The Tejas Challenge
Texas now has the second largest congressional delegation in the country-- 36 House members to California's 52. The Democrats hold half the number of seats the Republicans hold-- 12 to 24. Ominously for Team Red, the only incumbent defeated this cycle was Republican freshman Quico Canseco, who was beaten by Blue Dog Pete Gallego in TX-23, a huge stretch of southwest Texas just west of San Antonio all the way to the outskirts of El Paso, right along the Rio Grande and Mexican border in the south and almost as far north as a GOP heartland around Odessa-Midland. It was the only district in the state considered "in play" this cycle and Gallego won it 96,477 (50.3%) to 87,255 (45.5%). If a "close" race can be defined as one in which the loser gets at least 40%, there was only one other close race in the state of Texas-- the open 14th CD, where Ron Paul had resigned. Ex-Congressman Nick Lampson, another Blue Dog, took 44.6% against now Congressman-elect Randy Weber. 2013 will see Texas with 8 freshmen, Weber (R) and Gallego (D), plus Beto O'Rourke (D), Joaquin Castro (D), Roger Williams (R), Marc Veasey (D), Filemon Vela (D) and Steve Stockman (R).
Romney won the state, 4,555,799 (57.2%) to 3,294,440 (41.4%). Obama, of course, won all the big cities-- Houston, Dallas, Austin, San Antonio, El Paso-- and also won all the rural, Latino-heavy counties in the Rio Grande Valley, some, like Starr (86.4%), Zavala (83.3%), Maverick (78.6%) Brooks (78.5%), Jim Hogg (78%), Duval (76.7%), Webb (76.6%), Demmit (73.4%), Zapata (71.3%)-- with overwhelming, unassailable margins. So do Republicans have anything to worry about going forward in the Lone Star State? Jason Sattler, in yesterday's National Memo made the case for why they do.
Texas' Hispanics may be overwhelmingly Catholic, and perhaps even "socially conservative," (although most Latino voters think abortion should be legal and they now support marriage equality as well) but Romney fared a lot worse among them than George W. Bush did.
Bush vehemently supported comprehensive immigration reform-- as did McCain, before AM radio convinced him that building “that damn fence” was his only way into the White House. In the GOP primary, Mitt Romney went right on immigration to beat Rick Perry, endorsing a policy that you’ll surely never hear any mainstream Republican mention again: “self-deportation.”And certainly not in Texas. Voter disenfranchisement and gerrymandered districts are going to keep the GOP in power... for now. But that isn't going to last forever and it's just a matter of time before Republican warhorses like Lamar Smith, Pete Sessions, Kenny Marchant, Joe Barton, John Culberson and Michael McCaul are going to be swept away by demographic shifts.
Americans of Hispanic or Latino descent are one of the fastest growing ethnic groups in the United States. They now make up 11 percent of the electorate and Pew says that they’re likely to double that share by 2030.
But did they cost Mitt Romney the election? No.
“The bottom line is that even if Romney had made historic gains among Hispanic voters, he still would have lost the election,” writes the Washington Examiner’s Byron York. The New Republic‘s Nate Cohn confirms that if Romney had performed 20 points better with Hispanics, Obama still would have won 303 electoral votes.
So what’s behind the freak-out over Romney’s miserable performance with Latinos?
In one word: Texas.
The Lone Star State’s newest senator-elect, Ted Cruz, explained the predicament to the New Yorker’s Ryan Lizza:
In not too many years, Texas could switch from being all Republican to all Democrat. If that happens, no Republican will ever again win the White House. New York and California are for the foreseeable future unalterably Democrat. If Texas turns bright blue, the electoral college math is simple. We won’t be talking about Ohio, we won’t be talking about Florida or Virginia, because it won’t matter. If Texas is bright blue, you can’t get to 270 electoral votes. The Republican Party would cease to exist....When it comes to the long list of groups that Mitt Romney struggled with-- single women, “urban” voters, gay people-- none of them seem inclined to sway toward to the Republican Party because of one single issue. Republicans will likely still tout immigration reform because the business wing of the party has always supported it.
But they shouldn’t do it expecting to suddenly reap a bounty of Latino voters.