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more than 10 percent (Crockett and Trousdale) and five had less than 1 percent black population. None of the thirteen biggest GOP gainers had more than 12,500 ballots cast for president, and the average ballots cast per county was 6,914. Of the thirteen counties exhibiting the largest GOP gains, five were in West Tennessee, while four each were in Middle Tennessee and East Tennessee. In Table 11.5, a pair of weighted least squares regressions is estimated for the net change in the Democratic vote at the county level from 2004 to 2008. The initial estimation controls for the percent of non-Hispanic black population and the percent of evangelical adherents in each county. The model explains 68 percent of the variation in the change in Democratic vote and indicates that Obama made gains over Kerry where black populations were greater, likely reflecting increased mobilization of the African Ameri can electorate. However, Obama’s gain is muted by large evangelical populations . I then respecified the equation to also control for the Roman Catholic population in the counties. While the overall Roman Catholic population of Tennessee is not great, four counties have over 10 percent Roman Catholic adherents (Cheatham, Maury, Shelby, and Williamson, with over 20 percent). While Roman Catholics have been a source of increased social conservative mobilization for over two decades, Catholics are also historically more racially tolerant. The Roman Catholic control is significant and in the expected positive direction, while not reducing the significance of the other two control variables. 190 ★ Ronald Keith Gaddie Table 11.5 WLS Estimates of the 2004 and 2008 Democratic Presidential Vote, and the Structure of Shifting Preferences in Tennessee Kerry 2004 Obama 2008 Δ ’04-’08 Δ ’04-’08 percent percent Intercept 25.283 41.013 15.730 6.515 Non-Hispanic Black .532 .668 .136 .128 Percent (.045)** (.043)** (.023)** (.023)** Evangelical Percent .119 -.142 -.261 -.156 (.074) (.072)* (.037)** (.061)** Roman Catholic .263 Percent (.121)** Adjusted R2 .663 .817 .683 .695 (N = 95) * p < .05 ** p < .01 Note: Standard errors in parentheses. Source: Computed by author. Despite the continuity of the Obama vote relative to the Kerry vote in Tennessee, the election of 2008 constituted a further sorting of the Tennessee electorate on the basis of religion. First, when compared to the 2004 results, evangelical populations took on a statistically significant and negative relationship to the Democratic vote that was not evident in 2004 when Kerry ran. Second, the change in Democratic strength was structured by both race and by the proportion of the population that was evangelical . These counties—rural, smaller, whiter, and more evangelical—were consistent with the rhetoric of “real America” emphasized by the GOP ticket, and were the logical target of the 2008 Republican campaign. Down-ticket Elections in 2008 Down-ticket political events were largely uneventful in the Volunteer State. Incumbent senator Lamar Alexander won reelection with 65 percent of the vote over Democrat Bob Tuke. Tuke, a lawyer and Marine Corps veteran who served in Vietnam, was past chair of the state Democratic Party and also chair of the Obama campaign in Tennessee. He emerged from a crowded Democratic primary field, winning the nomination with just 32 percent of the vote. The much-anticipated arrival of a Republican majority in the state’s House of Representatives promised to fell longtime Democratic Speaker Jimmy Naifeh of Covington. Naifeh, elected from the last black-belt district in Tennessee (Haywood and Tipton counties), was returned to office, though Democrats came up one seat short of their majority. His eighteenyear reign as speaker ended, though not in a total abdication of power. Democrats continued to organize the chamber when they used their fortynine votes, plus the vote of Republican Kent Williams, to place Williams in the speaker’s chair, thereby defeating the succession plans of Republican leader Jason Mumpower. The irony is that such scenarios had been suggested for toppling Naifeh in the past through the use of dissident Democrats allied with a cohesive Republican minority caucus. The most intriguing race in the state was the congressional primary in District Nine in Shelby County. Incumbent Steve Cohen is a rarity, a white lawmaker representing a majority-black district. A former state senator , Cohen emerged from a crowded field in 2006 to succeed Harold Ford Jr. in the seat. In 2008, Cohen confronted African American lawyer Nikki Tinker in the Democratic primary. Tinker, who had lost to Cohen two years prior, ran a divisive campaign that attempted to simultaneously tie the Jewish Cohen to the Ku Klux Klan while also attacking him as not Tennessee ★ 191 being Christian. In the end, Cohen prevailed over the negative diatribes in a walk with almost 80 percent of the vote. Conclusion In an election season where change was the watchword, Tennessee did not