.65%


Judge, County Court at Law No. 5

Pcnct    Rep     Dem   Rep %   Dem %
====================================
CC1   30,686  25,982  54.15%  45.85%
CC2   13,309  41,330  24.36%  75.64%
CC3   49,725  27,308  64.55%  35.45%
CC4   36,129  32,707  52.49%  47.51%


Sheriff

Pcnct    Rep     Dem   Rep %   Dem %
====================================
CC1   32,010  25,236  55.92%  44.08%
CC2   13,595  41,255  24.79%  75.21%
CC3   51,268  26,386  66.02%  33.98%
CC4   38,091  31,463  54.76%  45.24%

So as you can see, Precinct 1 is basically 55-45 Republican, which is close to what it was in 2012. Morrison lost by five points, so he did get some crossovers, just not enough to overcome the lean of the precinct. Republicans in Precinct 2 who didn’t want to vote for Trump went third party instead of crossing over for Hillary Clinton. Precinct 3 looks more like the Republican powerhouse it was in 2012, though as you can that while both Rs and Ds gained voters, Ds gained a handful more. That’s enough to reduce the Republican percentage of the vote, but it didn’t do much for the size of the deficit. The big difference in in Precinct 4, where Dems netted about a 6,000 vote gain to narrow the gap to about five points. That’s enough to make it an opportunity, but it’s still a challenge. I don’t know enough to have any specific advice for the Fort Bend folks, but the numbers are clear. Start the recruitment process as soon as possible, and look towards 2018.

Races I’ll be watching on Tuesday, Legislative edition

vote-button

Here are the legislative races I’ll be looking at to see what kind of a day it has been for Texas Democrats. After the 2012 general election, the Dems had 55 seats in the Lege. Thee Democrats lost in 2014, lowering that total to 52. As things stand right now, Dems are at 50 seats, with one seat being lost early this year in a special election, and another later on to an independent in a special election that basically no one paid any attention to. I’m going to group the races into four tiers with decreasing levels of likelihood and expectation, and we’ll see where we might wind up.

Group 1: Back to parity

HD117 – Obama 2008 52.5%, Obama 2012 51.8%
HD118 – Obama 2008 55.1%, Obama 2012 55.2%
HD120 – Obama 2008 62.9%, Obama 2012 64.6%
HD144 – Obama 2008 48.0%, Obama 2012 51.0%

HDs 117 and 144 were the seats lost in 2014 (along with HD23, which is in a different category). HDs 118 (Farias) and 120 (McClendon) had specials due to the early retirement of their Dem incumbents. Note that Mary Ann Perez won HD144 in 2012 by 6.5 points over a stronger Republican opponent than the accidental incumbent she faces now. Phillip Cortez, running to reclaim HD117 after losing it in 2014, defeated a 2010-wave Republican by nearly eight points in 2012. I expect all four to be won by Democrats on Tuesday, which puts the caucus at 54.

Group 2: It sure would be nice to win these in a year like this

HD43 – Obama 2008 46.9%, Obama 2012 47.9%
HD105 – Obama 2008 46.1%, Obama 2012 46.5%
HD107 – Obama 2008 46.7%, Obama 2012 46.9%
HD113 – Obama 2008 46.1%, Obama 2012 46.3%

These are the white whales for Texas Democrats in recent elections. HD43 is home of the turncoat JM Lozano, who switched parties after the 2010 wipeout after having won a Democratic primary against an ethically-challenged incumbent in March. Now-former Rep. Linda Harper-Brown, who lost a primary in HD105 in 2014 to Rep. Rodney Anderson, had two of the closest victories in recent years, hanging on in 2008 by twenty votes and in 2012 by fewer than 800 votes. Similarly, Rep. Kenneth Sheets won in 2012 by 850 votes. The map designers in 2011 did a great job of keeping eight out of 14 districts in strongly Democratic Dallas County just red enough to win so far. I have to feel like this is the year their luck runs out. I’ll be disappointed if Dems don’t win at least two of these races, so let’s put the caucus at 56.

Group 3: Pop the champagne, we’re having a great night

HD23 – Obama 2008 47.5%, Obama 2012 44.2%
HD54 – Obama 2008 47.9%, Obama 2012 45.7%
HD102 – Obama 2008 46.6%, Obama 2012 45.3%
HD112 – Obama 2008 44.0%, Obama 2012 43.5%
HD114 – Obama 2008 46.6%, Obama 2012 43.5%
HD115 – Obama 2008 43.9%, Obama 2012 43.2%
HD134 – Obama 2008 46.5%, Obama 2012 41.7%

That’s most of the rest of Dallas County, the seat held by former Rep. Craig Eiland till he retired before the 2014 election, Rep. Sarah Davis’ perennial swing seat, and the Killeen-based district now held by the retiring Rep. Jimmie Don Aycock. It’s this last one that I think is most likely to flip; there were a few maps drawn during the 2011 session that made this a fairly solid blue seat. The main hesitation I have with this one is that I don’t know what kind of Dem infrastructure exists out there to take advantage of the conditions. Aycock never faced much of a challenge though he won in 2012 by the skinny-for-this-gerrymandering margin of 57.5% to 42.5%, partly because that district is off the beaten path for Dems and partly (I suspect) out of respect for Aycock, who was a really good Public Ed committee chair. If even one of these seats flip, I’d assume all four of the ones in the level above did, so we’ll increment the county to 59.

Group 4: Holy crap, how did that happen?

HD47 – Obama 2008 44.8%, Obama 2012 39.3%
HD52 – Obama 2008 46.2%, Obama 2012 42.4%
HD65 – Obama 2008 43.0%, Obama 2012 40.8%
HD85 – Obama 2008 40.7%, Obama 2012 38.0%
HD108 – Obama 2008 44.9%, Obama 2012 39.3%
HD135 – Obama 2008 38.7%, Obama 2012 39.8%
HD136 – Obama 2008 45.9%, Obama 2012 41.2%

Now we’re starting to get into some unfamiliar territory. HD47 is the lone Republican district in Travis County. Dems captured it in the wave of 2008 then lost it in the wave of 2010, and it was shored up as a genuine Republican district in 2011, with the side effect of making HDs 48 and 50 more solidly blue. HD108 is in the Highland Park part of Dallas, so who knows, maybe Donald Trump was the last straw for some of those folks. I’ve talked a few times about how HDs 135 and 132 were the two red districts in Harris County trended bluer from 2008 to 2012; I don’t expect it to go all the way, but I’ll be shocked if there isn’t some decent progress made. HD52 was won by a Dem in 2008 but was drawn to be more Republican in 2011. HD136, like HD52 in Williamson County, was a new district in 2012 and has been represented by a crazy person since then. HD65 is in Collin County, and HD85 is primarily in Fort Bend. Winning any of these would help tamp down the narrative that Dems are only creatures of the urban counties and the border.

If somehow Dems won all of these districts – which won’t happen, but go with it for a minute – the caucus would be at 73 members, which needless to say would have a seismic effect on the 2017 session and Dan Patrick’s ambitions. Putting the number above 60 would be a very nice accomplishment given all that’s stacked against such a thing happening, though it’s hard to say how much effect that might have on the session. Note that I have not put any Senate races in here. This is not because the Senate has a more diabolical gerrymander than the House does, but because the four most purple Senate districts – SDs 09, 10, 16, and 17 – were all up in 2014, and thus not on the ballot this year. You can bet I’ll be looking at their numbers once we have them.

There are a few districts that I would have included if there had been a Dem running in them (specifically, HDs 32, 45, and 132), and there are a few with numbers similar to those in the bottom group that I didn’t go with for whatever the reason. Tell me which districts you’ll be looking out for tomorrow. I’ll have a companion piece to this on Tuesday.

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.

Early voting, Day Six: A good first week for Democrats

There’s still a week to go, but so far, so good.

EarlyVoting

Harris County residents cast more ballots in the first four days of early voting than five states did in the entire 2012 presidential election.

Locally, the number of ballots cast over those days was 45 percent higher than the same period four years ago. Other parts of the state, which sported the nation’s lowest turnout in 2014, have seen similar growth.

Now, the question is, will it continue? If it does, Harris County could see close to 1 million people – almost half its registered voters – cast ballots before election day.

“There’s so much more voting this time than we’ve ever seen,” said Richard Murray, a veteran pollster at the University of Houston.

[…]

“The first four days looked pretty good for local Democrats,” said Murray, who has studied Harris County voting patterns since 1966. “More female, more ethnic, less Caucasian.”

The county’s turnout so far has been 57 percent female, Murray said, compared with the typical 54 percent, which he called “probably something of a Trump effect.”

Stephen Klineberg, founder of Rice University’s Kinder Institute for Urban Research, said the county’s Democratic shift was a long time coming.

He pointed to a 2016 study by the Institute, which showed Harris County had been evenly split between Democrats and Republicans since studies began in 1984.

In 2005, 35 percent of respondents identified as Democrat and 37 percent identified as Republican. In 2016, 52 percent identified as Democrat and 30 percent as Republican.

That change was mostly due to population growth and changing party affiliation among Latinos, who make up 51 percent of the population under 20 in Harris County, he said.

“Pundits have been predicting this for years,” Klineberg said. “There are some indications that we are beginning to see signs of that inevitable transformation in this election year, earlier than most pundits expected.”

This Chron story goes into more detail about the gender mix of early voters so far. With maps, which everyone likes.

Of course, Latinos alone are not driving Harris County’s surging early voting turnout.

Some of the highest turnout has come from Houston’s suburban ring, including Katy, Cypress and Kingwood, areas with typically high Republican turnout.

“Everybody is voting,” Murray said. “It’s not that the Anglo vote has fallen, it’s just that others have risen more than they have.”

[…]

Democrats in general tend to lag in early voting, experts said. This year, Houston Democratic consultant Greg Wythe said, has been “pretty remarkably different from whatever happened in the past.”

“Normally, we’re losing at this point,” he said. An analysis of this week’s early voting results suggests 54 percent of turnout so far has been Democratic. That mirrors a recent poll by the University of Houston Hobby School of Public Affairs, which showed a slight lead or statistical tie for Democrats in countywide races.

Greg has been my source for the pronouncements I’ve made about how the first four days have been good for Dems. He tells me that Friday was also a good day, making the Dems five for five for that first week, and that early indicators are positive for Saturday as well. For what it’s worth, Saturday is usually the best day for Democrats during early voting. In 2014, the Saturday was about the only good day the Dems had. It may be that the pattern is different this year, I don’t know yet. I’m sure Greg will tell me when he knows for sure.

