Jeb Bush and Eva Longoria don’t have much in common, but on this they agree: Both think Texas might soon “go blue.” Even Senator Ted Cruz has said he’s worried his home state could become Democratic in “a few short years”—and some Obama campaign veterans have formed a new group, Battleground Texas, to make Cruz’s nightmare come true.
A blue Texas would be an electoral earthquake. And the demographics do look promising. Battleground Texas figures that, if it can boost Hispanic turnout to match the rate in other Latino-heavy swing states, then Democrats will be in a position to win in the Lone Star state.
But someone needs to rain on the rodeo: Democrats don’t have a chance of snagging Texas in a competitive presidential election any time soon. That’s because Latinos in Texas are disproportionately ineligible to vote. Too many either aren’t citizens or are too young to upend the state in the next few election cycles.
In order to win Texas in the near future, a Democratic presidential candidate would need not just record Latino turnout, but a historic performance with white voters, too.
So when, then, could a Democratic contender have a reasonable shot of moving Texas into the toss-up column? Here’s our breakdown of how long it would take under a few different scenarios, as well as the basic population data that is likely to make the conversion very slow going.
And only 22 percent of actual voters in 2012.3
So even Obama’s solid performance with Latinos couldn’t overcome the trouncing from whites. He lost Texas by 16 points.4
Four Ways Forward
Projected Republican Results
Projected Democratic Results
1. Status Quo
Texas’s voting-eligible Latino population will increase naturally over time, growing by about 18 percent every four years. That will help Democrats even if they don’t increase turnout rates, but this projected growth won’t be enough on its own to turn the state blue in the next six presidential elections. Part of the problem? Democrats can’t count on the low white turnout and high black turnout of 2012 lasting into the future.
2. Higher Latino Turnout
Texas would become competitive sooner if Democratic groups could boost Latino turnout to match the 52 percent in Nevada, a swing state the Democrats were able to win in 2008 and 2012 in part by mobilizing the large Latino population in Las Vegas. Still, Texas would not go Democratic until 20365.
3. Higher Latino Turnout + Comprehensive Immigration Reform
Republicans argue the immigration-reform bill before Congress would boost Democrats’ fortunes by turning millions of illegal immigrants into voting-eligible citizens. About 1.4 million illegal immigrants live in Texas, but not all will become citizens. Only about half a million will, assuming the rate matches that of the 1986 immigration-reform bill. Of those, only 300,000 or so will turn out to vote—hardly making an impact.
4. Higher Latino Turnout + Comprehensive Immigration Reform + Democratic Landslide
In order for Democrats to win Texas within the next three cycles6, boosting Latino turnout would be just step one. The second step would be a presidential candidate who could do as well with white voters as President Obama did in 2008. Of course, such a candidate would be on his or her way to a national landslide, in which case Texas’s electoral votes would be gravy, not a cornerstone of victory.
Nate Cohn is a staff writer at The New Republic.
2007–2011 American Community Survey
Current Population Survey, November 2012
The New York Times and USA Election Atlas. “Heavily” defined as counties that were more than 80 percent white or Latino in 2012.
By 2036, Latinos will be 42 percent of the Texas electorate, and whites just 38 percent. Republicans would still be able to win, however, if they improved their standing with Latinos even by just a little.
With a great overall performance, including among white voters, a Democratic candidate could win Texas in 2024, when whites will still be 47 percent of the electorate and Latinos 34 percent.