change. This is surprising considering that Tennessee would have seemed to be a potential pickup for Democrats in 2008. Recent political history had Tennessee casting votes for Democratic presidential candidates in the 1990s. The state has major urban centers that are centers of black political power (Memphis) and major progressive centers (Nashville). Demographically, Tennessee is a new South state with major industries and a diversified economy. Nonetheless, Tennessee did not budge in the presidential election. And within the state a sorting of politics occurred where Republicans made gains in major rural areas while declining in three of the state’s four urban centers. A deeper force was at work. The assumed suspect is race.25 The reality is more compelling. The analysis presented here indicates that the Obama shift in Tennessee was less a function of race than of religion and culture. The politics of the 2008 were structured by race and religion; so too were the shifts relative to 2004. The nature of the campaign waged in Tennessee and elsewhere, which placed a premium on cultural identity politics, activated evangelical Christian voters in rural and small-town counties to support the Republican ticket. Was this a racial appeal vested within a cultural and religious appeal? The topical analysis presented here cannot answer that question. However , to get at the answer to the question requires students of southern politics, race and politics, and religion and politics to confront two lurking questions of southern politics that are disquieting: 1. How do historic differences in black and white evangelical faiths— with the former emphasizing social gospel and the latter emphasizing morality and obedience to authority relationships—lead to differing political preferences despite a similar relationship to Biblical scripture? 2. How might the uncomfortable historic relationship between southern Protestant evangelical denominations and institutions of segregation and white supremacy construct modern evangelical political rhetoric and preferences? 192 ★ Ronald Keith Gaddie The rhetoric of social conservatism, designed to appeal to social conservatives and evangelicals, walks close to the rhetoric of racial separation . The initial aggregate analysis from Tennessee indicates that the vehicle of faith structures Tennessee’s change. The question mark that remains is how that vehicle acted on racial attitudes and preferences that necessarily cannot be detected in polling. Tennessee ★ 193 12. Texas After the Bush Era Brian Arbour and Mark McKenzie Introduction January 20, 2009, ushered in a new administration with the inauguration of Barack Obama, and to some, it ushered in a new political age. But in Texas, that date marked an end: the end to the Bush era in Texas politics. On that day, George W. Bush left office, returning to Texas to retire permanently from electoral politics. And for the first time since at least 1980, the most prominent Republican politician in the state of Texas will not be named George Bush. Before 1980, political Texas was a very different place. In 1976, Democrat Jimmy Carter won the state, and the state political establishment was dominated by Democrats. At that point, only one Republican politician had won victory in a statewide election since Reconstruction (U.S. senator John Tower), and Republican representation in the state legislature and congressional delegation seemed a mere token.1 In the intervening thirty-two years, the tables in Texas have turned. Republicans have won, and in recent years, won big. Republicans have won the presidency in Texas every election since 1980, have held the state’s two U.S. Senate seats since 1993, and won majorities in the state Senate in 1998, in the state House in 2002, and in the state’s congressional delegation in 2004. In short, the state today is solidly Republican. 195 In this chapter, we assess the 2008 election in the context of the Bush era in Texas politics. The Bush era made the state not only solidly Republican at present, but it has put the Republicans in a solid position for the near future. Nearly half of the state’s 2008 voters (46 percent) were conservatives , helping Republicans to hold a major advantage among white voters and in rural and suburban Texas. The 2008 election provided some hopeful signs for Texas Democrats—gains in urban counties, and among Hispanic and young voters—but the Republican strengths are greater than the Democrats’. Republican political dominance of Texas will continue over the next decade unless Democrats can reduce the number of conservatives in the state and make gains among white and suburban voters. The 2008 Election The 2008 election was a continuation of the state’s Republican trend. Table 12.1 shows that John McCain won the state easily, taking 55.5 percent of the statewide vote to pocket the state’s thirty-four electoral votes. John Cornyn’s numbers were similar; he garnered 54.8 percent of the vote to win reelection to the U.S. Senate. Republicans recaptured