To put this in some perspective, here’s what the last two Presidential races looked like:


Candidate       Mail    Early    E Day    Total
===============================================
Romney        43,270  349,332  193,471  586,073
Obama         31,414  337,681  217,949  587,044

McCain        41,986  297,944  231,953  571,883
Obama         24,503  368,231  198,248  590,982

Mitt Romney was at 51.5% in early and absentee voting; Democrats caught up on Election Day and mostly won in the county. It was 2008 that was the big early voting year for Dems, as Obama carried a 53.6% lead into Election Day, then held on with both hands and Dems had basically run out of voters. Early voting has clearly gone well for Dems so far this year, apparently even better than it was in 2008. The question of who remains to vote on Election Day is one we can’t answer right now.

Of course, there are nearly 350,000 more registered voters in Harris County now than there were in 2008, and nearly 300,000 more than there were in 2012. We’ve discussed that before, and it is reasonable to expect that turnout would be up even without anything strange happening. A few turnout projections to consider:

61.99% of 2,234,678 = 1,385,276
62.81% of 2,234,678 = 1,403,601
63.00% of 2,234,678 = 1,407,847
64.00% of 2,234,678 = 1,430,193
65.00% of 2,234,678 = 1,452,541

The 2,234,678 figure is total registered voters in Harris County. Turnout in 2012 was 61.99%, and in 2008 it was 62.81%. The others are speculative. The point here is that turnout north of 1.4 million is hardly a stretch. and it’s not out of the question that from Saturday on there could still be a million people left to vote. We are, as they say, in uncharted territory.

The Day 6 EV totals had not arrived in my inbox by the time I went to bed. I’ll update this later when I have a chance and the data.

Crosswind/Statesman: Trump 45, Clinton 38

One more poll result, because why not.

In the wake of recent polls indicating that deep red Texas might be a toss-up in the presidential race, a new Crosswind/American-Statesman Texas Pulse poll conducted Saturday through Monday shows Republican Donald Trump with a 7-point lead over Democrat Hillary Clinton in the Lone Star State

According to the survey of 800 likely Texas voters conducted by Crosswind Media & Public Relations and Pulse Opinion Research, Trump has 45 percent support to 38 percent for Clinton and 7 percent for Libertarian Party candidate Gary Johnson and 10 percent not sure. (The poll didn’t offer Green Party candidate Jill Stein as an option.)

“Texas is not yet a toss-up state, but Hillary is giving Trump a run for his money,” said Thomas Graham, CEO of Crosswind, a Texas-based public relations firm with offices in New York, Los Angeles and Washington, D.C.

[…]

In perhaps the most surprising result of the new poll, Trump, whose treatment of women has become central to Clinton’s critique of him and his candidacy, had a larger lead with Texas women than with Texas men. Trump is ahead 43 percent to Clinton’s 39 percent with men, and 46 percent to Clinton’s 38 percent with women.

The starkest contrast in the poll was among generations. Clinton is way ahead of Trump — 51 percent to 28 percent — among likely voters 18 to 39 years of age. Trump leads Clinton 48 percent to her 35 percent among voters 46 to 64 years old, and he carries voters 65 and older by a whopping 71 percent to 25 percent ratio.

“It would appear that in Texas, many moms who are supporting Trump have children supporting Clinton,” Graham said.

Trump is winning white voters by a margin of 57 percent to Clinton’s 25 percent. Johnson receives 8 percent of their support.

Clinton is leading Trump among black voters, 77 percent to his 17 percent, and leading among Hispanic voters, 56 percent to Trump’s 24 percent.

This poll shows a slightly wider lead in Texas for Trump than other recent polls like UT/Trib poll that was done at the same time, but beyond that it’s in line with everything we’ve seen so far. If a seven-point lead for Trump – which keep in kind is still less than half of Mitt Romney’s margin of victory in 2012 – is being seen as a disappointment by Democrats, that tells you something about the state of expectations at this point. This poll was conducted between Saturday and Monday, meaning that it’s almost certainly the last public poll to be done before voting started. Any subsequent polls should also ask respondents if they have already voted and if so for whom, which may perhaps give a more accurate picture of where things are.

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.

Early voting, Day Three: The case for pessimism

Dave Mann tells Texas Democrats to put those rose-tinted glasses away.

EarlyVoting

On Monday, the Real Clear Politics site declared that Texas is up for grabs in the presidential election. The shift comes after a series of polls showing a tight race in the state between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, and makes for a dramatic image on the site’s election tracking map, where Texas is no longer colored its usual red but is now the dark gray that connotes a “toss up.” For Democrats, seeing their state change color on one of the most widely read and respected campaign outlets—after decades of Republican dominance and years of unfulfilled hopes that Texas might turn blue—must be cathartic. And it might be tempting to view this sudden shift to competitiveness as the start of Democrats’ long-hoped-for return to relevance, as a turning point.

Well, they should keep the cork in the champagne, because Texas remains a Republican state.

As my colleague R.G. Ratcliffe pointed out, the Texas polls are close not because of a huge spike in Democratic voters—Clinton’s numbers are roughly in line with Obama’s totals from 2008 and 2012—but because Trump’s support has cratered. He’s drastically under-performing previous Republican presidential nominees. John McCain and Mitt Romney garnered 55 percent and 57 percent of the vote in Texas, respectively. Trump is polling 10 to 12 points below that.

[…]

While it’s true that the national GOP looks like a smoking ruin right now, the state party remains fairly strong. It still has huge advantages over Texas Democrats in money, organization, and candidate depth, and Republicans start every statewide race with at least a ten-point edge, if not more. And if you’re thinking that built-in advantage may be shrinking, keep in mind that we’re just two years removed from an across-the-board Republican blowout of nearly 20 points. In Wendy Davis, the Democrats had their best known and best funded candidate in years, and she lost to Greg Abbott by nearly a million votes.

It’s also worth remembering that most statewide offices in Texas come up for election in non-presidential years in which the electorate generally tends to be whiter and older—in other words, more Republican.

The one caveat is the potential increase in Latino voters. R.G. wrote on Monday that more than 530,000 people with Latino surnames have registered to vote since 2012, according to the Texas secretary of state’s office. It’s not hard to envision Trump’s candidacy increasing the number of Latino voters who turn out to vote in Texas, offering Democrats the opportunity to begin building a coalition that could one day make them competitive again. But capitalizing on that opportunity requires the difficult party-building, community-organizing, voter-turnout work that Democrats in this state haven’t exactly excelled at in recent years.

In other words, two years from now—without Trump at the top of the ticket—Texas Republicans will once again be heavily favored to sweep the statewide offices.

See here for my discussion of RG Ratcliffe’s article. First, let me say that I agree with Dave Mann in that it’s at least premature, if not downright silly, to call Texas a swing state right now. It’s a lot closer than we’re used to seeing it, but the numbers aren’t there for swing state status. The Real Clear Politics average for the two-way race has Trump leading by 4.6 percentage points. FiveThirtyEight has Trump’s lead at 6.2 after applying their secret sauce. Out of thirteen poll results that I’ve tracked, only that one wacky WaPo/Survey Monkey one from September had Clinton in the lead, by one point. I think to be a real swing state, your polling average has to be within, say, two or three points, with more than one result disagreeing with the others about who’s in the lead. Texas doesn’t make the cut on either of those.

That said, I think Mann is underplaying how well Clinton is doing, both in absolute terms and relative to Obama. The more recent polls have shown her increase her total more than Trump has done. I split the thirteen poll results I’ve tracked into pre-October and October results and averaged each. That works out as follows:

Pre-October: Trump 42.0, Clinton 35.7
October: Trump 46.2, Clinton 41.5

Clinton has gained 5.8 points in the average to Trump’s 4.2, cutting the margin in the average from 6.3 to 4.7. Moreover, she’s considerably ahead of where Obama was in the October polls from 2012:

October 2012: Romney 55.8, Obama 39.0

You can also use the YouGov tracker for a direct comparison. The election eve result in 2012 had Obama at 38%. As of yesterday, Clinton was at 41.4; she was up at 42.0 over the weekend. And remember, that 2012 YouGov result underestimated Obama by three and a half points. It’s possible they’ve changed their model to account for that, but it’s also possible they’re underestimating Clinton.

I don’t want to get too deep into that, because as the Devil can use scripture for his own purposes, one can read whatever they want into an individual poll. The thing is, though, we also have actual votes that have been cast, which really do tell us something. I can tell you that Democrats have done much better so far in Harris County than they did in 2012, and have won each of the first two days of early voting, after winning with mail ballots. Some of this is surely regular voters getting out there earlier than usual, and I don’t have the same data on the rest of the state, but just as surely Harris County isn’t an anomaly.

What I’m getting at is this: I think one has to strain to argue that Hillary Clinton won’t exceed Barack Obama’s vote total from 2008. I think she’s got a very good chance to exceed his vote percentage, though I’m not ready to declare that as a sure thing. We may argue afterwards if the increased vote total I expect Clinton will get represents a real bump in Democratic turnout, as 2008 for Obama did compared to 2004, or just a raise that was proportional to the overall population growth. But I don’t think we’ll be arguing over whether or not she did outperform him, in 2008 as well as in 2012.

As for 2018, I’m going to wait till this one is in the books before I get into that. It’s true that Donald Trump won’t be on the ballot, but that doesn’t mean he can’t be used as a motivating tool. It’s also true that while 2014 was a disastrous year for Texas Democrats, it wasn’t just a Texas problem. National conditions had a big effect on state elections in 2014, and in 2010 and 2006 and 2002 and so on, for that matter. What will national conditions be like in 2018? You’re a lot smarter than I am if you know the answer to that today.

Anyway. Early voting turnout was even higher on Day Two than it was on Day One. That’s actually in line with the historical pattern, as you can see from the handy early voting tracker spreadsheet that I’ve so thoughtfully included for you. Day Two was busier than Day One in all three previous Presidential years. Day Three was busier than Day Two in 2012 and 2008, too. And guess what? As you can see from the Day 3 EV report, Day Three was busier this year than Day Two was, too. It’s like there’s an established pattern or something, it’s just a matter of at what level. Another 76,098 in person votes, with 5,646 mail ballots arriving, and 287,134 total votes cast so far. The Day Three amount in 2012 was 197,987. We’re going to run out of voters eventually, but we could get an awful lot of votes cast before that happens.

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.

Chron overview of HD134

The Chron looks at that perpetual swing district, HD134

Rep. Sarah Davis

Rep. Sarah Davis

Artful redistricting has squeezed the general election suspense from nearly all of Harris County’s legislative races, rendering most districts solidly red or blue.

