As “red” states go, Texas is a very long way from attaining “battleground” status. It’s been nearly two decades since any Democratic candidate won any statewide office, a dry spell that stretches to a quarter-century for U.S. Senate candidates. The state legislature is dominated by Republicans, and the last Democratic presidential candidate to carry the state was Carter in 1976 – before the South finished realigning.
And yet, as Texas becomes more racially and ethnically diverse, and cities like Austin and Dallas become more progressive, Democrats have begun to look anew at the Lone Star State. A Democratic effort called “Battleground Texas” has begun to do something the party didn’t even consider for the better part of two decades – create a meaningful Democratic infrastructure in the state. Jeremy Bird, the former national field director for President Obama’s re-election campaign is reportedly heading up the multi-million dollar effort.
Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R) was asked over the weekend about whether his state might become electorally competitive in the near future, and he literally laughed out loud at the possibility, calling it “the biggest pipedream I have ever heard.”
To explain just how preposterous, Gov. Perry summons the example of the state’s two arch rivals, the University of Texas and Texas A&M, his alma mater, whose colors are maroon and white.
“The University of Texas will change its colors to maroon and white before Texas goes purple, much less blue,” he said in an interview on the edges of the National Governors Association winter summit in Washington, D.C.
Texans, Perry added, will “never” back a party that believes in “government providing more and more.”
It’s obviously speculative, and I’m sure Perry knows infinitely more about Texas than I do, but “never” is a long time, and some Lone Star State Republicans aren’t quite as certain.
This item caught my eye the other day.
Last June, the Democratic Party of Texas took what it hoped will be the first step toward regaining a foothold in the state when it elected Gilberto Hinojosa – an energetic and well-respected former county judge – as the group’s first Hispanic chairman.
Under his leadership, the party has begun what it calls “rebranding in the fullest sense of the word” and is attempting to take the first steps toward regaining relevance by hiring additional staff and lining up fundraisers to pay for an expansion of its reach.
Texas Democrats are hoping to recruit a strong candidate to pit against Perry in next year’s gubernatorial race – perhaps San Antonio Mayor (and 2012 DNC keynote speaker) Julian Castro or Wendy Davis, who is seen as a rising star in the state Senate.
But they also already have their eyes set on a more improbable target: the 2016 presidential race. And they are strangely sanguine about their chances of at least making it interesting.
Obviously, speculating about the next presidential election is pretty silly, but Steve Munisteri, the chairman of the Texas Republican Party said if Hillary Clinton is the Democratic nominee, “I would say that this is a ‘lean Republican’ state but not a ‘solid Republican’ state. I don’t know anyone nationally who’s scoffing at this.”
Well, anyone other than Rick Perry, that is.