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How Nate Silver’s Five States of Texas Would Have Affected the 2012 Election Results

The five states of Texas. (Photo by Doug Davis)

Texas Republicans upset about the direction of the country following the 2012 election shouldn’t be jumping on the secession bandwagon, they should be looking into what we wrote about in July 2009 issue of D Magazine: the possibility of our Lone Star State becoming five separate states.

Nate Silver, whom you may have heard of in recent months because of his Five Thirty Eight blog correctly calling the outcome of the presidential race in all 50 states (and being heavily criticized ahead of the election for suggesting Obama has a 90% chance of reelection), is the person who did the demographic breakdown for us of how a division of the state might look.

He defined the territories of New Texas (Austin/College Station), Plainland (Amarillo/Midland/Odessa), El Norte (San Antonio/El Paso), Gulfland (Houston/Corpus Christi), and–where we live here in Dallas–Trinity (also including out best frenemy, Fort Worth). So would the election have been different with this division? Here’s how each of these territories voted in the presidential race between Mitt Romney and Barack Obama:

Mitt Romney Barack Obama
New Texas 56.2% 43.8%
Gulfland 57.4% 42.6%
Plainland 76.8% 23.2%
El Norte 40.2% 59.8%
Trinity 61.1% 38.9%


Thanks to our Electoral College system, you win either all or nothing. With four more states in the Union, there would be 546 total electors up for grabs, 46 of which would come from the states formerly known as Texas. (Silver’s article speculated that Texas would have 37 congressional districts after the 2010 census, but we only ended up with 36. That plus 10 senators for the five states gets us to 46.)  The magic number for victory would be 274 electoral votes. The breakdown among the new states would be as follows: New Texas (7), Gulfland (12), Plainland (7), El Norte (8), Trinity (12)

Because of these changes, with four formerly Texan states going Republican, and one (El Norte) breaking Democratic, Barack Obama’s electoral college win actually would have been even larger than it was because Obama would capture eight more electoral votes than he did, while Romney would end up with the same number he earned when Texas was unified (38). So the final national count would have been: Obama 340, Romney 206.

This all presumes, of course, that turnout would be exactly the same as it was last week. There’s a chance that, because New Texas and Gulfland were somewhat more competitive than the state as a whole (which was decided by 60 to 40 in favor of Romney), Democratic voters who otherwise felt there was no point in casting a ballot for Obama when he had no chance of winning Texas, may have shown stronger turnout. (Of course one might argue the GOP might also see a spike in turnout if an area were perceived to be more competitive.)

The presidential race ends up not much differently. And how about in the U.S. Senate, where suddenly there would be 10 representatives for the area formerly known as Texas? Give two more senators to the Democrats (presumably from El Norte), and assume the eight others are GOP controlled because of the other states being red, and the composition of the new 108-seat chamber is 57 Democrats to 51 Republicans (compared to 55-45 today.) So yeah, no help for red-staters there either, I guess.

So anyone to start the petition to establish the state of Trinity, with Dallas the capital city? Or will the coming demographic changes soon render all of this moot anyway?