Democrats haven’t won a statewide election in Texas in nearly two decades. So why is Jeremy Bird smiling? President Obama’s former national field director is launching a new effort, dubbed “Battleground Texas”, to ramp up the fight for the state’s electoral votes by capitalizing on its changing demographics. According to estimates from the Texas State Data Center, Hispanics will make up some 19 million of the state’s 37 million residents by 2030, outnumbering whites by some 20 points.
“It’s not just demographics. For us to be successful….it’s also going to take better messaging and strong candidates, Bird told Chuck Todd on The Daily Rundown. “It’s a holistic approach,” he said.
But Texas Republicans are well aware of the growing power of the Hispanic electorate, and they aren’t going to cede those votes to Democrats.
“(Republican) politicians have generally recognized the great cultural and economic contributions that Hispanics make to American society,” said Mark McKinnon, a former advisor to George W. Bush and John McCain. “So they welcome them with open arms and friendly policies.”
In addition, Texas Republicans have run the table on statewide elections since 1996, leaving Democrats to conclude their money is better spent elsewhere.
Part of Battleground Texas’ job will be rebuilding the Democratic infrastructure in Texas. “What we really want to look at are these county races. We’re going to need to win at the local level and you’re not going to turn it blue overnight,” the former Obama national field director said. That starts with registering voters, particularly minorities, and then getting those minorities to the polls.
But it will be an uphill climb. Republicans hold every statewide office, and majorities in 107 counties, including big ones like Harris County which, as Bird points out, is geographically larger than half of the states in the country.
Governor Rick Perry told the Wall Street Journal the idea of flipping Texas from red to blue is a “pipe dream.”
But shortly after last fall’s election, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz (R) recognized what’s at stake. In an interview with The New Yorker, Cruz said, “If Texas is bright blue, you can’t get to 270 electoral votes. The Republican Party would cease to exist.”
It’s clear that Jeremy Bird agrees the state could be a game changer, although he admits it’s going to a tough road ahead. ”It’s long term,” Bird admits. “And it’s going to take a lot of work.”