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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


In the toughest battleground states of 2012, women cast the decisive votes. Even though male voters in Ohio had backed Obama in 2008 with a narrow 51-48 percent margin, they swung red last year, voting 52 percent in favor of Romney. But Obama raised support among Buckeye women voters to 55 percent last year from 53 percent in 2008, and the crucial state ended up in his column. Floridian men also switched camps with a five-point jump in Republican voting to 52 percent. But again more women turned out for the Democrats, tipping those 29 electoral votes toward the incumbent. Floridian women outvoted men by 650,000 ballots; Florida was decided by fewer than 75,000 votes.

In Texas, white women favored McCain and Romney by wide margins, though not as lopsidedly as did men. White women, accounting for one-third of the total vote in 2008, voted McCain by a 72-28 margin, whereas their male counterparts favored the Republican slightly more, by 75-25. (Again, 2012 exit polls are not available for Texas.) Battleground Texas sees the disparity between national voting patterns and those in Texas as evidence of a dormant female Democratic vote here—one that might have just erupted this summer.

State Sen. Wendy Davis’ viral filibuster in June of a bill to impose draconian restrictions on abortion providers in Texas may have ultimately failed, but the attempt vaulted her into the limelight. In the process, the Lege’s abortion battles illuminated not only on the Ft. Worth lawmaker, but exposed cavalier treatment by the GOP supermajority of Davis, her female colleagues and women’s issues generally. Republicans passed their bill, but the blowback served as a feminist call to arms.

“I stood up to filibuster the bill because Texas Republican leaders would rather pursue a partisan agenda than help Texas women,” Davis wrote in a Washington Post op-ed. “The people’s filibuster demonstrated that Texans—and women everywhere—are ready and willing to fight back.” In the weeks that followed, donors poured nearly $1 million into her campaign, positioning her for a gubernatorial run in 2014. Members of Battleground Texas, which rolled out a “/stand-with-wendy” donations webpage before the filibuster concluded, tweeted furiously throughout the legislative showdown. At a voter registration drive coinciding with the women’s rights filibuster and rally at the Capitol on July 1, BGTX registered five times as many voters as they had in past field days.

The synergies are compelling. If Davis runs, BGTX will bring to bear the force of its digital and grassroots campaign blitzkrieg in her support. Winning the governor’s mansion on a Democratic ticket remains a distant longshot in 2014, both because it comes so early in the BGTX push to organize a viable Democratic voter base, and because turnout is even lower for gubernatorial races than for presidential contests. (The lower the turnout, the lower the Dems’ odds at the ballot box.) But a strong run could cement her national stature.

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