Last week, I wrote that the New Yorker‘s Ryan Lizza reasoned that – due to an influx of Hispanic voters – Texas might turn into a blue state sooner than we all think, maybe even by 2016.
Not so fast, says the New Republic:
Certainly, increased Hispanic turnout and support for Democratic candidates aided the president in Texas, just as it did nationally. In overwhelmingly Hispanic areas of south Texas, Obama finished more than 10 points better than he did in 2008, and Mitt Romney finished worse than John McCain in thirty counties with a large Hispanic population. Strong minority support and turnout allowed Obama to carry the core counties of metropolitan Dallas and Houston (Dallas and Harris County), even though they voted Republican in every presidential election from 1968 through 2004.
But in case anyone missed it, demographic changes haven’t actually produced gains for Democrats in Texas. Despite favorable Latino turnout and support, Obama did worse in Texas than he did four years ago and lost by a decisive 16-point margin. Looking back further, Texas hasn’t moved to the left: the state was 19 points to the right of the national popular vote in 2012; hardly an improvement compared to 19 points in 2008, 20 points in 2004, and 15 points in 1996.
If the two parties continue forward along the lines carved by the Bush and Obama years, then Texas would become quite competitive by the end of the next decade and Democrats will routinely approach 400 electoral votes in national elections. But between now and the mid-2020s, the Republican party will make adjustments to compensate for changing demographics and new issues will rejigger the electorate along unforseen lines. After Bill Clinton won West Virginia by 15 points and lost its eastern neighbor by 2, I suspect that few analysts in 1996 forseaw West Virginia becoming the fifth-most Republican state or Virginia voting more Democratic than the country. The ascent of Democrats in Texas is hardly inevitable and even if it is, it won’t be in 2016 or 2020, at least not in a close election.