Tuesday Night in Texas Showed It Will Be Hard To Flip In 2020

On Tuesday night, Democrats received a painful reminder of just how difficult it will be to turn Texas blue this year.  That night, Republicans utterly demolished Democratic hopes to win the “most important special election since the midterms.”  Republicans won by a whopping 16 point margin in a state legislative contest both parties viewed as a test in the run-up to November.

Democrats poured over $1 million into the contest, had former Senate and Presidential contestant Beto O’Rourke show and even Joe Biden and Elizabeth Warren came down to lend a brief hand.  But it was to no avail.

For Republicans and Democrats alike, it signaled the strong re-invigoration of the state GOP.  Republicans had heard endlessly how the state was trending blue and even after 2016, when Trump won the state by nine points vs. Romney’s seventeen, the party won numerous contested state and Congressional races.  It is understandable a party would become used to winning.  But, 2018 was a wake-up call, losing two Congressional seats and a dozen legislative seats in increasingly competitive Dallas and Houston suburbs.  This time, Republicans took the contest seriously.

Immediately after Republican Gary Gates secured his party’s nod the GOP coalesced behind him.  Governor Greg Abbott and other top Republicans threw their support behind him, and Gates spent $1.5 million of his own money.  While a significant amount of cash to be spent in an election where only 30,000 voters showed, it likely set the tone of the election.

But this assumes Democrats can even hold some of the GOP leaning seats they took in 2016 and 2018.  It also assumes their suburban base will turn out and their Presidential nominee will be a boon vs. a hindrance.  Legislative races often fly under the radar and only the most committed voters generally vote down-ballot.  As a result, Democrats will also have to convince their statewide coalition to continue to vote all the way through the ballot (something Florida Democrats couldn’t do).Whatever one things Texas is becoming it remains a decidedly pink state.  A candidate like O’Rourke showed the party can now win statewide races if they nominate the right candidate.  But, if they don’t, they still get shellacked in statewide races (see Governor Abbott’s 13 point reelection).  As such, even though Democrats have a lot of targets on paper, those targets will now be much harder to hit with the state GOP reinvigorated and invested in fighting for their majority.If Tuesday night was a test of both parties for 2020, the GOP passed with flying colors.  Democrats cannot deny it and they cannot deny they have a lot of work to do between now and November to be more relevant in the statehouse than they have ever been this millennium!

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