Predictions of a blue Texas underscores close presidential race

Despite spending decades as a primarily Republican state, all eyes will be on Texas next Tuesday to see if that could change.

Following a Sunday poll from The Dallas Morning News and University of Texas at Tyler that showed former Vice President Joe Biden gained a narrow three-point lead over President Donald Trump in Texas, several have wondered if a Blue Wave is reaching Texas.

President Donald J. Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden

Several news outlets such as NBC News and the political news site RealClearPolitics have gone as far as calling the state a “toss up” between both presidential candidates. The state’s 38 votes in the electoral college have not gone to a Democratic presidential candidate since 1976.

Biden’s lead among likely voters is 48% to Trump’s 45%, which is within the poll’s margin of error, UTRGV political science professor and department chair Clyde Barrow noted.

“So he could actually be three points behind, we won’t really know until election day,” Barrow said. “It’s more accurate to call it a statistical dead heat in Texas.”

According to Barrow, the state has been overwhelmingly Republican since the 1992 state election when Republicans took over the House of Representatives and State Legislature, both U.S. Senate seats and most of the Congressional seats as well as the governor’s seat. 

With the exceptions of areas such as the Rio Grande Valley and big cities such as Dallas, Fort Worth, Houston, San Antonio and Austin, the state has been solidly Republican, Barrow said.

“If Biden wins Texas, it would be a hands down victory and the election would be over,” Barrow said. “If Texas does end up turning blue, we won’t just see a significant change in the state, this will resonate throughout national politics. Texas is the second largest populated state and it has the second largest economy. So if Texas undergoes this level of a shift, it will have repercussions.”

A Biden win in Texas would also mean victory for MJ Hegar, the Democratic candidate in the Texas race for U.S. Senate where she is facing off Republican incumbent John Cornyn. The same poll from the Dallas Morning News shows that Cornyn is polling eight points ahead of Hagar, a decrease from the 11-point lead he had on her last month.

Democrats are also hoping to gain 10 more seats in the House to take majority control of it, which would cause a dramatic shift in the landscape of the state, Barrow said.

“This is the census year so the next legislature will have to redistrict the state of Texas based on the new census and that decides on how the districts get drawn,” Barrow said of the 150-member House. “A Democratic majority in the House would also give them power to veto actions from state Gov. Greg Abbott and state Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick.”

Barrow noted that even if those victories are achieved, the state won’t turn Democratic. The state’s Republican governor, lieutenant governor and attorney general are not up for reelection this year and the Texas congressional delegation will still be majority-Republican even if Democrats pick up a few seats. The state Senate, meanwhile, will still have a two-thirds majority when the legislature convenes in January.

“It’s 50/50 that all of this could happen, and all of this happening would ultimately depend on voter turnout,” Barrow said.

On Monday, the Texas Tribune reported 46% of registered voters in Texas had cast their ballots, a three percent increase from the 2016 early voting period for the Presidential race.

During the 2016 Presidential race, the percentage was 43.5% for the entire early voting period.

“It’s not just Texas, all over the country we’re seeing a huge turnout. Barrow said. “History has dictated that when it comes to electoral politics, the more people turn out, more liberal and progressive Democrats win elections.”

 The entire nation is seeing a surge of Hispanic, African American and people under 35 at the polls, groups that traditionally have not shown up to the polls at the same rate as white, middle class Republican voters, Barrow said.

“This is a generation forged in the fire of the great recession, two global financial crises and major global issues such as the Black Lives Matter movement and climate change,” Barrow said. “There’s been a confluence of generational events that have made them realize their future is literally at stake in this election. It’s now or never.”

“If you get a large voter turnout, you will eventually see Texas flip,” Barrow said.

Early voting in Texas ends Friday, Oct. 30. Election Day is Tuesday, Nov. 3.

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