Democrat Ben Rose is hoping to prove his west Houston district can be the exception.

The 31-year-old political newcomer is seeking to leverage traditionally high Democratic turnout in presidential election years to oust three-term Republican state Rep. Sarah Davis. Doing so would return District 134 to Democratic hands for the first time in six years.

“To effectuate change, you’d have to want that change. And based on her record, I don’t think that she really is distinguishable,” Rose said during an interview in his Meyerland campaign office. “On cutting $5 billion from education, where was she? On accepting federal (Medicaid) dollars, where was she?”

Davis, known as a moderate, is campaigning on her fiscal conservatism and clout in the state Legislature as a member of the majority party.

“From just a general standpoint of who can get something done, your choice is someone who’s on the most powerful committees and has some experience and is in the majority party, versus a freshman with no seniority and in the minority party,” said Davis, 40, whose committee posts include appropriations and calendars.

District 134, which runs from Meyerland north to Timbergrove, has traded parties twice in the last decade, from Republican Martha Wong to Democrat Ellen Cohen in 2007, and Cohen to Davis in 2011.

Ben Rose

Ben Rose

Since then, it has become more Republican.

District 134 lost five precincts in 2011’s redistricting, all of them left-leaning. And the district gained 25 others, most of them right-leaning, according to a Chronicle analysis of straight-ticket voting.

[…]

Donald Trump’s divisive candidacy is expected to handicap many local Republican candidates, whose fate typically is tied to the performance of their party’s presidential pick and the turnout he draws.

However, University of Houston political scientist Brandon Rottinghaus said he expects Davis to be more insulated than many of her GOP peers, who could be hurt by higher Democratic turnout or a lower percentage of Republican straight-ticket voting.

“The core of it is: Are there more Democrats in 134?” Rottinghaus said. “It seems to me they’ve already maxed out the number that are there, so i don’t think you’re going to find a lot more turnout … and some of those Democrats are supporters of Sarah Davis.”

Here’s my interview with Ben Rose. I basically agree with Prof. Rottinghaus that a boost in Democratic turnout is unlikely to have much effect on this race. For one, turnout in this district is always pretty high; it was 72% in 2012. For another, the district is indeed redder than it was in 2008 – President Obama got 42% of the vote in 2012 after topping 46% in 2008. I think the more likely path to victory for Rose is not higher turnout but lower turnout, with that being the result of more Republicans staying home. That could happen, but it’s not sustainable if it does.

What I think may happen is that Hillary Clinton carries the district due to a larger than usual number of crossovers and other Republicans who refuse to vote for Trump, though she may not have a majority in doing this. Beyond that, Republican candidates in other races, with the possible exception of the DA race, win the district, probably with a lower than expected margin. I don’t claim to be a fan of Sarah Davis, but she’s a good fit for the district and hasn’t done anything obvious to turn off her supporters. Barring a surprise, I expect her to win by an amount that keeps this district firmly in the “swing” category going forward.

Flipping Fort Bend

FiveThirtyEight projects a national insight down to the local level.

In August, Nate Cohn of The New York Times put it well when he wrote: “The simple way to think about Mr. Trump’s strength is in terms of education among white voters. He hopes to do much better than Mitt Romney did in 2012 among white voters without a degree so that he can make up the margin of Mr. Romney’s four-point defeat and overcome the additional losses he’s likely to absorb among well-educated voters and Hispanic voters.”

There’s evidence that Trump is underperforming Romney among Asiansand African-Americans, not just Latinos and college-educated whites. Clinton, on the other hand, has been underperforming President Obama among non-college-educated whites.

To get a handle on how these shifts could affect the electoral landscape, we modeled how many of Romney’s votes came from college-educated whites and minorities and how many of Obama’s votes came from non-college-educated whites in each state, county and congressional district. The difference between these two vote totals, shown in the map above, can tell us where Clinton and Trump have the most potential to build on 2012.

Then we went a step further: How would the 2016 map look if one out of every five whites without a college degree who voted for Obama in 2012 defected to Trump and if one out of every five non-whites and college-educated whites who voted for Romney in 2012 switched to Clinton? (Why one out of five? It’s a somewhat arbitrary number but represents a realistic shift of these groups, according to polls released over the past few months.)

Let’s call this scenario the “2016 Vote Swap.” In it, Clinton would win the election, and her share of the two-party vote would be 52.7 percent — 0.7 percentage points higher than Obama’s 2012 showing. However, we also estimate she would win 10 fewer electoral votes than Obama did in the Electoral College.

[…]

The model suggests that several traditionally Republican suburban locales with diversifying and highly educated electorates could be poised to flip and support the Democratic presidential candidate: Orange County, California; Gwinnett County, Georgia; Chester County, Pennsylvania; Fort Bend County, Texas; and Virginia Beach. The model also suggests that Clinton could make major gains — while still falling short — in Douglas County outside of Denver; Hamilton County outside of Indianapolis; and Delaware County outside Columbus, Ohio.

Here’s what the map of all this looks like for every county:

There are a total of six counties in Texas that would flip from red in 2012 to blue in 2016 under the assumption that college-educated Anglo voters will shift from Trump to Clinton. Here they are, along with their 2012 results:


County       Romney    Obama   Romney%  Obama%
==============================================
Fort Bend   116,126  101,144    52.91%  46.08%
Nueces       48,966   45,772    50.95%  47.63%
Uvalde        4,529    3,825    53.69%  45.35%
Brewster      1,976    1,765    51.10%  45.64%
Hudspeth        471      379    54.58%  43.92%
Kenedy           84       82    50.30%  49.10%

Needless to say, some of these counties are more consequential than others. Having Fort Bend go blue, which nearly happened in 2008, would if nothing else be a big psychological lift for Democrats, as it would represent the first beachhead outside the traditional big urban/border county box that the party has been in. If Fort Bend, then why not Williamson, or Collin, or whichever other suburban county?

The other county worth keeping an eye on is Nueces, which is the population center for CD27, home of Rep. Blake “I was thrown off by the anchor’s use of a hypothetical question” Farenthold. That district could conceivably come into play if things get really bad for Trump; Lord knows Farenthold is incapable of being an asset to himself, so if there’s trouble he’ll be right there in it. We don’t have the the fuller Census data that the 538 crew uses to make these projections, so it’s impossible to say how much of a shift there might be if their hypothesis holds. There would be plenty of other factors affecting things as well, so don’t get too wrapped up in this. But if you’re in one of those counties, especially Fort Bend or Nueces, take this as motivation to do some GOTV work. The promise of a good result is there waiting to be taken. Juanita has more.

Three State Rep race overviews

In the order of their publication, beginning with HD149:

Rep. Hubert Vo

Rep. Hubert Vo

For more than a decade in Texas House District 149 – where Harris and Fort Bend counties meet – a growing, ethnically diverse voting population has done something rare for the Houston suburbs: Elect a Democrat.

State Rep. Hubert Vo, whose district includes Alief and Katy, hopes the trend will carry him to a seventh term in Austin.

In 2004, his path to the Texas Capitol proved an ordeal, as he sought to unseat longtime Republican state Rep. Talmadge Heflin, who was chairman of the powerful House Committee on Appropriations. Vo won the race by 33 votes and, after a short-lived challenge by Heflin, Vo became the first Vietnamese-American elected to the state Legislature.

Vo has fended off Republican attempts to take back the seat, including in 2014, when he defeated Al Hoang, a former Houston City Council member, thanks to a majority coalition of Latino, African-American and Asian-American voters.

Come November, the Democratic legislator will face his latest GOP challenger: Bryan Chu, a Houston dentist who moved to Texas from California about a decade ago.

Born in Vietnam, Chu and his family fled the Southeast Asian country by boat in 1980, when he was 13, “in order to escape the harassment from the government.”

Chu said the district’s voters have kept Vo, a 60-year-old businessman and real estate developer, as their state representative largely because of ethnic-based loyalty.

[…]

Vietnamese-American voting preferences since 2000 have shown a sharp swing toward Democratic candidates, locally and nationally, for a group that once strongly supported Republicans, said Karthick Ramakrishnan, a public policy professor at the University of California-Riverside.

“Over time, we’re seeing that issues like the social safety net, health care are the kinds of things that are becoming more important in Vietnamese communities,” said Ramakrishnan, who directs the annual National Asian American Survey. “But there’s also a generational shift, much like the Cuban story, where (younger Asian-American voters) tend to be more Democratic.”

To Prof. Ramakrishnan’s point, I would note that HD149 voted for President Obama over Mitt Romney 58.8% to 40.1% in 2012, with every downballot Democrat carrying the district by at least 15 points. I’d call that a bit more than “ethnic-based loyalty”, which last I checked didn’t help Al Hoang very much. I suppose anything is possible, but you’d get long odds on Rep. Vo losing this race.

HD144:

Mary Ann Perez

Mary Ann Perez

One challenger has an unusual pitch in one of the state’s few competitive House races.

“I am former state Representative Mary Ann Perez and I’m coming by to ask your support to get my seat back,” the Democrat tells residents on a residential Pasadena street.

She is block-walking almost daily in her campaign to once again represent District 144, which includes Pasadena, Baytown and parts of east Houston. Her 2012 victory was the first time the district had sent a Democrat to Austin since Ann Richards won the governor’s mansion in 1990.

Perez, a 54-year-old insurance agent, ticks off her experience: She already served one term in the Legislature, losing to Gilbert Peña’s shoestring Republican campaign in 2014. She chaired the Houston Community College board and shepherded the system’s largest-ever bond package to passage. She led her homeowners association, volunteered with the Little League where her boys played and led a youth group at a nearby Catholic church.

Perez portrays herself as an experienced public servant and a pro-business Democrat with local roots who lost her seat practically by accident. Peña’s 152-vote victory surprised even Republicans, who had given him little support. “He got lucky,” Perez said.

Now, observers say, the socially conservative GOP incumbent is fighting for his political life in a presidential election year when Democratic turnout is expected to be strong. Donald Trump’s polarizing candidacy also may hurt down-ballot Republicans, especially in a district that is 70 percent Hispanic.

Here’s the interview I did with Perez in the primary; she won a three-way race without a runoff. This is a genuine swing district, but every Democrat carried it in 2012, with Perez outperforming the other Dems, winding up with a five point win against a stronger candidate than Gilbert Pena. The Republican establishment seems to consider this a lost cause based on fundraising totals in the July and 30 day reports. Again, anything can happen, and a stronger incumbent would make this a much more interesting race, but it would be a pretty big upset if Perez lost.

