Texas’ Surprising Role in the Democratic Primary

It may be a driver of conservative ideology, but Texas is shaping up to be a key factor in who gets the Democratic nomination.

By Rhonda FanningFebruary 10, 2016 1:42 pm

The morning after the New Hampshire primary, let’s consider that no so-called presidential frontrunner – in this case, Hillary Clinton – has ever lost an early primary by 20 percentage points. That may mean nothing. Or, it may mean that Bernie Sanders’ talk about a political revolution is more than empty stump speech puffery.

The key to the conventions is the South, and candidates know it. Sen. Ted Cruz has spent a huge part of his time over the past several months cultivating the states of the former Confederacy, where nearly half of the delegates needed for nomination are up for grabs.

And if you’re Hillary Clinton, you’re going to want all the delegates those states have to offer. That’s why Texas is becoming an increasingly important player in the Democratic primary.

Karen Tumulty, native Texan and national political correspondent for the Washington Post, says Democratic candidates have to play the long game when it comes to the primaries. And a strong showing in Texas is becoming key to landing on the November ballot as the Democratic nominee.

“In the democratic [primary], all the way down the line, every single state, these delegates get apportioned according to the vote you get,” Tumulty says. “So what that means is it’s a longer grind for these candidates. You can’t rack up those totals.”

As opposed to the Republican primaries, which become winner-take-all, in terms of delegates, later in the game. Even an official “win” in Texas doesn’t guarantee a spot on the ballot. That could be helpful for Sanders.

“Bernie Sanders, who is just now becoming known on the national stage, has a gigantic and self-perpetuating money machine” in Texas, Tumulty says. “Even if (Clinton) starts racking up these victories, he’s going to continue to pick up delegates, and he is going to continue to have the money to keep his message out there.”

Clinton will have to tailor her message if she wants to take Texas, Tumulty says.

“She’s got a message that does not sound big enough or bold enough up against Bernie Sanders,” Tumulty says. “And there’s going to be some real retooling of that message as the campaign now moves south and west and into some bigger and more diverse states. … The campaign is promising a very different message, and one that is very very geared toward African-American and Latino voters.”