In 2018, Texas votes seemed to shift from red to a red shade of purple. In the U.S. Congressional race, we saw more Republican districts that were won by less than five percentage points since before 2002. We also saw more Republican districts that were only won by five to ten percentage points since before 2002. On the flip side, from 2016 to 2018, we saw a decrease in Republican districts that won by a margin of anywhere over ten percentage points, called Republican “safe” districts. Meaning, we’re seeing Texas Republican districts slowly move from the Republican “safe” point of the political spectrum to the more “toss-up” or “hot race” point of the spectrum. This trend can even be seen in the Texas House and Senate races.
In 2020, we are likely to see this trend continue under one condition; there is a truly strong Democratic candidate on the ballot. What is a truly strong Democratic candidate? It will be someone who leans more on their own merit than the lack of merit of the opposition. Meaning, the trend will keep going if we see a Democratic candidate who stands well on their own without having to smear their opponents to the extent we saw in 2016. And let me put emphasis on that they must stand well on their own; no scandals or “gates.”
It should also be taken into account that the sudden shift of Texas’s political climate seen in 2018 also likely had to do with straight-ticket voting. There is strong evidence that in 2018, some of the local level Democrats that were put into office were just side-effects of straight-ticket votes that Democratic voters cast to put their national-level candidates into office. However, we will no longer be seeing side-effects of straight-ticket voting. After the passing of Texas’s House Bill 25 in 2017, straight-ticket voting will be leaving in 2020. The question is, will HB 25 have a large enough effect on voting that Texas’ political climate shifts back to its positioning that we saw prior to 2018?
I think not. I think that, in 2018, Beto O’Rourke excited and persuaded enough new Democratic voters that the trend may slowly trudge along just based on the excitement of voters alone. However, the answer won’t truly come until November of 2020. Until then, it’s all just speculation (I’d just like to think my speculation is accurate and precise).