a House seat they previously held when Pete Olson defeated incumbent Democrat Nick Lampson in the Twenty-second congressional district,2 and targeted Republican incumbents John Culberson and Michael McCaul won reelection . Despite the Republican success at the top of the ticket, Democrats had several down-ballot successes. Incumbent Ciro Rodriguez held the congressional seat that he took from Henry Bonilla in 2006. Democrats netted three seats in the state House, (putting them two seats from a majority), defeated an incumbent Republican state senator for the first time in decades, and won the majority of courthouse races in the state’s largest county (Harris) for the first time since 1994. Barack Obama also won three of the state’s four largest counties, which Al Gore and John Kerry had not been able to do. These results have made Texas Democrats optimistic that they could win the state in the near future. Primary Excitement The year 2008 produced a bifurcated campaign in Texas. John McCain led Texas polls by a wide margin throughout the general election.3 As a result, Texans participated in the general election campaign mostly by proxy, donating money and time that the campaigns could use in other, 196 ★ Brian Arbour and Mark McKenzie more competitive states. But the primary was different. For two weeks, Texas was the center of the political nation’s attention. Texas held its primary on March 4. Conventional wisdom held that Texas would only ratify the nomination choice made by the states that held contests in January and on Super Tuesday, February 5. In the Republican nomination, this is essentially what happened. McCain won the most votes and delegates on Super Tuesday, and expanded his lead during the February primaries. McCain’s perfunctory 13 point victory in Texas (and in Ohio, Vermont, and Rhode Island the same day) gave him enough delegates to clinch the Republican nomination.4 The Democratic nomination contest upset the predictions of conventional wisdom. Super Tuesday turned out to be a virtual tie. Barack Obama then ran off a string of eleven straight victories. Obama’s February 19 Texas ★ 197 Table 12.1 The Vote in Texas, 2008 Candidate (Party) Percent Vote of Vote Totals President John McCain (R) 55.5 4,467,748 Barack Obama (D) 43.7 3,521,164 Senate John Cornyn (I) 54.8 4,326,639 Rick Noriega (D) 42.8 3,383,890 U.S. House of Representatives Seventh District John Culberson (I) 55.9 162,205 Michael Skelly (D) 42.3 122,832 Tenth District Michael McCaul (I) 51.5 113,567 Larry Joe Doherty (D) 46 101,548 Twenty-second District Pete Olson (R) 52.4 161,600 Nick Lampson (D) 45.4 139,879 Twenty-third District Lyle Larson (R) 44.7 76,800 Ciro Rodriguez (I) 53 91,014 State Senate Tenth District Kim Brimer (I) 47.5 140.613 Wendy Davis (D) 49.9 147.561 Note: D=Democratic Party, R=Republican Party, I=Independent. Source: Election results from the Texas Secretary of State. victory in the Wisconsin primary indicated that he might be building momentum and that the Hillary Clinton campaign was foundering.5 Most political observers thought that an Obama victory in Texas would knock Clinton out of the race. Even former president Bill Clinton raised the stakes, telling a crowd in Beaumont, Texas, that “[i]f she wins Texas and Ohio, I think she will be the nominee. If you don’t deliver for her, then I don’t think she can be.”6 As election day approached, it looked like Texas might not deliver for Clinton. Polls showed Obama taking the lead,7 and early vote patterns were favorable to Obama.8 Clinton needed to reverse the momentum. To do this, the Clinton campaign turned the agenda to experience and foreign policy, via the now famous “three a.m.” advertisement. The ad argued that when a phone in the White House rang suddenly at three o’clock in the morning, voters had to decide if the person who would answer that phone “already knows the world’s leaders, knows the military—someone tested and ready to lead in a dangerous world.”9 Polling averages show the trajectories of the two candidates changing in the last day or two of the campaign, with Clinton rising and Obama falling.10 The momentum held on election night, as Clinton defeated Obama 50.9 percent to 47.4 percent in the Texas primary. Of course, to say Clinton “won” Texas depends, to paraphrase Bill Clinton, on what the definition of “won” is. Political observers learned that the Texas twostep was more than a country dance; it also described the Texas Democratic Party’s unique primary-caucus hybrid. One-third of Texas’s delegates are awarded by caucuses, and Obama’s victory in the caucus meant he won the most delegates from Texas. But the national media focused on the primary victory, which kept Clinton alive. The Boston Globe headlined Clinton’s victory as a “red-phone resurgence.”11 General Election Stasis The primary results produced three themes that were important going into the general election. The first was Obama’s weakness in the Hispanic community. The network exit polls show that he won only 32 percent of the vote