And finally, HD137:

Gene Wu

Gene Wu

Kendall Baker proudly admits that before deciding to try to replace his state representative, he had no idea who his state representative was.

“Nobody knows who he is,” Baker said. “That’s part of the reason I wanted to run. Because he is not visible to the community, and he’s not known to the community.”

The representative, Gene Wu, has a different take.

“We’re not a flashy office, but we are a responsive office. And I’ve been in this area for 30 years, and I’ve been always been a volunteer and community busybody,” Wu said. “And this is the first time I’ve ever seen his face pop up at any community event.”

The disagreement highlights the dynamics of the District 137 race, where the two candidates appear to be operating in different worlds.

Wu, a Democrat who is running for his third term representing the west and southwest Houston district, said he has built a reputation as a hardworking policy wonk who has helped the area by reaching across the aisle to achieve commonsense accomplishments in energy policy and criminal justice reform.

Baker, a Republican and high-profile opponent of Houston’s equal rights ordinance who ran unsuccessfully for city council last year, said that years of poor representation has left the district dilapidated and in need of a “good ol’ fashioned politician” to cut taxes and create jobs.

Here’s my primary interview with Rep Wu. Let’s just draw a curtain over this one, because Kendall Baker is an idiot who was a complete non-factor in the District F Council race last year and who was “indefinitely suspended” from his job at the city for being a sexual harasser. HD137 is strongly Democratic – 63.9% to 34.5% for Obama over Romney in 2012 – and Rep. Wu is a damn fine legislator who campaigns tirelessly. Donald Trump will shave his head and join the board of directors at Our Bodies Ourselves before Kendall Baker wins this race.

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.

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.

Precinct analysis: HISD Trustee district VII in a Presidential year

As you know, we have a special election for HISD Trustee in district VII on the ballot this November. There’s one Democratic candidate in that race and three Republicans. These races are normally held in odd-numbered years, in which turnout is considerably lower than in Presidential years. Overall turnout in Harris County in 2013 was 13.23%, with turnout in the HISD VII race at 21.86%; this was the highest level among the three contested Trustee races that year. In 2012, turnout in Harris County was 61.99%. There are going to be a lot more people at the polls for this Trustee race than there usually are, is what I’m saying. What effect might that have on the special election?

Well, the conventional wisdom is that Democrats do better in higher-turnout environments. There’s a lot of empirical evidence for this, but just because something is true in the aggregate doesn’t mean it’s true in all specific subsets. Here’s what the numbers look like in HISD VII in 2013 and in 2012:


Pcnct  Moore   Sung   Moore%   Sung%   Romney    Obama  Romney%   Obama%
========================================================================
54        79    222   26.25%  73.75%      531      444   54.46%   45.54%
70       271    375   41.95%  58.05%    1,487      825   64.32%   35.68%
129      473    373   55.91%  44.09%    2,369    1,279   64.94%   35.06%
135      377    205   64.78%  35.22%    1,366      657   67.52%   32.48%
139      199    317   38.57%  61.43%    1,027      965   51.56%   48.44%
177      102    134   43.22%  56.78%      628      398   61.21%   38.79%
178      198    177   52.80%  47.20%      878      375   70.07%   29.93%
204      261    537   32.71%  67.29%    1,411      939   60.04%   39.96%
217      480    226   67.99%  32.01%    1,388      633   68.68%   31.32%
227      377    118   76.16%  23.84%    1,089      289   79.03%   20.97%
233      298    351   45.92%  54.08%    1,496    1,310   53.31%   46.69%
234      629    280   69.20%  30.80%    2,327      606   79.34%   20.66%
269      398    125   76.10%  23.90%    1,278      282   81.92%   18.08%
272       77    132   36.84%  63.16%      404      660   37.97%   62.03%
282      112    186   37.58%  62.42%      765      481   61.40%   38.60%
303      541    165   76.63%  23.37%    2,052      404   83.55%   16.45%
312      247    246   50.10%  49.90%    1,286      982   56.70%   43.30%
421       11     19   36.67%  63.33%       45      169   21.03%   78.97%
431       38     40   48.72%  51.28%      309      867   26.28%   73.72%
432       35     55   38.89%  61.11%      158      402   28.21%   71.79%
434      176    128   57.89%  42.11%      657      319   67.32%   32.68%
435      303    304   49.92%  50.08%    1,515      716   67.91%   32.09%
436	 257    215   54.45%  45.55%    1,232      762   61.79%   38.21%
491      144    123   53.93%  46.07%      680      438   60.82%   39.18%
567       78    109   41.71%  58.29%      280      748   27.24%   72.76%
569      184    219   45.66%  54.34%    1,192      910   56.71%   43.29%
570       38     90   29.69%  70.31%      414      484   46.10%   53.90%
684        7      4   63.64%  36.36%       58       38   60.42%   39.58%
809        1      2   33.33%  66.67%       10       17   37.04%   62.96%
839       36     37   49.32%  50.68%      113      464   19.58%   80.42%
902      165    246   40.15%  59.85%      869      576   60.14%   39.86%
								
Total  6,621  5,773   53.42%  46.58%   29,314   18,439   61.39%   38.61%
Harvin Moore

Harvin Moore

Did that upend your view of this race? It upended mine. Before I get into what this may mean for the candidates, let’s try to answer the question why Republican turnout improved so much more in the Presidential year – or if you want to look at it more chronologically, why it deteriorated more in the off year. Here are a few thoughts about that.

It’s important to keep in mind that odd year elections are different from even year elections, in that there generally isn’t much in the odd years for Republicans in Houston. Bill King last year was the first serious Republican candidate for Mayor since 2003, and he wasn’t running on the kind of culture-war issues that tend to boost Republican turnout in even years. There wasn’t much to draw Republican voters to the polls in 2013, at least in these precincts, so their turnout lagged more compared to 2012 than Democrats’ turnout did.

Along those lines, Anne Sung ran a campaign that strongly identified her as a Democrat and a progressive, which may have helped her draw some people out, or at least ensure that some of the people who had come out anyway continued down the ballot to vote for her. Harvin Moore is a Republican, but he doesn’t have a Republican brand, if you will. You wouldn’t know he was a Republican unless you paid close attention. The difference in branding may have affected some voters in a way that benefited Sung.

Of course, it’s not always about partisan labels. Moore was a strong supporter of former Superintendent Terry Grier; in fact, Moore was the trustee who proposed extending Grier’s contract more than a year before it was to expire. Sung was a critic of Grier’s, and identified herself as such in the campaign. It may be that the closeness of the race was more a reflection of that dynamic than anything else.

Anyway. The point I’m making here is that the higher turnout we’ll see in this race does not necessarily accrue to Anne Sung’s benefit, which is not what I had originally thought. Before I looked at the numbers, I would have said that her best bet to win would have been to achieve a majority in November and avoid a runoff, where turnout would be miniscule. Think Chris Bell in the special election for SD17 in 2008 as a parallel, or what I had thought would be a parallel. In reality, given what we saw in these numbers, I’d say Sung’s job is just to make it to the runoff, then try to drum up enough turnout among friendly voters in that race to win. Conversely, each of the three Rs should want to be the other person alongside Sung in that runoff, and reap the advantage of the district’s natural Republican lean. An R-versus-Sung runoff is preferable to them than an R-versus-R runoff, which will be more about persuasion than turnout.

It’s not crazy to think that a downballot Democrat could win statewide this year

I’ll get to that headline in a minute. I’ve got some reading to sort through first. We’ll start with the most pessimistic, or perhaps the least blue-sky, story of how things are likely to go.

Arizona. Georgia. Utah. Indiana. Is Texas next?

Across the country in recent days, GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump has suffered polling collapses in a slew of traditionally conservative states. The deterioration raises the question: Is Trump such a catastrophic Republican standard-bearer that Democrats could actually poach their ultimate white whale, the Lone Star State?

No.

That’s the consensus of a raft of state and national Democratic insiders who discussed with the Tribune the possibility of Hillary Clinton winning Texas in November.

“I think that it could set off a little bit of a panic among Republicans, but you’re not going to see banners flying and people marching into Texas saying, ‘We’re gonna turn Texas blue,'” said Matt Angle, a Democratic operative with Texas roots.

[…]

So, what would an incremental victory look like for Texas Democrats on Election Day?

Party infrastructure was the mantra in several interviews. The aim is to excite dormant Texas Democratic voters into volunteering for the first time in a generation, even if it is out of distaste for Trump. Even now, Texas volunteers are phone banking to battleground state voters elsewhere in the country.

“We know it’s going to be a multi-cycle endeavor, but these numbers reinforce that we are making significant movement, particularly with Texas’ diverse new majority,” said Manny Garcia, the deputy executive director of the Texas Democratic Party.

State Democrats are also cautiously hopeful they can make gains in the Legislature, and maybe lay the groundwork for a viable campaign against U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz in 2018 when he is up for re-election.

Amid the cautious optimism, Democrats are willing to concede that anything is believable given the erratic nature of the Trump campaign.

Former U.S. Rep. Martin Frost, an Arlington Democrat, echoed many Democratic insiders when he said he has heard no chatter about competing for Texas in the fall.

“This is a crazy election,” he said. “Anything can happen, but I still think Texas is a reach.”

A more optimistic take on where things stand.

The [PPP] poll shows Trump leading Clinton by a 44-to-38 percent margin, with his strongest support among senior-age Texans, especially men. Among that group, the New York business tycoon holds a 63-33 percent lead.

With voters under age 65, Clinton leads 49-35. For those under 45, she leads Trump 60-35.

Among nonwhite voters in Texas, Clinton has a 73-21 percent lead, according to the poll conducted by the Democrat-leaning polling firm Friday through Sunday of 944 likely voters; the poll has a margin of error of plus- or minus-3.2 percentage points.

That split, said Rice University political scientist Mark Jones, who has studied how the changing generational demographics of voters affects elections, could be the most significant statistic from the poll and other recent surveys that have highlighted a similar trend in Texas.

“This election is an outlier because Trump in many ways transcends ideology and party,” Jones said. “The older the voters, the more likely they are to vote Republican. The younger the voters, the more likely they are to vote Democratic. And the Republicans’ base in Texas is growing older.”

[…]

Statewide, an estimated 14 million Texans are registered to vote, an increase of about 1 million voters over the last four years, according to the Texas Secretary of State’s Office, which oversees elections. Whether those are new Republicans or Democrats or independents is unknown, and party affiliation is determined by which primary a voter casts his or her ballot.

