Democratic Momentum In Texas Could Favor Biden, But It’s More Likely To Flip The Texas House

Veteran political journalists discuss Texas’ role on Election Day.

By Rhonda Fanning & Caroline CovingtonNovember 3, 2020 1:41 pm,

Two veteran political journalists are watching Texas closely this Election Day.

Evan Smith, co-founder of The Texas Tribune, and Karen Tumulty, a San Antonio native and political columnist for The Washington Post, talked with The Texas Standard about why Texas matters today and what voters should pay attention to as results come in.

Smith on Biden’s chances of winning in Texas:

1976 was the last time a Democrat won the state. Do I think Joe Biden has a great chance of winning? No. Do I think Joe Biden has a reasonable chance of winning? Yes. Would it be the most surprising thing in the world if it happened? No. Shocking? Yes. Surprising? No.”

Tumulty on what it would mean if Biden were to win Texas:

I am always the skeptic in the room. I mean, there have been so many cycles where outside political consultants have raised a lot of money convincing people that Texas is in play when it isn’t. … I could potentially see if Texas flips, we are talking about, I think, a national landslide. … A win for Biden in Texas would be quite an obstacle for a Republican to get back into the White House.

On flipping the Texas House:

Smith:I think there’s a better chance that the Texas House flips than Joe Biden wins Texas. … I was, you know, bearish on the idea that the Democrats could win the Texas House … especially during a pandemic where opportunities to knock on doors and organize and all that available to challengers were pretty much down to nil. … It did not seem plausible that in over two years time, Democrats would be in a position to take the House back. But they’re within range.”

Tumulty: “I think in some ways that has longer-term implications for Texas having a path to blue.”

Smith on what’s contributing to a possible shift in the balance of power:

“The people responsible this cycle for Texas [potentially] turning blue are Donald Trump, Beto O’Rourke, Lina Hidalgo and Chris Hollins. The latter two people may not know are the Harris County judge and the Harris County elections administrator, respectively. I think demographic change has [also] been enormous; I think the growth in the population has been enormous.

Tumulty on what to expect in U.S. House and Senate races:

Texas is really the epicenter. And when you think about it, 11 months ago, as the House was getting ready to impeach Donald Trump, the Republicans were predicting that this was going to cost … Democrats their major majority. And it’s really interesting that you don’t even hear people talking about impeachment anymore. Nancy Pelosi has built a very disciplined strategy for not only hanging on to her majority, but also expanding it.”

Smith on the implications of high voter turnout:

I think we’re going to see Democrats do well early; I think you’re going to see [the] Republican vote come in a little bit later. But but here’s the thing: the numbers, the sheer numbers, upend any conventional wisdom about how this is going to go. If we end up with 12 million turnout, which is possible … that is 33% more than our best ever turnout. And many of those people have no voting history in Texas, no election history, so [there’s] no way to know who they are. … There’s so much we don’t know.”

Tumulty on Biden’s limited campaigning in Texas:

They have had a theory of how they were going to win, and they have been very, very disciplined in keeping to that theory and making sure, you know, it’s primarily based in the upper Midwest. And they weren’t distracted. They weren’t, as Hillary Clinton’s campaign at the end four years ago was, being drawn into Arizona, and places like that. The Biden people have really stuck with the states they need to to get to 270 [electoral votes].”

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