among Texas Hispanics, compared to 66 percent for Clinton.12 The second was Obama’s weakness in rural Texas. Obama only won 9 of the state’s 177 rural counties.13 The third was the remarkable turnout for the Democratic primary, in which 2,874,968 million voters, 23 percent of registered voters, cast ballots .14 That number is 42,264 more than the number of votes cast for 198 ★ Brian Arbour and Mark McKenzie John Kerry in the 2004 general election.15 “Is Texas still a red state?” veteran Texas journalist Paul Burka asked. He noted, “The strength of the Democratic vote in the March 4 primary was so unexpected, so complete a departure from our recent history, that the numbers are potentially the most significant development in Texas politics in thirty years.”16 Did the boom in Democratic turnout in the primary change the nature of the general election campaign as Burka speculated? In short, the answer in 2008 was no. For example, the turnout increase in the primary election did not presage an increase in the general election. In fact, turnout in the 2008 general election (45.3 percent of Texas’s voting-age population) was slightly lower than in 2004 (46.1 percent of the voting-age population). Furthermore, neither campaign seriously contested the state. While McCain, Obama, Joe Biden, and Sarah Palin made numerous appearances in other, more competitive rim South states—North Carolina, Virginia, and Florida—they skipped Texas for the most part. McCain made no appearances in Texas after the Republican National Convention. Palin went to the state on October 3 for a pair of fund-raisers one day after the vice presidential debate. While in Texas, Palin stressed issues that might likely resonate with Texas’s conservative voters, criticizing Obama’s views on the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and promoting energy independence.17 Obama last appeared in the state on July 31 for a pair of Houston fundraisers . Biden went to Texas on September 12 for a fund-raiser in San Antonio, though another scheduled fund raiser that day in Austin was cancelled due to Hurricane Ike.18 Paid media campaign activity was limited in Texas. Both campaigns bought advertisements in El Paso, but these ads were designed to persuade voters in Las Cruces and other parts of southern New Mexico. In the rest of the state, whatever ad buys voters saw were part of national ad buys. In newspaper endorsements, Obama captured three of the state’s largest five newspapers. Not surprisingly, the liberal editorial boards of the Austin American-Statesman and Fort Worth Star-Telegram endorsed Obama, and the more conservative editorial boards of the San Antonio Express-News and the Dallas Morning News went for McCain. The surprise was the moderate to conservative editorial board of the Houston Chronicle. They endorsed Obama, which was the first time they had endorsed a Democratic presidential candidate since 1964. While newspaper endorsements of presidential candidates matter little in terms of actually influencing voters in their final decisions for president, the fact that the Houston Chronicle endorsed a Democratic candidate for president Texas ★ 199 for the first time in a generation does illustrate a somewhat changed political climate in the state compared to the Bush era. In terms of campaign organization, neither candidate had organizations designed to “win” the state, given that it is reliably Republican. Both campaigns sought and received plenty of money from Texans. The Obama campaign raised $17.7 million in Texas for both the primary and general election campaign, while the McCain campaign raised $17.6 million .19 Neither campaign created large organizations in the state. The Obama campaign opened offices in Texas, where volunteers made phone calls to voters in other, more competitive states. Issues and Texas Voters Texans did not differ from most Americans as a whole in their views of what issues were most important. Where Texans differed was in who they thought could deal with those issues. Table 12.2 shows that in both Texas and the nation, the economy was the most important issue (63 percent in the national exit poll and 54 percent in the Texas exit poll). In Texas, these economic voters slightly favored McCain; nationally, they favored Obama. Another key difference between the Texas and the national electorate was on the issue of energy policy. Texas has a long history as an oil-producing state, and Texans who considered energy the most important issue favored McCain heavily, 67 to 31 percent. Nationally, Obama had a slight advantage among these voters, 50 to 46 percent.20 200 ★ Brian Arbour and Mark McKenzie Table 12.2 Which One of These Five Issues is the Most Important Facing the Country? NATIONAL TEXAS percent McCain Obama percent McCain Obama Total Total Most Important Issue Economy 63 44 53 54 51 48 Health Care 9 26 73 12 42 57 Iraq 10 39 59 11 49 48 Energy Policy 7 46 50 10 67 31 Terrorism 9 86 13 10 92 7 Source: Exit polls were conducted by Edison Mitofsky Research for the