Officials in fast-growing Williamson County, in staunchly conservative GOP territory just north of Austin, said their registration numbers are up significantly.

During the 2008 presidential race, Williamson County accounted for just more than 220,000 of the state’s registered voters. The most current figures put Williamson County’s voter total at 294,329.

In Fort Bend County, a fast-growing GOP suburban stronghold southwest of Houston, elections administrator John Oldham said registrations have grown by 25 percent since 2008. That has added nearly 100,000 new voters to the rolls in just under eight years, he said.

Oldham estimated that about half of recently registered have not had Anglo or Hispanic surnames. Many have last names traditionally associated with Asian, Middle Eastern and African heritages, he said.

“That’s where we’re seeing a lot of growth,” he said.

For Brandon Rottinghaus, a political scientist at the University of Houston, surburban areas like Fort Bend County are the places to watch in November.

“Republicans in Texas have dominated the suburban vote, and that’s been one reason for their success,” Rottinghaus said. “But in this election, Trump is doing poorly among these voters – the suburban women, college-educated voters who are younger. (Gov. Greg) Abbott and (U.S. Sen. Ted) Cruz still do well there, but crossover voting in the suburbs could cause a moment that might allow the Democrats to do better.

“That is how the Republicans got their foot in the door in congressional elections years ago,” he added.

And finally, an X factor to consider.

There are now 272 electoral votes in states that RCP rates as leaning toward Clinton, likely to go to her or solidly in her column. Another 112 come from states rated as tossups (plus Maine’s 2nd Congressional District, from which an elector is chosen independent of the statewide result). On Wednesday morning, Clinton had a lead in six of those eight states, including a statistically insignificant three-tenths-of-a-point edge in Deep South Georgia.

Furthermore, in talking to Democratic and Republican strategists in recent days, it has become clear that the polls could be significantly underestimating the Clinton margins that we’ll see on Election Day. Here’s why: Clinton has poured money into both television advertising and field organizing even in states where she has an outside chance of winning while Trump has been inactive.

Republican and Democratic experts in field organizing say that a tiptop organization can make a small but significant difference — maybe as many as four or five percentage points — in a particular state. That is, where Clinton’s building an operation and Trump isn’t, polls are likely underrepresentative of her strength.

In a chat last week on the social media platform Sidewire, former Iowa Republican Party Chairman Matt Strawn and GOP strategist Doug Heye lamented the absence of a Trump field operation on the ground in the battleground Hawkeye State.

“The boots have largely been outsourced to the RNC staff that’s been on [the] ground. They are hustling to staff up,” Strawn said. “And as everyone learned watching Hillary [and] Bernie battle during caucuses, if it comes down to mechanics versus message at the end … well, we know how that turned out.”

That last one isn’t about Texas at all, and it may be irrelevant to the discussion at hand, since Republican Presidential campaigns don’t bother investing in Texas for the same reason that Democratic ones don’t – there’s no reason to. But there is a correlation between the national level and the state level, and if there are concerns about Republican turnout nationally – and there are, and they go beyond worries about campaign infrastructure – then there are concerns about it here as well, if not necessarily as great.

Which leads me to a conclusion that I’ve seen only articulated once, briefly, in the Beatty memo, which is this: It’s not crazy to think that Texas Democrats could win a statewide race or two this November.

Note that I am not talking about the Presidential race. The Beatty memo suggests that the Railroad Commissioner’s race could go either way, as nobody knows who the candidates are. I’m thinking more about the races for Supreme Court and Court of Criminal Appeals, for which the Dems have a full slate of candidates. The same argument about nobody knowing who the candidates are holds, but there’s also the numbers, for all of these races.

Look at it this way: A six-point Trump win in Texas, which is consistent with that PPP poll, translates to roughly a 400,000-vote margin for Trump. To pick some numbers out of the sky, a victory by Trump of 4,000,000 votes to 3,600,000 votes – a drop of about 12.5% for Trump from Mitt Romney’s 2012 total, with an increase of about nine percent for Hillary Clinton over President Obama in 2012 – would translate to 52.6% for Trump to 47.4% for Clinton in a two-person race. That’s a little less than six percent, but grant me that much optimism. (For the record, 4.1 million votes for Trump to 3.6 million for Clinton would be 53.2% to 46.8%, or a 6.4 point difference, so assume we’re somewhere in the middle if you want.) All disclaimers aside, I think we can all agree that as things stand today, a result like this is in the ballpark.

Now here’s the thing: There’s always some level of dropoff from the Presidential level to the downballot level. In the three most recent Presidential elections, there has been much more dropoff on the Republican side than on the Democratic side.


2004

Bush -  4,526,917
Kerry - 2,832,704

Candidate         Votes   Dropoff   Drop %
==========================================
Carrillo      3,891,482   635,435    14.0%
Brister       4,093,854   433,063     9.6%
Keasler       3,990,315   536,602    11.9%

Scarborough   2,872,717       N/A      N/A
Van Os        2,817,700    15,004     0.5%
Molina        2,906,720       N/A      N/A


2008

McCain - 4,479,328
Obama  - 3,528,633

Candidate         Votes   Dropoff   Drop %
==========================================
Williams      4,003,789   475,539    10.6%
Jefferson     4,092,181   387,147     8.6%
Wainwright    3,926,015   553,313    12.4%
Johnson       4,018,396   460,932    10.3%
Price         3,948,722   530,606    11.8%

Thompson      3,406,174   122,459     3.5%
Jordan        3,374,433   154,200     4.4%
Houston       3,525,141     3,492     0.0%
Yanez         3,428,179   100,454     2.8%
Strawn        3,482,718    45,915     1.3%


2012

Romney - 4,569,843
Obama  - 3,308,124

Candidate         Votes   Dropoff   Drop %
==========================================
Craddick      4,336,499    233,344    5.1%
Hecht         4,127,493    442,350    9.7%
Keller        4,257,024    312,819    6.8%

Henry         3,057,733    250,391    7.6%
Petty         3,219,948     88,176    2.7%
Hampton       3,163,825    144,299    4.4%

Republicans did better in 2012 than in 2008, to which I attribute greater enthusiasm on their part, which led to more straight-ticket and general downballot voting. They obviously had a lot of enthusiasm in 2004, but they also had some crossover votes at the Presidential level, as well as (I believe) a decent number of people who turned out just to vote for President. Dems, on the other hand, had less dropoff in every race except one, and in most cases the difference between R dropoff and D dropoff was large. I attribute that in one part to good messaging about straight-ticket voting, especially in 2008, and one part being that if you bothered to show up and vote for a Democratic Presidential candidate in Texas, you were probably pretty committed to the party as a whole.

I think this year combines the lack of enthusiasm on the Republican side that we saw in 2008, plus the possibility of people showing up to just vote for Trump and nobody else, like in 2004. Against that, some number of people who normally vote for Republican Presidential candidates will do something else in that race this year, then vote normally after that. Put it all together, and I think the likelihood of Republican dropoff in the 2004 and 2008 ranges is a reasonably likely outcome this year.

If that is the case, and if we are indeed headed for a Presidential race with roughly a six-point differential between Trump and Clinton, then the math is clear. Four million less ten percent is 3.6 million, or what I’m projecting Clinton to get. Sure, there will be some Democratic dropoff as well, but you could have 11 or 12 percent loss on the R side, with only one percent or so for a given D. That will vary from candidate to candidate for reasons none of us can predict or will understand, but that’s my whole point: Under these conditions, we’re basically at a coin toss for downballot statewide races. And if that happens, we could see one or more Democrats squeak past their opponents and win their races. Looking at the numbers for the two most recent elections above, Sam Houston and Susan Strawn would have won in this environment, with Mark Thompson, Linda Yanez, and Michelle Petty (2012) falling just short. All they needed was for the Presidential race to have been sufficiently close.

Now as always, this comes with a pile of caveats – the election is still three months away, this is based on one poll, even a seven or eight point lead for Trump would almost certainly render all this moot, there could be a whole lot of Johnson-plus-downballot-GOP voters, etc etc etc. I’m absolutely not saying this will happen, nor am I saying it is likely to happen. I am saying it is possible, and conditions could become better for it rather than worse. I wouldn’t have said this a month ago, and the next poll result may make me want to throw this whole post into the trash, but my original statement stands: As things look right now, it’s not crazy to consider the possibility that at least one downballot statewide Democrat could win this fall.

So now that we’ve had this thought, what are we going to do about it? I’ll address that in the next post.

PPP: Trump 44, Clinton 38

We knew this poll was coming, and it confirms what we have been seeing elsewhere.

PPP’s new Texas poll finds a relatively tight race, at least on the curve of recent Presidential election results in the state. Donald Trump leads with 44% to 38% for Hillary Clinton, 6% for Gary Johnson, 2% for Jill Stein, and less than half a percent (0) for Evan McMullin. In a head to head contest Trump leads Clinton 50-44 in the state, which Mitt Romney won by 16 points in 2012.

A Democratic victory in Texas this year remains a stretch but within the numbers there are signs of Democrats being positioned to become seriously competitive there in the years ahead. Trump’s lead is based entirely on his holding a 63-33 advantage among seniors. With voters under 65, Clinton leads him 49-45. And when you look just specifically at voters under 45, Clinton leads Trump 60-35. Older voters are overwhelmingly responsible for the Republican advantage in Texas, and generational change is likely to help Democrats become more competitive.

A big piece of that generational change is the increasing racial diversity of the electorate in Texas. Trump has a 69/25 lead with white voters but the reason the state’s so competitive overall is that among non-white voters Clinton has a 73-21 lead, including a 68-27 edge with the state’s booming Hispanic population.

Clinton’s unpopular in Texas, as you would expect, with a 36/59 favorability rating. But Trump’s not a whole lot better off with only 40% of voters seeing him favorably to 53% with a negative opinion. The tax return issue continues to plague Trump with 64% of voters thinking he needs to release his returns to only 25% who don’t think it’s necessary for him to. Even Trump’s supporters, by a 43/41 spread, think he should release them. Another issue that has the potential to cause Trump problems down the road is if he refuses to participate in the debates as scheduled. 77% of voters think he needs to do that to only 14% who don’t think he needs to and among his own supporters there’s an even stronger sentiment- 82/12- that Trump needs to participate. If Trump is stubborn about that it could cause the bottom to fall out on his support even further.

The full polling memo is here. A few thoughts:

– If President Obama were running against Trump, he would be trailing by only two points, 48-46. Let that sink in for a moment. Obama’s approval/disapproval numbers are 42/54, which is a tiny bit better than Trump’s favorable/unfavorable numbers of 40/53.

