Last week, a poll came out of Texas showing President Trump running neck and neck with former Vice President Joe Biden. Trump also narrowly led other Democratic candidates. Combined with a narrow two point win for Senator Ted Cruz last year compared to a nine point win for Trump in 2016, the narrative that Texas is turning blue has returned full force. This narrative is now also increasingly taking hold due to a narrow gubernatorial win for Republicans in Georgia, down from a larger Republican win in 2016.
Whether Texas is actually turning blue is an open question as opposed to reality. It is true, Democrats made gains in the legislature and narrowly lost the Senate race. But, compared to what happened nationally, Texas did not look any bluer. The clearest indicator of this is while increased turnout in blue urban areas and the suburbs benefited the party, turnout in rural areas and the exurbs largely matched. The electorate, as expected, was younger, but hidden under the top-lines was GOP turnout also increased which explained why Ted Cruz won, period! Democrats did better with whites, particularly younger whites, then they have in the past but they still lost (looking at you Beto O’Rourke).
Mathematically though, Texas was pretty dead on in its political leanings last year. Consider Donald Trump lost the national popular vote by over two points but he won Texas by nine points meaning Texas was eleven points redder than the nation. Last year, Ted Cruz won the state by a little more than two points while Democrats won the House vote by a little over eight points nationally. This means Texas was ten points redder than the nation. Not much of a change. Further, Governor Greg Abbott won his contest by twelve points, a twenty point gap from the national results. If Texas was getting bluer, last year was where it should have showed. It only showed demographically.
Where Democrats scored success in the state was unsurprisingly urban Dallas, suburban Tarrant County, Harris County, Fort Bend, Travis County and its suburbs. But, in turn, rural areas saw increased turnout to match among Republicans.
The same goes for Georgia. In 2016, Donald Trump won the state by five points meaning the state was seven points more Republican than the nation. Relative to 2018, the governor’s race actually saw the state go rightward. Then candidate Brian Kemp won by 1.5 points and Democrats won nationally by eight points meaning the state was nine and a half points more Republican than the nation. Democrats cheered the near results but again, did the state really get bluer because the response from red areas drowned out blue, urban centers. Democrats scored strong success in the suburban Atlanta Counties of Cobb and Gwinnett, but Republicans matched in rural areas.
In the run-up to 2020, Democrats would argue Republicans are on the defensive in these states. They are right. But neither state has reached the tipping point where their demographics and Trump’s presidency has swung the equilibrium to such a degree. One could argue after last year Arizona is far closer to that point than either Texas or Georgia. While it is true Democrats are benefiting from demographic changes in these states now the question is whether it will last. It probably will after Trump but what after?
It is true voters tend to stick with the party they initially support but we are also living in an era of unprecedented political instability. It is not inconceivable a major event shifts opinion or the Republican Party becomes more attuned to younger voters views. But, as it stands now, neither Texas nor Georgia seem to be near the tipping point of turning blue.