National Election Pool Results taken from Some observers thought immigration policy would hold great importance in the 2008 election, especially in Texas. The state has the nation’s longest border with Mexico, a long history of immigration across the Rio Grande, a large and growing Hispanic population, and a large community of immigrants, both documented and undocumented. Despite these expectations, the issue disappeared, both nationally and in the state. Most state Republican leaders in Texas do not want to touch the immigration issue. President Bush, Governor Rick Perry, and most of the state’s Republican establishment oppose taking a hard line against illegal immigration, in part because the business community benefits from this labor market. These views are a continuation of George Bush’s immigration stance when he was governor and are not necessarily out of sync with the Texas public . A University of Texas poll taken October 15–22, 2008, showed that while Texans were divided over the issue, a plurality of respondents (over 46 percent) leaned toward the view that “illegal immigrants who have lived and worked long enough in the U.S. should be allowed to keep their jobs and apply for legal status.” Just fewer than 40 percent of respondents leaned toward the view that immigrants should return to their native land.21 In the end, most issues paled in importance to economic issues. As University of Texas political scientist Bruce Buchanan said, “the economic issues sucked all the oxygen away from all the other issues.”22 Congressional Elections in Texas Over the last two decades, House campaigns in Texas have been relatively calm. This calm is the result of successful efforts by redistricters in the state to create safe districts for their party. Democrats created enough safe districts in the 1990s to retain their majority in the congressional delegation , despite the burgeoning Bush Republican trend in the state. Repub licans got control of the redistricting process after the 2002 elections and redrew the map favorably, producing a Republican majority in the delegation after a series of easy victories in the 2004 election.23 Entering the 2006 cycle, expectations were that Texas would stay out of the national spotlight on House campaigns. However, Democrats did score two upset wins, wins that Republicans regarded as the product of ballot circumstances, and not the true preferences of voters. Nick Lampson won District Twenty-two against nobody—Republicans were unable to replace Tom DeLay on the ballot upon his resignation, and had to support a write-in campaign from Shelly Sekula-Gibbs (a write-in unfriendly Texas ★ 201 name if there ever was one). Ciro Rodriguez won District Twenty-three over incumbent Henry Bonilla in a post-November election mandated by a federal court after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that Texas had diluted the impact of Hispanic voters in south Texas, violating the Voting Rights Act.24 This low-turnout election reflected the level of enthusiasm of the Democratic base and the despondency of the Republican base after the Democratic wave of 2006. Republicans aimed to return both of these districts to their Republican roots in 2008. In the Twenty-second they nominated Pete Olson, a former staffer for senators Phil Gramm and John Cornyn. Strong Republican voting patterns made this “arguably the best Republican takeover opportunity in the country,”25 and these predictions were borne out on election day, with Olson defeating Lampson 52 to 45 percent. In the Twenty-third, Republicans also had high hopes for Bexar (San Antonio) County Commissioner Lyle Larson against Rodriguez. Larson’s campaign fizzled, though, raising just over $800,000 (compared to Rodriguez’s $2.3 million) and losing 56 to 42 percent. Despite the Republican trend in the state, Democrats found two surprising pickup opportunities, which slipped onto the edge of the national radar. The Tenth District was drawn in 2004 to be a Republican stronghold , so much so that no Democrat ran for the new seat that year. But the district (centered in suburban Austin and Houston) proved less reliably Republican than anticipated. Television judge Larry Joe Doherty raised more than a million dollars in his challenge to incumbent Michael McCaul. The Seventh District is the most traditionally Republican district in the state, represented by George H. W. Bush in the 1960s, and by Ways and Means chairman Bill Archer for the following three decades. Changes in Harris County have made this seat less securely Republican. Wind energy executive Michael Skelly, who gave his campaign a million dollars,26 provided the first credible Democratic campaign in the district in years. Incumbent John Culberson won, but the 56 to 42 percent margin was closer than the typical election in this district. McCaul also won, but by a closer margin than expected—54 to 43 percent. The next real drama in the Texas House delegation is not likely to occur until after the 2010 redistricting cycle. With Texas now