January 13, 2020

Dems Have Absolution Shot with Ground Game Plan
that Targets Nearly 3 Million Potential Primary Voters

By Mike Hailey
Capitol Inside Editor

Texas Democrats launched a quest for redemption on Monday with the trumpeting of a voter registration and infrastructure development plan that seeks to accomplish what the minority party promised and failed to do 10 years ago after a record-demolishing turnout in the primary election in 2008.

The state Democratic Party vowed in a fundraising pitch to have a monumental ground game in place for the fall in hopes of capitalizing on a blue wave that swept its nominees to victories in 2018 in a dozen Texas House races, two Senate fights and a pair of congressional contests in districts that the GOP had controlled until then.

The TDP declared that it will be setting it sights on 2.6 million Texans who haven't registered to vote but would be inclined to back Democrats in the November general election if they are added to the state electoral rolls before then.

"The rapidly emerging Democratic coalition in Texas has set the stage for historic Democratic gains at the ballot box," TDP analytics director Lauren Pulley said in an email today. "We know we must register and engage a new electorate that is more progressive and represents the diversity of our great state."

Republicans are accusing the rival party of wildly exaggerating the number of unregistered voters who can be accurately identified as Democrats based on their participation at the primary polls in the past. The Democrats are dismissing the Republican criticism as desperation spin on the part of a party whose grip on the state is slipping away with President Donald Trump escalating that process dramatically.

Skeptics on both sides of the aisle will see the TDP's grandiose plans as the latest verse in the same basic song that the state organization had played after the primary election a dozen years ago when almost 2.8 million voters flocked to the Democratic primary polls when Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton were doing battle for the White House nomination in a race that was still close at the time.

Less than 1.4 million votes were cast in the GOP primary election that year when John McCain had been on track to be the presidential nominee with only token competition at best. The Democratic primary turnout in Texas in 2008 was more than three times higher than it had been four years earlier when John Kerry all but had the White House nomination sewn up before losing eventually to Republican incumbent George W. Bush.

But the Democratic turnout here that year proved to be more of an aberration than a sign of times to come in Texas - and it had a divisive effect on the Democrats here after Clinton prevailed in the primary vote only to fall behind in the national delegate count thanks to the way the Obama team took advantage of the state party's so-called two-step process that relied to a degree on precinct convention votes that took place after the polls closed.

It was clear that a significant number of Republicans had crossed party lines in the primary election in 2008 simply for the sake of being able to say that they'd participated in one of the hottest intramural contests for president in American history. But the Democrats here promised nonetheless to seize on the historic primary turnout in Texas in Obama's first winning campaign at the national level as a springboard back to power here.

But the sudden surge in support that that the Democrats bubbling with optimism in Texas in 2008 turned out to an empty blue mirage in the next two cycles. The Democrats were blown out up and down the ballot in 2010 several months after the tea party's conception in Texas where one-fourth as many Democrats voted in the primary election compared to the opening round turnout in 2008. Almost 1.5 million Republicans turned out for a 2010 primary that featured an epic fight that pit then-U.S. Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison against incumbent Rick Perry in the governor's race that year.

While midterm votes almost always have primary turnouts that are smaller than those in presidential elections, the Democrats' numbers continued to go south in the 2012 primary when fewer than 591,000 Texans cast ballots in the minority party's round one vote here when Kerry already had locked up the nomination for the White House.

Almost 1.5 million votes were cast in the GOP primary here in 2012 when Mitt Romney had been a shoo-in for the White House nomination by the time Texans voted that year.

Trump has been the great equalizer - however - in a state that Democrats have a reasonable chance to carry at the top of the 2020 Texas ticket for the first time in 44 years.


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