– This is Clinton’s high-water mark in Texas so far, which puts her in Obama’s polling range from 2012, while Trump continues to lag way behind Romney’s poll numbers. All this is of course consistent with the race being closer now than it was four years ago, but it’s not yet suggestive of Clinton doing better than Obama did. PPP did poll Trump/Clinton straight up, and the result there was 50/44, which is more in line with her exceeding the 2012 level, but it’s not a two-candidate race, so all that shows is that she has the potential to grow.

– Trump’s numbers among white voters are closer to what Romney got, but still a few points behind it. The 69-25 figure cited about is from the Trump/Clinton two-person choice; with all four candidates listed he leads by a more modest 64-21 among whites. He does have the potential to grow as well, as Gary Johnson gets 5% and 8% are undecided. It’s also well within reason that this just portends a decrease in Republican turnout. It’s still too early to say.

– This is the first poll of Texas I’ve seen that includes all four candidates. Johnson’s 6% and Stein’s 2% would significantly exceed their numbers from 2012 if they hold up, but as we know from national polling data, third party numbers tend to be exaggerated in polls compared to what ultimately happens at the ballot box. This is a weird year, of course, so one wants to tread carefully in making any broad claims. Unfortunately, there’s no basis for comparison in the 2012 numbers, as none of the polls from September onward included Johnson or Stein, who represented the L and G parties that year as well. The one data point we have is in the UT/Trib poll from October 12, 2012, in the Senate race (see page 3), where Lib candidate John Jay Myers polled at 3% and Green David Collins was at 2%. In actual voting, Myers wound up with 2.06% and Collins with 0.86%, higher than their Presidential counterparts but lower than their poll totals. Make of that what you will.

– The age split is encouraging from a Democratic perspective, but old people vote, and a 20-year timeline as suggested in the polling memo is forever. The Democrats’ base problem remains the same – base turnout hasn’t grown, at least in non-Presidential years, since 2002. If Democratic turnout increases this year, then perhaps there is some hope to get an increase in 2018. Of course, one could have made the same claim after 2008, and we know how that went. Solving the base turnout issue is the Hilbert problem for Texas Dems.

PDiddie has more.

Gallego claims poll lead over Hurd in CD23

Just another item to add to the list of reasons why Donald Trump is and has been bad news for Texas Republicans.

Pete Gallego

Pete Gallego

Voters in the district, which is the largest Congressional district in the country which is not its own state, stretching from northwest Bexar County to El Paso, have an ‘overwhelmingly negative’ view of Trump, with 37% viewing the likely Republican candidate favorably and 58% viewing Trump unfavorably.

Because of that, the district is 45% to 40% for Hillary Clinton, despite the fact that Republican Greg Abbott won the district big over Democrat Wendy Davis in 2014.

Gallego has 45%, Hurd 37%, with Libertarian Ruben Corvalan with 4% and 18% still undecided.

The district is about even in the percentage of voters who self-identify as Republcian and those who consider themselves Democrats.

Because of that closely matched makeup, the district has essentially changed hands in every election for the past decade.

Many Republicans are concerned that Trump at the head of the ticket will erode the party’s growth among Hispanics and will cost it down ballot races.

You can see the Gallego campaign email with a smidgeon of polling memo here. Many disclaimers apply: It’s early, it’s one poll, it’s an internal poll, no crosstabs, etc etc etc. All true, but also all consistent with the statewide polling numbers we have seen so far, as well as the national trends. (See, for example, Latino Decisions’ numbers from Monday, via Daily Kos.) Remember, every Republican other than Nathan Hecht carried CD23 in 2012, when Gallego was elected. Despite a huge tailwind in 2014, Hurd won with less than 50%. If Hillary Clinton goes on to carry CD23, Hurd is almost certainly toast. And if Hillary Clinton is trailing in Texas by less than ten points, she’s almost certainly leading in CD23. It’s just math, and unless things change, that math looks a lot better right now for Gallego than it does for Hurd.

Our first general election poll of Texas

From the inbox:

In a poll released today and conducted June 13-14, 2016, Texas voters are specifically rejecting Donald Trump’s lies and the corruption of State GOP elected officials.

While Trump leads Hillary Clinton by 7 points (36.8 % – 29.7% ±3.1%) a deeper dive shows an overall unwillingness amongst Republican voters to pull the lever for a straight ticket. Republicans also make up the lions share of undecided.

998 responses were collected by live telephone calls from a random sample of Texas voters, balanced to the likely 2016 General Election turnout on June 13 and 14, 2016. The poll has a margin of error of 3.1%.  The poll was conducted by Leland Beatty, an Austin-based market research consultant with extensive experience polling Texas voters.

Below are the most important findings from today’s poll:

In Texas, Clinton Poised to Top Obama 2008 Vote; Gaining on Trump

Hillary Clinton is on track to top President Obama’s 2008 44% finish in Texas.  Obama’s performance in 2008 had a powerful down-ballot effect, pushing Democrats close to a majority in the Texas House of Representatives.

Trump will have significant difficulty adding to his 7 point lead (3.1% margin of error). Undecided voters were significantly concerned about their place in the economy and about the honesty and character of the candidates.

Undecided voters are also very fond of former President George W Bush.  Bush, together with most of his family, has declared he will not support Trump.

Economy and Corruption of Elected Officials Top Texan’s concerns; Immigration Barely Registers

By a 3 to 1 margin, Texas voters believe state government corruption is a real problem.Two-thirds of Trump supporters believe that corruption in Texas state government is a real problem.  Among the rest of Texas voters, 81% believe that state government corruption is a real problem, and 51% believe corruption is widespread throughout Texas government.

Because of continuing legal action and law enforcement investigations against incumbent Republican office holders, corruption concerns are certain to create a significant drag on the Republican ballot.

A quarter of undecided voters are most concerned about the economy, and the improving economy is likely to aid Clinton’s appeal to voters.

Only 7% of undecided voters (2% of the total vote) identified immigration as their primary issue. Trump and other Statewide Republicans are well outside of the mainstream on their immigration positions.

Trump Lies and Hush Money Scandals Bringing Down GOP Vote

Trump’s seemingly pathological problem with the truth is undercutting his potential among undecided voters.  1 out of 4 self-identified Republicans are, so far, refusing to support Trump. 80% of those feel favorably toward former President George W. Bush, and 40% expressed concern about the honesty of the candidates.  If Democrats successfully connect Trump’s truth troubles with voter’s concerns about corrupt state elected officials, a Democratic resurgence is almost guaranteed.  

The fact that many Republican elected officials have used taxpayer dollars to pay hush money to avoid personal lawsuits has the potential to cover the entire Republican ticket in perceived corruption.

Republican Straight Ticket Voters at Low Tide; Voters Suspicious of Statewide Leaders

Over half (52%) of self-identified Republicans say they may vote for candidates not on the Republican ballot. 27% of self-identified Republicans say they may not even vote Republican at the top of the ticket, because of their doubts about Trump.

Because so many self-identified Republicans have deep doubts about their own candidates, Republican straight ticket voting could fall in Texas to its lowest level since Republicans became the majority party—and that same doubt could bring a sooner than expected end to Republican dominance in Texas.

Crosstabs are here. As you know, I’ve been waiting for one of these to come along. Now that I have this one, here are a few thoughts:

– This poll is of registered voters, not “likely” voters. That’s fine, and I’d argue wholly appropriate at this time, but it’s a distinction to keep in mind when comparing polls.

– For comparison purposes and to keep my presentation consistent, here’s a table of the topline result:


Candidate    Pct
================
Trump      36.8%
Clinton    29.7%
Johnson     2.6%
DK/Else    31.0%

I’ll get to the undecideds in a bit. It’s interesting to me that in a year where the Libertarian ticket is being touted as a viable Trump alternative, and some people are speculating that they could reach the 15% national polling average needed to be invited to the televised debates, Gary Johnson landed at 2.6% here. To be fair, that’s considerably higher than the 1.11% he got in 2012, which in turn was the first time a Libertarian candidate finished with more than one percent of the vote in Texas. All of which to say, fifteen percent is a long way away. There was a followup question for the Johnson supporters asking what motivated their selection. Of the 26 total people who named Johnson as their choice, 11 said theirs was a protest vote, 10 said they were inspired by Libertarian principles, and five said they were unsure or didn’t know. Make of that what you will.

– It’s always possible that most if not all of the 31% of respondents who said they were undecided will simply not vote, though I think that’s less likely in a higher turnout election like Presidential year elections. Be that as it may, I like to filter out the undecideds when there are a lot of them and then recalculate the totals. If you do that, you get the following:


Candidate    Pct
================
Trump      53.3%
Clinton    43.0%
Johnson     3.8%

That puts Clinton within a hair of a single digit deficit, and puts her less than a point behind Obama’s 2008 performance, which was 43.7%. Not a bad start, all things considered.

– That said, most of the Undecideds are people who usually vote Republican and who rated George W. Bush the better President over Bill Clinton by a 2-1 margin. Trump therefore has more room to improve. In fact, if you assign the undecideds who preferred Bush’s presidency to Trump and those who preferred Bill Clinton’s to Hillary, you get


Candidate    Pct
================
Trump      56.7%
Clinton    40.5%
Johnson     2.8%

Which looks a lot like the 2012 Romney/Obama numbers. Point being, it really matters how undecided those voters are.

– Speaking of 2012, the closest Obama was to Romney in any poll was a PPP poll from April that had him down 50-43. No other poll had him higher than 41, which is within a point of where he wound up, or closer than down 11. One poll as we know doesn’t tell us much. We’ll see what the trends look like, to see if breaking 45% and/or finishing within ten points is feasible.

– The crosstabs that we have do not include demographic information other than gender, which was oddly skewed towards women (60% of respondents were female). That means I can’t tell you how white/black/Latino voters went, nor can I tell you anything about how people voted by age range. That also means we can’t make guesses about how increases in turnout level, which would almost certainly make the electorate younger and less white, might affect the result.

– A third of self-identified Republicans thought corruption in state government was “widespread”, a third thought it was “a problem, but not widespread”, and the rest were split between “not a problem” and undecided. More than half of Democrats and more than half of voters who did not identify as either R or D thought corruption in state government was “widespread”, with only five percent of Dems and ten percent of neithers thinking it’s not a problem. File that away for 2018.