expected to gain four House seats and Republicans almost assuredly in charge of the process, the question will be how Republicans can maximize their partisan advantage while still complying with Voting Rights Act regulations and legal challenges that require maximizing representation of the state’s rapidly growing and Democratic leaning Hispanic population. If Repub202 ★ Brian Arbour and Mark McKenzie licans want to gain three of the four seats, they may have to do so by creating two Hispanic majority seats, and trying to “crack” the district of the state’s only white Democrat elected in a white-majority district, Lloyd Doggett. Republicans were unsuccessful in their attempts to target Doggett in the last round of redistricting. Changes in Texas Since 1976 From its founding to the end of World War II, Texas was a solidly Democratic state. Only in 1928, when the Democrats nominated the urban, Catholic, and “wet” Al Smith, did Texans give their electoral votes to Republicans. In 1952, however, two-party politics emerged in the state, at least at the presidential level. Texas gave a majority to Republican (and native son) Dwight Eisenhower in both 1952 and 1956. Figure 12.1 shows these changes by measuring the trend in the Republican presidential vote in Texas since World War II, by subtracting the Republican nominee ’s vote share in Texas from his national vote share. While the state Texas ★ 203 Figure 12.1 Republican Vote Trend in Texas, 1948–2008 Note: 1976–2004 data from the Congressional Quarterly Elections and Voting Collection; 2008 data from the Associated Press. Republican Trend, Texas Vote Share Minus National 1 9 4 8 1 9 5 2 1 9 5 6 1 9 6 0 1 9 6 4 1 9 6 8 1 9 7 2 1 9 7 6 1 9 8 0 1 9 8 4 1 9 8 8 1 9 9 2 1 9 9 6 2 0 0 0 2 0 0 4 2 0 0 8 15 10 5 0 -5 -10 -15 -20 -25 -2.1 -2.1 -1.0 -2.0 -3.6 -5.5 -0.1 4.5 4.8 2.6 3.1 8.0 11.4 10.4 10.0 -20.8 went solidly for Harry Truman, the state only had a slight Democratic lean from 1952 to 1968. In 1972, the state moved strongly toward Richard Nixon and the Republicans.27 In the 1976 election, Texas was not only the nation’s third-biggest electoral prize, but also one of the closest. President Gerald Ford and governor Jimmy Carter both campaigned hard to win the state,28 with Carter prevailing with 51.1 percent of the Texas vote. Ford nearly matched his national vote share with 48 percent of the vote. Texas stood near the center of the nation politically. This did not last. In 1980, Texas gave its electoral votes to Republican Ronald Reagan (and his Texan running mate George H. W. Bush), and has not voted for a Democratic nominee since. Through the Reagan and Bush runs for president, Texas voters leaned more Republican than the nation as a whole. As Republican leadership in the state passed from the elder to the younger George W. Bush, the state moved strongly toward the Republicans. In 1996, Bob Dole won 8 percent more in Texas than he did nationally; George W. Bush won the state by 11.4 percent more than his national total in 2000 and 10.4 percent more in 2004. Despite losing a “favorite son” candidate from the Republican ticket in 2008, Republican erosion was small. John McCain exceeded his national vote share by 10 percent. After 28 years, the Bush era has moved the state strongly and solidly into the Republican column. The biggest change has been the stark partisan shift in the rural parts of the state. Figure 12.2 divides the state into three parts—urban, suburban , and rural29 —and compares the Republican vote trend (again local Republican vote share minus the Republican nominee’s national vote share) across time. In the 1976 election, the state’s urban counties were its most Republican, as they gave Gerald Ford a slight majority. In both suburban and rural Texas, Jimmy Carter won a greater share of the vote than he won nationally. This pattern quickly changed. Rural and suburban Texas both moved strongly toward the Republicans. The suburbs moved quickly through the Reagan elections, moderated for the George H.W. Bush campaigns, and moved strongly toward Republicans in 1996 and 2000. For rural Texas, the full shift took longer. Rural Texas was comparatively favorable to Democrats from 1980 to 1992, but moved strongly against Bill Clinton in 1996, and stayed with George W. Bush in his two presidential runs. In Texas’s cities, the Republican trend has been relatively slight. Urban Texas drifted only slightly toward the Republicans throughout the Bush era. In 2008, Texas’s cities moved sharply toward the national average. 204 ★ Brian Arbour and Mark McKenzie Throughout the Bush era in Texas, the political strength of the state reversed. Rural areas provided strong margins to Jimmy Carter. By 2008, they were the backbone of Republican dominance in the state. Suburban counties have also moved strongly into the Republican column since the Carter election. Texas’s urban counties were its most Republican in 1976; today, they are the least Republican, and they moved heavily towards the Democrats in 2008, providing some ray of hope for Democrats. Democratic Optimism The 2008 election marked yet another victory for Texas Republicans. And despite the national trend towards the Democrats and the excitement created by the campaign of Barack Obama, Texas Democrats were not able to make substantial gains overall among the electorate. Texas ★ 205 Figure 12.2 Republican Presidential Vote Trend by Place, 1976–2008 Note: 1976–2004 data from the CQ Elections and Voting Collection. 