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conservative lean to the state. Forty-six percent of Texans identified their ideology as conservative in 2008, 1 percent more than in 2004, and 12 points more than the national electorate. While McCain lost 5.5 points statewide from George W. Bush in 2004, nearly all of that erosion came from minority voters, and almost none of it came from white voters. Republican strength in Texas is also bolstered by the party’s performance in rural areas. As noted, Obama did poorly in rural Texas during his Democratic primary contest against Hillary Clinton. This continued in the general election. McCain won 68.5 percent of the vote in Texas’s rural counties, just one percent less than George Bush. When compared to the national (and statewide) trend, rural Texas turned into an even stronger part of the Republican base. The exit polls found that McCain ran particularly strong in Texas’s small cities (with populations between ten thousand and fifty thousand), winning 69 percent to 30 percent. This was a 10 point improvement over George Bush’s performance in these same towns.35 In fact, in many areas, John McCain did better than George W. Bush did in 2004. Throughout the state, McCain outperformed Bush—despite the national trend away from Republicans and without the favorite son effect—in 98 of the state’s 254 counties. Most of the places where McCain outperformed Bush were in rural Texas. McCain outperformed Bush in only two of the state’s twenty-five urban counties and in eighteen of the state’s fifty-two suburban counties. But in rural Texas, McCain outperformed Bush in 78 of 177 counties, just over 44 percent. In particular, McCain ran better than Bush in rural East Texas. The Arizonan outperformed the Texan in 34 of the 46 these counties.36 In rural West Texas, McCain improved on Bush in forty-four counties (out of ninety-seven). Rural Texas is at the end of the “McCain belt,” the series of counties that stretches down the Appalachian Mountains, and then across the highland South, and into Oklahoma and Louisiana.37 The third area of Republican strength in Texas is the suburbs. In suburban counties, McCain won 65 percent of the vote. This number is down from 69.4 percent in 2004, but is still higher than in 1996, the last time the Democrats took the White House, when Bob Dole won 60 percent of the suburban vote. In fact, John McCain won every suburban county in the state. As a result, suburban counties provided nearly 31 percent of McCain’s 4.5 million statewide votes. What path could Democrats follow to overcome these Republican strengths and win in Texas in the near future? One thing is clear, Democrats 210 ★ Brian Arbour and Mark McKenzie Texas ★ 211 Table 12.4 Exit Poll Results, 2008 (in percent) National McCain Obama Texas McCain Obama Difference Percent Percent McCain Total Total All White Voters 74 55 42 63 73 26 22 Whites By Age 18–29 11 44 54 9 69 30 25 30–44 20 57 41 19 71 27 14 45–65 30 56 42 26 74 25 18 65+ 13 58 40 10 78 20 20 Whites by Education College Graduates 35 51 47 33 74 26 23 No College Degree 39 58 40 30 72 25 14 Whites by Income Income >$50K 49 56 43 46 74 25 18 Income results along more than one scale, and while one set of results shows voters following a fairly consistent pattern (the older the voter, the higher the support for McCain), a second, more refined breakdown follows the general pattern except for those between the ages of forty to forty-nine and fifty to sixty-four. The first group, who came of age politically during Ronald Reagan’s presidency, delivered a majority of their vote to McCain. The older group, the fabled “baby boomers,” interrupt the trend by producing a 6-point Obama margin. Income. Again, exit polls provide options for examining the relationship between income and vote, and in general, lower-income voters supported Obama heavily and more affluent voters backed McCain, but by smaller margins. For example, among those earning less than fifty thousand dollars, Obama enjoyed a lead of 25 percent, while among those earning fifty thousand dollars to one hundred thousand dollars, he still had an advantage, but only 4 percent, while among those earning over one hundred thousand dollas McCain was preferred by a 6 percent...

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