I think that about covers it for now. According to this Chron story, the poll was commissioned by “a group of Texas House Democrats”. Wish I had more information about it, but that’s what I’ve got. I can’t wait to see what the next result looks like.

An early look ahead to the legislative races

The Trib takes a look at the legislative races that could end with a seat changing parties.

vote-button

• HD-23. Freshman state Rep. Wayne Faircloth, R-Dickinson, against former state Rep. Lloyd Criss, R-La Marque.

• HD-43. State Rep. J.M. Lozano, R-Kingsville, will face Democratic challenger Marisa Yvette Garcia-Utley.

• HD-54. State Rep. Jimmie Don Aycock, R-Killeen, decided not to seek reelection in a district where Republicans have only a narrow advantage over Democrats in presidential election years like this one. Killeen Mayor Scott Cosper apparently won the Republican runoff, but his 43-vote margin over Austin Ruiz has prompted a recount. The winner will face Democrat Sandra Blankenship in November.

• HD-78. State Rep. Joe Moody, D-El Paso, will contend with Jeffrey Lane, a Republican in a district where Democrats have demonstrated a slight advantage.

• HD-102. Freshman Rep. Linda Koop, R-Dallas, will face Democrat Laura Irvin.

• HD-105. State Rep. Rodney Anderson, R-Grand Prairie, currently holds this swing district. He’ll battle Democrat Terry Meza in November.

• HD-107. State Rep. Ken Sheets, R-Dallas, has fended off a series of challenges in his narrowly Republican district; this time, the chief opponent is Democrat Victoria Neave.

• HD-113. Like Sheets in the district next door, state Rep. Cindy Burkett, R-Sunnyvale, has a district where the incumbent is always under attack. Her Democratic opponent this time is Rhetta Andrews Bowers.

• HD-117. State Rep. Rick Galindo, R-San Antonio, is one of two House Republicans defending a district where Democrats generally win statewide races. He’ll face the guy he beat, former Rep. Philip Cortez, a Democrat, in November.

• HD-118. The other of those Republicans is John Luhan, also of San Antonio, who won a special election earlier this year to replace Democrat Joe Farias, who retired. He’ll face Democrat Tomás Uresti — the loser of that special election — in a November rematch.

• HD-144. State Rep. Gilbert Peña, R-Pasadena, represents a district that has gone for Republicans in some years and Democrats in others. And it’s another rematch: He will face former Rep. Mary Ann Perez, the Democrat who lost in 2014 by 152 votes out of 11,878 cast.

Several incumbents got free passes in districts where an able opponent might have been dangerous. In HD-34, state Rep. Abel Herrero, D-Robstown, drew no Republican challenger. In HD-45, Republican Jason Isaac didn’t draw a Democratic opponent.

That’s a pretty comprehensive list. Because I like numbers, I went and dug up the 2012 district results so you can get some idea of how steep a hill these are to climb for the Democrats:


Dist    Romney    Obama    Romney%   Obama%    Diff   Boost
===========================================================
023     31,282   25,365     54.56%   44.24%   5,917   23.3%
043     25,017   22,554     52.05%   46.92%   2,463   10.9%
054     25,343   21,909     52.90%   45.73%   3,434   15.7%
102     29,198   24,958     53.01%   45.31%   4,240   17.0%
105     23,228   20,710     52.11%   46.46%   2,518   12.2%
107     27,185   24,593     51.81%   46.87%   2,592   10.5%
112     28,221   22,308     55.01%   43.48%   5,913   26.5%
113     27,098   23,893     52.51%   46.30%   3,205   13.4%
114     35,975   28,182     55.21%   43.47%   7,793   27.7%
115     29,861   23,353     55.26%   43.22%   6,508   27.9%
136     35,296   26,423     55.06%   41.22%   8,873   33.6%

“Diff” is just the difference between the Romney and Obama totals. “Boost” is my way of quantifying how wide that gap really is. It’s the ratio of the Diff to the Obama total, which put another way is how big a turnout boost Democrats would need in 2016 over 2012 to match the Republican total. That doesn’t take into account any other factors, of course, it’s just intended as a bit of context. Note that for HDs 78 (where Obama won by more than ten points in 2012), 117, 118, and 144, Democrats already had a majority of the vote in 2012, so in theory all that is needed is to hold serve. Individual candidates matter as well, of course, though in 2012 there was literally only on State House race in which the winner was not from the party whose Presidential candidate carried the district, that being then-Rep. Craig Eiland in HD23. Point being, you can swim against the tide but it’s a lot more challenging to do so these days. I went and added a couple more races to the list that the Trib put together just for completeness and a sense of how big the difference is between the top tier and the next tier. I don’t have a point to make beyond this, I’m just noting all this for the record.

Hillary Clinton on the Trump effect in Texas

I have three things to say about this.

Presumptive Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton posed a wild notion in a new interview: She could carry Texas in the fall.

In a newly published New York magazine interview with reporter Rebecca Traister, Clinton was asked which traditionally red states she might make a play for against likely GOP nominee, Donald Trump:

“Texas!” she exclaimed, eyes wide, as if daring me to question this, which I did. “You are not going to win Texas,” I said. She smiled, undaunted. “If black and Latino voters come out and vote, we could win Texas,” she told me firmly, practically licking her lips.

While a long-coveted prize for Democrats, few political players in Texas see a path for the Democrats to carry the state in this general election. Two years ago, the state’s Democrats had a similar strategy to Clinton’s in hoping that Wendy Davis could draw more minorities to the polls in a high-profile bid for governor. She ultimately lost to Republican Greg Abbott by 20 points.

Still, Trump’s unconventional candidacy has re-set the electoral map, with political strategists debating which states are – and are not – newly competitive. Some argue that Trump could possibly challenge Clinton in Rust Belt states that Democrats have recently carried with ease, while motivating a backlash in minority turnout in Southern and Western states.

[…]

The reality for Clinton is that her Texas general election outlook remains grim, even if Trump’s incendiary statements about Hispanics and African Americans might boost turnout against him in the state’s metropolitan areas.

In 2012, Republican Mitt Romney defeated President Obama by a 16 point margin. U.S. Sen. John McCain defeated Obama by an 11 point margin in 2008.

1. I appreciate the optimism, but the cold reality is that in the 2012 election, Mitt Romney received 1,261,719 more votes than President Obama did. It strains credulity to think that such a gap could be closed via increases in voter registration and participation. To be sure, some of that gap can, should, and absolutely needs to be closed, but in the short term it’s going to take reducing the number of Republican votes to really make things interesting. Perhaps some of that will happen. I have operated under the assumption that some number of Republicans will refuse to vote for Donald Trump, with some undervoting or staying home, some voting Libertarian, and some supporting Clinton. We can only guess how much of that may happen, but any blue sky scenario that involves Texas being a closer race than we have seen this century involves fewer Republican votes for Trump as much as it involves a boost in Democratic turnout.

2. Of course, Hillary Clinton is more than welcome to take direct action to make that Democratic turnout boost happen by investing resources into our state. I don’t expect anything like what she’s putting into states like Ohio or Florida, but very little happens in a vacuum. Investing in Texas would have the side benefit of helping to win a swing Congressional seat, make the Legislature a little less red, and maybe even soften things up a tad for 2018. It sure couldn’t hurt to start reminding all those black and Latino voters she hopes to energize that Greg Abbott and Dan Patrick are proudly supporting Donald Trump this year, and make them own all the odious things Trump is saying.

3. I’ll say again, it would be nice to see a general election poll or two of our state. Admittedly, with the Democratic primary still unsettled, results now would be of lesser value than they will be in another month or two. It would still be good to have some snapshot of where things stand today, if only to point to later when things have gotten real. Juanita and Paradise in Hell have more.

We will have exit polls this year

Good.

Two years ago, a consortium of news outlets that conducts nationwide exit polls during every November election announced it was scaling back efforts in Texas and 18 other states. The move left political researchers with little data to study shifts in the Texas electorate.

This year, with a high-profile gubernatorial race on the November ballot, the National Election Pool confirmed on Tuesday that it plans to conduct more robust exit polling in Texas this year, giving researchers and political analysts the means to better examine the outcome.

“The current plan is to do a full-state exit poll in Texas,” said Joe Lenski, executive vice president of Edison Research, the New Jersey firm that conducts polling for the National Election Pool, a consortium that includes The Associated Press, ABC News, CBS News, CNN, Fox News and NBC News.

Every two years, Edison hires nearly 3,000 people to interview more than 15,000 voters around the country after they cast their ballots. The surveys ask not only about how participants voted but also about their opinions on major issues and about their backgrounds, including age, education, income, religion and ethnicity. In Texas, the NEP has traditionally conducted a mix of in-person exit polling and telephone interviews to account for early voters, who can cast more than half of the ballots in some races.

Lenski said that the decision to return resources to Texas this year could change until plans are finalized in September. The sponsoring media organizations decide how to divide polling resources among the 50 states. And over the last year, the gubernatorial race between Republican Greg Abbott and Democrat Wendy Davis has drawn national interest.

“The states get more resources the more competitive and newsworthy the races are,” Lenski said. “That’s an editorial decision that the news organizations make.”

That National Election Pool link in the story is broken, so try this instead. You’ve seen my increasingly exasperated posts since Election Day 2012 about Latino voting for Republicans in Texas. That exasperation is based in part on the fact that the support level in question for Mitt Romney or Ted Cruz or Rick Perry or whoever is inevitably unsourced, and the fact that even a cursory check of the actual available evidence would put those numbers into question. With actual exit polling in place, at least we won’t be guessing about the numbers this year. As someone who could use a little less exasperation in his life, I appreciate it.

What the Trib’s pollsters miss about their own polls

Having published their poll results, Jim Henson goes back and analyzes their gubernatorial poll, pronouncing it all a big success.

Sen. Wendy Davis

Sen. Wendy Davis

The partisan responses to the poll results have been similarly predictable. The Republican chorus is singing I-told-you-so, chalking up Davis’ position to the impact of the media pack reporting of her biographical fudges. The Democratic peanut gallery has pointed to the fact that the poll was in the field before Ted Nugent did a double live gonzo on Abbott’s thus far business-as-usual campaign.

The partisan responses are simultaneously more or less plausible, but in both cases frequently overstated – not a shocking state of affairs since we are, after all, in the middle of an election year. But these latest results reflect factors that are much more deeply rooted than the low-hanging fruit making headlines and feeding campaign emails: Abbot’s 11-point pre-Nugent advantage emerged from the relatively static underlying pattern of partisan identification in the state and the dynamics of candidate name recognition ­– both of which still add up to a significant disadvantage for Democrats.