2008 Data from the Associated Press. Rural: counties not designated by the US Census Bureau as part of a metropolitan area. Urban: counties that host the “named” city of a metropolitan area. Suburban: counties that are part of a metropolitan area, but do not host the named city. Republican Trend, Local Vote Share Minus National 25% 20% 15% 10% 5% 0% -5% -10% 1976 1980 1984 1988 1992 1996 2000 2004 2008 City Suburban Rural Below the surface of these Republican wins, the 2008 election provided hopeful signs for Texas Democrats. Democrats gained a net of three seats in the state House, bringing the partisan makeup of the body to seventy -six Republicans and seventy-four Democrats. Democrats made a gain in the state Senate for the first time since 1982. Democrats won county and judicial races in Harris County for the first time since 1992. Obama won in three of the state’s four largest counties: Harris, Dallas, and Bexar; each had gone for Republicans in the last three presidential elections. The results of the 2008 election show that Democrats are gaining among three parts of the state electorate: Hispanics, young voters, and urbanites. This particular set of strengths gives Texas Democrats optimism for 2010, 2012 and beyond. There were good reasons why the Hispanic vote would be up for grabs in 2008. George W. Bush was remarkably successful among Texas Hispanics, winning a majority of their vote when reelected governor in 1998 and splitting their votes in his two presidential runs. And, as noted, Obama lost Texas Hispanics two to one to Clinton in the primary. But the general election was a different story. Obama won 63 percent of Texas Hispanics. This 13 percent improvement over John Kerry’s performance mirrored the 14 percent national shift of Hispanics toward Obama. With the growth in the Hispanic population nationally and in the state, Bush’s “architect” Karl Rove argued after the election that “[i]f this trend continues , the GOP will find it difficult to regain the majority.”30 Bush and Rove explicitly pursued the Hispanic vote in Texas and nationally in an effort to build a long-standing Republican majority. The results of the 2008 election indicate that their great political fear—that Democrats would dominate this growing demographic group to their electoral benefit—may be coming true. The second area of growth for Texas Democrats is among young voters. Among voters age eighteen to twenty-nine, Obama won 54 to 45 percent, which was a 14 percent gain over John Kerry’s margin in 2004. Obama also made substantial gains among voters ages thirty to fortyfour ; he improved 16 points over John Kerry’s performance, losing only 46 to 52 percent. Of course, young age cohorts also tend to have more minorities than older cohorts, so this trend reinforces Democratic strength among Latinos. But the big gains among young voters indicate that the Texas electorate could well be changing. Young Texans have different political views than their parents and grandparents. The third area of growth for Texas Democrats is in the state’s urban areas (see Figure 12.3). As mentioned above, Obama won victories in 206 ★ Brian Arbour and Mark McKenzie Harris, Dallas, and Bexar counties. The Democratic presidential nominee had not won Dallas or Bexar counties since 1996, and had not won Harris County since 1964. Obama also won Travis County (Austin). While Kerry won here also, Obama improved 8 points over Kerry. Of the state’s five largest counties, Obama won all but Tarrant (Fort Worth). Figure 12.3 shows the trend in each of these urban counties. Further analysis shows that Democratic gains have come from finding new voters. Obama gained 27.1 percent more votes than Kerry did in these five counties, while McCain lost only 4.7 percent of Bush’s 2004 totals. Exit poll results reinforce the Obama gains in urban areas. Respondents who lived in cities with populations greater than five hundred thousand gave Obama a 55 to 44 percent majority, which was a 16 point improvement over John Kerry. Obama increased the Democratic vote share in cities with populations between fifty thousand and five hundred thousand to 47 percent, a 15 point increase from 2004. Texas may be an ocean of red, but some blue islands have emerged. Obama still ran behind his national totals (much less his national totals in urban areas) in Texas’s metropolitan counties, but only by 1.1 points. Texas ★ 207 Note: 1976–2004 data from the Congressional Quarterly Elections and Voting Collection; 2008 data from the Associated Press. Figure 12.3 Republican Vote Trend for Urban Counties, 