Texas Has Long Been Red, But How Long Before That Changes?

by, Cort Koss, Staff Writer

Being born in 1990 gave me one distinct advantage in life, because I was old enough to vote in the 2008 election. I felt such pride in my newfound responsibility, and I refused to take it lightly. That November, I stepped into a voting booth and cast my vote for then Senator Barack Obama. My only issue was I knew my choice for president was destined to lose my home state, the deeply conservative Texas, to the late Senator John McCain by a sound 12 percent. And this scenario played out again in 2012, when President Obama lost Texas to Mitt Romney by 16 percent. But being the sadistic person I am, every two or four years, I drove to a polling station and performed this civic duty, even if it was an effort in futility.

Though I have moved on from Texas, the lone-star state still holds a place in my heart.

That is why, this year, there is one question that I am asking this year more than any before: could Texas finally be a battleground state? According to the Texas Tribune’s voter monitoring system, “as of Oct. 22, 6.4 million people, or 37.6% of the registered voters, had cast their ballots.” This number is shocking when compared to the state’s turnout for the past three presidential elections, none of which surpassed nine million. This year has seen record-breaking early voting numbers across the country. While these numbers are very encouraging for Democrats, Marc Caputo and Zach Montellaro with POLITICO believe, “the turnout data does not mean the president will lose to Joe Biden. Both sides are bracing for a close race and a giant wave of Republicans to vote in person on Nov. 3. Yet the turnout disparity with new and

less-reliable voters have forced Republican political operatives to take notice.” Furthermore, this risky strategy of waiting on an election day turnout may prove to be the Republicans downfall for a few reasons. First, the president’s favorability ratings have remained around 43 percent. Which is not good news for an incumbent running against an opponent with favorability at 52 percent (according to News Gallup Poll). Second, despite an increase in the number of registered Republican voters in three states — Florida, North Carolina & Pennsylvania — it is looking increasingly difficult for the president to build on the 63 million votes he received in 2016. Lastly, all models that support a Republican victory on Nov. 3 are contingent upon the certainty that Texas will stay red. And if there is one lesson to take away from 2020 it is — nothing is certain.

The past 50 years have seen Texas develop into a deep red state, which holds 38 of the 538 votes in the Electoral College. Of which a candidate only needs a simple majority of 270 to be elected President of the United States. That is 15 percent of the necessary votes are handed out by one state that a Democratic candidate has not won since Jimmy Carter in 1976. But this year, that voting record could be in doubt since population shifts and increased political activity have lifted the number of registered voters in Texas to 16.9 million, a 10 percent increase from 2016. With this level of increased registered voters and early voting, Michael Li, senior counsel at New York University’s Brennan Center for Justice, predicts over 11.4 million Texans will cast a ballot this year, 3.5 million more than 2016.

Derek Ryan, a Republican voter data expert, feels there is strong support among both parties in Texas, but it is impossible to tell which party is leading in early voting. Not only do Texans not have the option to align with a particular when they register to vote, but 39 percent of all early voters have no primary voting history. This unprecedented wave of new voters makes the direction Texas could go on Nov. 3 extremely uncertain, and with the election approaching, the Republicans seem to have an even bigger issue on their hands, timing. “The concerning thing for Republicans is that one a Democrat vote is cast, or once a vote is cast in general, it can’t be taken back,” said Chris Wilson, a Republican data analyst. Which means the window of opportunity is closing for the Republicans to make their case to voters.

In Texas there is a saying, “if you don’t like the weather, just wait five minutes.” Growing up in a state that is known for lightning storms, hurricanes, and tornadoes this saying made a lot of sense to me. Though now I think it is the political climate in Texas that may be shifting just as fast as the weather. There are certain moments in life that are so monumental that when it happens, you remember exactly where you were and what you were doing at the time. I imagine the day Texas goes blue will be one of these moments. Even if the “impossible” does not happen this year, and Texas’s 38 electoral votes go to the Republican candidate, things in Texas are not as they once were. Of course, I now have a new question, “if not now, then when?”

Editor’s Note: The opinions expressed in The Quadrangle are those of the individual writers and do not not necessarily reflect the views of the Editorial Board, the College or the student body.

Cort Koss is a senior communication major concentrating in sports media production. Originally hailing from Texas, Koss is now a New York resident. Koss joined The Quadrangle’s staff at the start of the fall 2020 semester and is now a staff writer for the publication. He is also a member of WRCM where he talks all things sports.