None of which is to say that Davis’ campaign has collapsed, as some critics, both friendly and hostile, have suggested. These new numbers are less a sign of the decay of the Davis candidacy than a reversion toward the mean ­– that is, a return to the expected steady state. Davis’ 6-point deficit in the October 2013 UT/TT poll reflected the final dance of her very public coming out party as the excitement that propelled her into the race in the first place receded into the realities of day-to-day campaigning. At the time, Davis was in a unique position for a Texas Democrat, known by a greater share of the electorate than her Republican counterpart.

Davis now finds herself trailing by 11 points, but this current state reflects the underlying partisan composition of the electorate – not some major, event-driven shift in sentiment.

Maybe I’m the only person fixating on this, but as I said before, the problem with comparing the two polls is that in the first one they asked about three candidates – Davis, Abbott, and Libertarian Kathie Glass, who drew five percent – but in the second one they only asked about two. It seems likely to me that Glass would have drawn a few points away from Abbott, but even if you think the effect would have been more or less evenly distributed, the fact remains that Davis and Abbott likely would have had different numbers in a two-person matchup than they did in the three-person race that was polled. I say that makes the two polls not directly comparable, and I fail to understand why in two different articles so far neither Henson nor Daron Shaw has even mentioned this difference, if only to dismiss it as the useless obsession of some punk blogger. It’s a small thing, but I really don’t think I’m asking for too much for them to acknowledge the difference.

That may be a small thing, but this isn’t:

While Davis needs to both mobilize large groups of Democratic voters in an off-year election and persuade no small number of Republicans to defect, the task is becoming harder by the day. Among key groups that Davis might hope to court, Abbott looks stronger – at least so far. On the trial ballot, Abbott leads Davis 42 percent to 40 percent among suburban women;among Hispanics, favorable attitudes toward Abbott have increased from 21 percent in June 2013 to 30 percent in October to 39 percent in our most recent poll. Add to this that most of the Texas electorate, especially in non-presidential years, tends to be white — where Abbott leads Davis 57 percent to 32 percent — and Davis’ challenge only grows.

Maybe you looked at that 57-32 lead Abbott holds with Anglo voters in this poll and said “Huh, that’s a pretty big lead” and didn’t give it another thought. Or maybe you were curious enough to wonder how that might compare to other recent poll results in Texas, since putting a number in context always makes it more useful than not putting it in context. If only there were date from previous polls to which that could be compared.

Well, of course, such data does exist, as Jim Henson well knows since some of that data is his own. See those Texas poll results there on my sidebar? Let’s click through a few of the recent ones to see what they tell us about Anglo voter preferences in our fair state in the last election.

YouGov, Oct 31 – Nov 3: Romney 70, Obama 25

Texas Lyceum, Oct 2012 (page 422): Romney 67, Obama 28

UT/TT, Oct 2012 (page 112): Romney 67, Obama 24

In other words, according three different polls, one of which was Jim Henson’s own UT/Texas Trib poll, Mitt Romney was leading President Obama by a range of 39 to 45 points among Anglo voters, which is considerably more than Greg Abbott’s relatively puny 25-point lead with them over Wendy Davis. In fact, if you substitute the 57-32 numbers they found in favor of Abbott for the 67-24 numbers they had for Romney and recalculate the raw totals based on that, Romney’s lead drops from 14 points (53.88 to 39.75) to three points (47.38 to 44.5). And Henson wants us to believe this represents a “growing challenge” to Wendy Davis? Henson didn’t just bury the lede in his story, he first strangled it with a lamp cord, then covered up the grave with loose vegetation to throw off the searchers.

Well, sure, you say, but everybody knows that the makeup of the 2012 electorate was less Anglo than the electorate in a non-Presidential year like 2010 or 2014 would be. I’d agree with that, but guess what? We have 2010 poll data to look at, too, including a result from – you guessed it – Jim Henson:

Texas Lyceum, Oct 2010: Abbott 66, Radnofsky 20

UT/TT, Oct 2010 (page 62): Perry 60, White 30; (page 73): Abbott 63, Radnofsky 24

For some bizarre reason, the Lyceum poll has no breakdown by race of the 2010 gubernatorial election. They have it for other races, but not Perry versus White. I’m sure that’s an inadvertent omission in the publication of the crosstabs, but go figure anyway. Once you get past that, the first thing you might notice, if you compare the crosstabs from 2010 to the crosstabs from 2012 for the UT/TT poll is that the racial makeup of each sample is identical, with roughly 65% of the total being Anglo. Henson and Shaw then take the raw totals backstage and do their proprietary statistical mumbo-jumbo on them to produce the result they then write about. That’s the basis (via PDiddie) of RG Ratcliffe’s complaint about Trib polls. But putting that aside, Henson’s own polling shows that Abbott went from a 39-point lead among Anglo voters in 2010 against Barbara Radnofsky to a 25-point lead among Anglo voters in 2014 against Wendy Davis. The drop is smaller in the Governor’s race poll, where Bill White trailed Rick Perry by 30, but that’s still a five point improvement for Wendy Davis. Why isn’t this precipitous drop in support among Anglo voters for Republicans the story? What am I missing here?

By the way, if you do the same math for the Abbott-Radnofsky numbers that I did for the Romney-Obama numbers, Abbott winds up better off – he still leads BAR by a 50.3 to 39.7 mark, which is pretty close to the lead Henson reports Abbott having over Davis, though down quite a bit from the 20-point lead they actually showed him with in 2010. The difference here is due to Abbott being in a near-tie among Hispanic voters with BAR; Rick Perry had the same result against Bill White in that poll. While Henson says Abbott’s favorability numbers among Hispanic voters are trending up he doesn’t say anything about the horserace numbers among Hispanic voters. For reasons I don’t understand, the Trib doesn’t include the crosstabs of their own polls when they report on them. You have to go to Henson and Shaw’s other home, the Texas Politics Project, to find them. Turns out Henson does show Abbott leading Davis 40-36 among Hispanic voters, a result that ought to be even bigger news than the topline but which does even warrant a by-the-way. That isn’t a fluke, either – David Dewhurst leads Leticia Van de Putte 33-31 among Hispanic voters, though poor Dan Patrick trails her by a 35-27 margin. Nobody’s really claiming Hispanic voters went nearly 50-50 for Republicans in 2010, or that they’re set to do the same thing or be even more favorable to them this year. Henson and Shaw certainly aren’t, or surely they would have said so by now. This is an artifact of their very small sample size – 130 Hispanic voters total, for a margin of error of 8.6% – and their odd construct, which is why it attracts so much criticism. Whatever mumbo-jumbo they’re doing behind the scenes, they must be doing a lot of it.

I get that Henson and Shaw are making their best guess about what the electorate will look like in November, just as every pollster ultimately does. They expect that the electorate will tend to favor Greg Abbott, and by God that’s what their results show. But this poll, with its bizarre but completely unmentioned crosstabs, is national news, as is that highly questionable Democratic primary poll. If the goal was to get people talking about this race – especially if the goal was to get people talking to Henson and Shaw about their perception of this race – then this has been a big success. If the goal was to help us understand what’s actually happening in this race, then I’d say there’s still work to be done. But don’t worry, I’m sure their next poll will clear up any lingering questions.

Lyceum poll: Abbott over Davis, 29-21

Make of this what you will.

Sen. Wendy Davis

Sen. Wendy Davis

Republican Greg Abbott is leading Democrat Wendy Davis by 8 points in a hypothetical matchup for Texas governor, but it’s a statistical dead heat among women, according to a Texas Lyceum Poll of registered voters released Wednesday.

Abbott, the attorney general, leads Davis, a state senator from Fort Worth, 29 percent to 21 percent in the poll, with a whopping 50 percent undecided. The poll has a margin of error of +/- 3.47 percentage points.

Abbott’s lead shrinks to 2 points, within the margin of error, when only women are counted. In that slice of the electorate, Abbott had 25 percent and Davis was at 23 percent, with 51 percent undecided.

Davis, who is expected to announce her campaign for governor on Thursday, leads Abbott 36 percent to 10 percent among black voters and 22 percent to 18 percent among Hispanic voters in the poll. Abbott has a lopsided lead over Davis among independents — 18 percent to 8 percent — but in that group, 74 percent are undecided.

Cal Jillson, a political scientist at Southern Methodist University, said he found the gender gap “intriguing.” Given the fact that white Texans make up two-thirds of the electorate and routinely give 70 percent or more of their votes to Republicans, Davis needs to peel off white suburban women from Abbott if she has any hope of winning.

Here’s the homepage for Lyceum polling, and for their 2013 poll. The press release for this poll is here, the executive summary is here, the poll results are here, and the crosstabs are here. I think this poll is mostly a recapitulation of name recognition, though I find it interesting that there were still this many non-answers given that both Abbott and Davis’ party memberships were mentioned. It should be noted that there was a significant gender gap in the 2012 poll results as well – see page 43 of the crosstabs for the Presidential numbers, in which Romney led Obama 63-33 among men but only 50-43 among women. Everyone knows that winning over women will be a key part of Davis’ strategy, so this will be worth watching as we go forward.

More from Trail Blazers:

There is something in the survey to hearten both candidates, pollster Daron Shaw said.

Davis should be bolstered by the fact that Abbott – despite 12 years as attorney general and five on the Texas Supreme Court – is not established with voters, Shaw said.

She still has the opportunity to tie him closely to his former protégé Ted Cruz, paint him as extremist, or define Abbott as she likes, he said.

Abbott could look at the numbers and see that if the 50 percent of undecided voters break like the rest, then the results would be 58 percent for him and 42 percent for Davis, Shaw said.

Those numbers are similar to the 2010 governor’s election when Gov. Rick Perry beat Democratic contender and former Houston mayor Bill White by 55 to 42 percent.

“If I’m Abbott, I’d be up 16 percent over the woman who’s supposed to be the celebrity of the Democratic Party. So whatever star power came to her, it hasn’t seemed to move the dial,” he said.

I don’t know that you can make that assumption about how the vote would be split among the non-answer folks. That’s pretty much going to be the crux of the whole campaign. Of interest will be whether Abbott starts spending some of his gazillions of dollars now to try to define Davis before she can amass a campaign war chest. If I thought Abbott had any idea how to talk to non-Republican primary voters, I might be a bit concerned about that. Given the track record so far, staying quiet for now is probably the wiser course.

Finally, Ann Richards’ former campaign manager has some words of wisdom for Team Davis. Seems like a lot of the things that were true in 1990 can or will be true next year, too.