1976–2008 Republican Trend, Local Vote Share Minus National 20 15 10 5 0 -5 -10 -15 1976 1980 1984 1988 1992 1996 2000 2004 2008 Harris Dallas Tarrant Bexar Travis Rest of State The effects of this increased Obama strength in urban counties can be indirectly seen in the lower ballot judicial races (see Table 12.3). In previewing the 2008 election, Texas Monthly focused on down-ballot races because “that’s where the action is. . . . The presidential race matters because it drives, or fails to drive, turnout.”31 In many ways, the votes in judicial races seemed to mirror the presidential race in the five most urban counties in 2008. Table 12.3 illustrates how closely judicial votes tracked the presidential vote in these counties. Many of these races were won by Democrats, no doubt helped along by Obama, and these victories were significant prizes for the party. Since 1994, Republicans had captured all the courthouse races in the state’s four largest counties—Tarrant (Fort Worth), Dallas, Bexar (San Antonio), and Harris (Houston). In 2006, Dallas County turned back to the Democrats; their candidates won every contested county race that year, ousting a series of long-term incumbents. The 2006 Dallas results reflected the changing demographics of an ever more diverse county and the pro-Democratic national wave. As 2008 came, Democrats captured a majority of the judicial races in Harris, Dallas, Bexar, and Travis counties. So Texas Democrats can look at the results from 2008 with some degree of optimism. Their party has established a base in some of the ascendant areas of the state’s population. They can see a path to growth over the long term that could change the state. Republican Strengths The results of the 2008 election have prompted some to see Texas as a potential target for Democrats in the 2012 presidential election. Howard Dean told Democratic bloggers “that states such as Georgia and Texas might be attractive targets for Democrats at the presidential level in 2012.”32 The Los Angeles Times wrote, “strategists believe the large and growing Latino population there remains untapped, along with a large black electorate, which could make Texas competitive with a major investment of time and money from an Obama-led Democratic Party.”33 Could the nation’s largest Republican state, and the home of the last two Repub lican presidents, really go “blue” in 2012? We are skeptical. Our analysis of the 2008 election returns shows that the Republican Party holds great strengths in Texas and that the Democrats have a steep climb to win Texas anytime soon. Our argument for Republican optimism is simple: Republicans have been winning in Texas and won in 2008 by large margins. While Barack Obama made 208 ★ Brian Arbour and Mark McKenzie gains relative to John Kerry, those gains were mostly in line with the national movement toward the Democrat. Further, among three sets of voters—whites, rural voters, and suburbanites—Republicans developed major strengths during the Bush era, and the 2008 results show little erosion in this strength. For the near and medium term, these strengths mean that Republicans win the state with great ease. Republican strength among white voters is the bedrock of Republican political success in the state. Exit polls from 2004 and 2008 show why Republicans have such a strong grip on the state—they dominate the white vote. The results presented in Table 12.3 show that George W. Bush won 74 percent of the white vote in the state in 2004. Four years later, John McCain won 73 percent of the white vote. Nationally, McCain lost 3 percent off Bush’s 2004 share of white voters. McCain did well in Texas even among the groups of white voters that Obama won nationally. For example, Obama won young (age eighteen to twenty-nine) white voters nationally, but McCain won them solidly in Texas, 69 percent to 30 percent.34 Obama lost white college graduates nationally by a 51 percent to 47 percent margin. But among these voters in Texas, McCain routed him, 74 percent to 25 percent. Nationally, white independents split nearly evenly between McCain and Obama. In Texas, they favored the Republican by a whopping 72 percent to 27 percent margin. Obama even lost 20 percent of whites who identified themselves as Democrats. Republican strength among white voters helps create a Texas ★ 209 Table 12.3 Vote Share of Presidential Candidates and District Judges, 2008 (in percent) REPUBLICANS DEMOCRATS McCain Mean GOP Obama Mean Dem. District Judge District Judge Harris County 49.3 49.2 50.8 50.8 Dallas County 42.3 41.6 57.7 58.4 Tarrant County 55.9 55.4 44.1 44.6 Bexar County 47.2 48.3 52.8 51.7 Travis County 35.0 38.2* 65.0 61.8* Note: Percentages are all two-party vote share. “Mean GOP (Dem.) District Judge” is the mean vote share for all Republican (Democrat) district judge candidates in that county. Source: Data are from the appropriate County Clerk’s office. *Travis County had one state district judge race that was contested. ...


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