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Cover 07/24/2013

The Hunt for Blue November: Why Battleground Texas Needs White Women

Photo: Callie Enlow, License: N/A

Callie Enlow

Over 75 people turned out for Battleground Texas’ latest San Antonio voter registration training

Photo: SOURCE: CENTER FOR AMERICAN PROGRESS. *ESTIMATES BASED OFF TABULATION AND EXTRAPOLATION OF CHANGE IN ELEGIBLE VOTERS FOUND IN 2008 AND 2011 AMERICAN COMMUNITY SURVEY, License: N/A

SOURCE: CENTER FOR AMERICAN PROGRESS. *ESTIMATES BASED OFF TABULATION AND EXTRAPOLATION OF CHANGE IN ELEGIBLE VOTERS FOUND IN 2008 AND 2011 AMERICAN COMMUNITY SURVEY


You may not believe in destiny, but demography will not be denied. That could be the slogan of Battleground Texas, the organization of Democratic activists who have hitched their wagon to the Lone Star state. Galvanized by President Barack Obama’s decisive sweep of the swing states last November, veteran staffers of that campaign parachuted into Republican redlands earlier this year with the aim of replicating their electoral battleground successes here. The stated mission is to convert demographic change into Democrat dividends, enfranchising and mobilizing the swelling ranks of majority-minority voters in the state, millions of inactive Latino voters in particular.

As the heft of the traditional Republican base dwindles, this partisan switcheroo has become not a question of if, but of when. And when it happens, the GOP can kiss the White House goodbye for at least a generation. The ambitious BGTX endgame contemplates the capture of the state’s 38 presidential electoral votes, securing victory in races for the Oval Office in the foreseeable future.

Skeptics respond that even if rock-bottom voter participation rates among Latinos rise, their demographics don’t support a flip in the state until the 2024 or 2028 presidential cycles. Republican strategists see that time window as critical, sufficient enough to erode Hispanic support for the Democratic party and avert the end of their two-decade dominance of state politics. Nobody knows how wide that window is, but even BGTX has sought to tamp down expectations of near-term results. “If 2020 is the year we turn this state blue, that’s OK with me,” BGTX Executive Director Jenn Brown told a recent Austin recruitment rally.

However, there is nothing fuzzy about the math. The Democrats can take Texas in 2016 if they can tap into one a key segment: white Texans, and in particular white women, the new kingmakers–or queenmakers–of Lone Star politics.

Why? Women of color broadly support Democratic candidates, but that’s just the point: BGTX needs to mine new veins of voters. At least at this stage, minority population trends alone will not lock up the race, since heavily Republican non-Hispanic whites will still hold a slim majority through the next presidential cycle. Even if Battleground succeeds in ramping up meager Hispanic voter turnout to white levels, a Republican candidate would likely still prevail in 2016.

“I think [Texas Battleground] realizes that it’s not just a matter of finding and turning out minority voters,” says Ruy Teixeira, co-author of the book The Emerging Democratic Majority and a senior fellow at Center for American Progress. “It’s also a matter of finding and turning out relatively liberal white voters, given the structure of the Texas electorate and given how conservatively white voters have been voting. The treasure trove would presumably be more likely to be college educated, more likely to be younger, and more likely to be women living in the big metropolitan areas.”

Minority Rapport

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