As Texas Goes, So Goes the Rest of the Nation

By Alex Gonzalez

In 1984, Ronald Reagan received 37 percent of the Hispanic vote.  Two decades later, George W. Bush,  running on a Texas-grown record of inclusiveness, boosted that figure to 40 percent. But in 2008, Arizona Sen. John McCain received only 31% of the Hispanic vote. With the exception of George W. Bush, since the 1980s, Republicans in the southwest have been free-riding the Reagan Wave with little effort to recruit Latinos.  As a result, and even though Texas has voted Republican in the Last 6 presidential election,  if the current Latinos voting trends continues–within 2 presidential elections–Republicans will not be able to keep Texas Electoral votes;  and thus, without Texas, the national Republican Party  will not be able to elect another Republican president in the near feature.

 In California, Hispanics began leaving the Republican Party after 1987, and four years later the Republican nominee got only 22% of the Hispanic vote. This trend has not changed (California was a Republican states in the 1980s) but Texas went the opposite direction of the California trend.  Bush received 44%  of the Hispanic vote when he ran for election in 1998, and re-election in 2004 for President.   Currently, however, Hispanic identification with the Texas Democratic Party leveled off, and currently a Republican running for statewide office in Texas  can for the most part, rely on getting a third of all Hispanic vote. Part of this support for Republicans in Texas was created in 1994 when George Bush rejected Pete’s Wilson Proposition 187* when he was running against Ann Richardson for Governor.

Moreover, by looking at the Presidential elections, we can see that Republicans have been free-ridding the Reagan wave since 1980 nationally.  During the last few years, however, this trend has slowly started to lose ground to Democrats in the west coast and with Latinos voters in California and Texas—the two biggest Electoral votes states. More importantly, while Texas has maintained a 38% average in the Latino vote, the Latino registered vote in the state grew exponentially more than the “Anglo.” Thus, if this trend continuous, with the 2/3 of the exponential growth of Latinos voting in the state as democrats, soon the Republicans will not  be able to keep the 38 Electoral votes necessary to send a Republican candidate to the White House.

If we look at the  electoral map of the last 30-years we can see the actual Electoral shift from 1980  Reagan Wave to 2008.


 As shown in these electoral maps,  Since 1992, the presidential elections have been decided with a margin of 30+ Electoral votes, of which Texas has been solid Republican base. However, a surge in Latino voters in Texas voting Democrats, if the current trend continuous, within 2 presidential election cycles, Texas will not be able to guarantee its 38 Electoral votes to a Republican candidate. As a result, once Texas goes purple, the nation will follow. And even if Republicans keep Arizona, New Mexico, and Nevada, it will be mathematically impossible to make-up with others states for the lost of Texas Electoral votes. Therefore, as Texas, goes, so goes the rest of the nation.

 From 1872 through 1976, Texas went Democratic in the vast majority of elections. However, that changed in 1980, and Texas has sided with the Republicans ever since. Having a Bush on the ticket in each election from 1980 through 2004 (except 1996) helped make Texas a reliably “red” state. In 2008, John McCain won the state by a margin of 56 percent to 44 percent over Barack Obama. Texas’ population has grown rapidly in recent decades, and its 38 electoral votes are second only to California’s 55.


Popular Electoral Vote in Texas since 1980


1980                                                1984

Ronald Reagan        55.28%               Ronald Reagan        63.61%

James Carter           41.42%                Walter Mondale     36.11%

       1988                                              1992

George Bush            55.95%               George Bush           40.56%

Michael Dukakis     43.35%               William Clinton       37.08%


      1996                                           2000

Robert Dole             48.76%             George W. Bush      59.30%

William Clinton       43.83%           Al  Gore Jr.                37.98%


          2004                                             2008

George W. Bush       61.09%          John S. McCain        55.39%

John Kerry                38.22%           Barack H. Obama     43.63%

With the exception of W. Bush—home state–presidential election, for the 6 presidential elections, Texas ‘margin for winning between Democrats and Republican still fall within the 10-point difference.

 Texas Presidential Election  Latino vote since 1996

2008: Obama    63%,   McCain  37%

2004: Bush        43 %    Kerry      56%

2000: Bush        33%      Gore       63%

1996: Clinton    71%      Dole       21% 

1992: Clinton    58%      Bush      35%

“Between 2000 and 2004 the number of Hispanic regis­tered voters who vote in even-year November elections increased by nearly 20%. More than a quarter of a million more voters turned out to the polls in 2004, compared to 2000. We witnessed a similar increase between 2004 and 2008 when the largest number of Hispanics ever, turned out to vote. The turnout represented an additional 271,000 Hispanic votes. More importantly, this figure accounted for 61% of the increase in total turnout for the state, in that period.  Like the total Hispanic population in Texas, the Hispanic electorate is characterized by its youth. Among registered Hispanics, nearly half (47%) are under the age of 40. “

 The 2008 Presidential Election was historic for many reasons; in Texas the Hispanic vote established its own milestone and place in Texas electoral politics. According to official voter rolls, in November of 2008 nearly 1.4 million Hispanic registered voters cast ballots in the election. Hispanic votes comprised 17% of the total state vote. In 2010, 17% of the total state vote was also Latino.   Despite the record setting turnout, however Hispanic turnout was noticeably less than the overall state turnout—50% and 60% respectively.  However, Latinos represent 26% of total state vote. If all Registered Latino were come out to vote, and 2/3 vote democrats,  Democrats could easily  get the Electoral votes since all presidential election when  a non-Texas Republican candidate run, the margin of victory is within the 10-margin. Furthermore, about 18% of Latinos eligible to vote in Texas are not registered.

That difference adds up to a lot of Texans. If Texas Hispanics voted Republican as often as their California cohort did, that would mean about 100,000 more Democratic votes. If more Hispanics showed up to vote that would make Texas a swing state. If you boost Hispanic turnout to 20% of the electorate and everything else stays the same, then Democrats would get about 200,000 more votes in November.  So essentially Democrat all they have to so is  focus in Texas and get one million more of Latino  voters to come out and vote to will the White House for a long time.

Accordion to Bill Whalen of the Hoover Institution, “as it stands, Latinos don’t fully flex their political muscles—but that may soon change.  Though Texas is one of American’s four minority-majority states, it would seem to be reliably Republican. Only once in the last 10 presidential elections— Jimmy Carter in 1976—has Texas gone blue.” Furthermore, according  Whalen, to the demographics show that the Texas population is changing:

The Texas of 2010 is not the Texas of 2000—and it certainly won’t be the Texas of 2020 in how it looks and, presumably, how it votes. Over the past decade, Texas has added more than 4.2 million residents, a 20% population increase.  Hispanics, who now comprise about 38% of the Texas population, accounted for 65% of the state’s growth since 2000. By contrast, non-Hispanic whites grew just 4.2%.  What happens when those students reach voting age? The answer: a Democratic electoral base that Republicans may not be able to overcome. Turn Texas from red to blue, add it to the current Democratic strongholds of California, New York, and Illinois—four states totaling 142 electoral votes in the 2012 election—and Republicans would have to pick up 70% of the available electoral votes in the remaining 45 states to win the presidency.

 In the 1980s, Ronald Reagan told Republicans to mend fences with Latinos before it was too late. In the 1990s Ronald Reagan advisers warned Republicans that unless they fix their relation with Latinos, California would become permanent blue state.  They did not listen.   Will Texas Republicans listen?

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