The last three weeks have been a whirlwind since we last looked at Texas. We saw polling that showed the race for president was close and examined the possible reasons for this once ruby-red state becoming competitive. Now, early voting has closed, and votes have been cast here in the Lone Star State. So, let’s read the tea leaves…
Starting with the turnout, Texans came out and voted in significant numbers. While the state has a reputation for doing things big, that wasn’t true for voting. It has seen an impressive turnout so far, suffice to say. As of this writing, 9,677,963 ballots have been cast – 973,079 by mail and another 8,704,884 via in-person early voting. As of this moment, turnout will be 57.1% higher than the 2016 election.
As far as polling goes, on October 13th – the start of early voting – the FiveThirtyEight aggregate gave Donald Trump a 1.4-point edge. That has narrowed to a Trump edge of one point. Very narrow. In the last week, a Dallas Morning News poll said Biden was up with a 3-point lead. Conversely, a Times-Siena poll had Trump up 4 points.
How many votes is Texas going to cast? One estimate has the number of votes once the polls close at 12 million. However, as of this past Friday, the Dallas Morning News reported that 3.6 million Texans that voted in 2016 have not yet voted in 2020.
Suppose we do something that is, admittedly, a bit risky and look at the internals of a couple of polls. Assuming a 12 million voter electorate, we can see just how close the battle is for Texas 38 electors. Biden currently has a cushion of between about 600,000 (UMass Lowell – October 29th) to 500,000 votes (Quinnipiac – October 21st) in the early voting. Using these same two polls, the state’s victory margin ranges from nearly 220,000 for Trump to 250,000 for Biden. That is razor close. Given that there are 9,949 voting precincts in the state, that is a margin of roughly 25 votes a precinct.
But there are a variety of X factors going into the final day of voting. Both Republicans and Democrats are putting money into statehouse races. If the Democrats gain nine more seats, they have a majority. The stakes are enormous. Namely, they would get a say in redistricting. Another factor that could affect the election is outside money. Michael Bloomberg alone invested millions of dollars in both the presidential race and several state legislature races.
Another factor in the voting is that seven congressional races are heavily contested, especially the Senate race. Incumbent John Cornyn has consistently polled under 50% in various surveys against Democratic challenger M.J. Hegar. While not raising anywhere near the number of funds that other Democratic challengers, she has received support from the Democratic Senate Campaign Committee and other outside sources. Most surveys have Hegar behind Cornyn by a few points.
Only one campaign invested a candidate’s time in Texas during the home stretch. Kamala Harris campaigned in McAllen, Houston, and Ft. Worth on Friday – all of which have strategic significance. According to the New York Times poll, the Biden campaign had 56% support amongst Hispanic voters, and early voting turnout is low. McAllen is on the Mexican border in the Ro Grande Valley. Houston has large African American and Hispanic communities, and Democrats hope to have a significant margin from Harris County. Ft. Worth is in Tarrant County, viewed as a swing-voting region.
Instead of coattails, with all of this statewide campaign activity – from the state legislature to Congress to senate – we could see bubble up politics. Texas used to have straight-party voting. Now, they don’t. We need to see who is more motivated to go to the polls and vote a straight ticket: The Republicans or the Democrats.
One other factor to consider is the youth vote. According to Tufts University, just over a million Texans aged 18-30 have cast a ballot. This group has been polling heavily for Biden not only in Texas but nationwide. Given the relatively small number of absentee ballots and the sizeable early voter turnout, we will know Texas’s results on election night. Still, it figures to be a very close election in several races. It will be quite a stressful night not only for each campaign but also for state party leadership.
If you want to take a deep dive and follow one of the more interesting states in the country, here is the link to follow all of the state races. After being branded a red state for so long, Texas will either bust out of the gate with the GOP on the saddle or with the Democrats seizing the reins.