Crystal Ball Sees GOP State House Majority
Going Down in Massive Crash with Trump
Legislative and Congress Ratings
By Mike Hailey
Capitol Inside Editor
June 29, 2020
The wildly unpredictable coronavirus appears to be fueling a massive blue wave that sweeps the Democrats back into power in the Texas House of Representatives with President Donald Trump as their all-time greatest ally.
With the president blowing up a submissive GOP in Texas and beyond, the Democrats are poised to take the Legislature's lower chamber back as long they stay out of the way of the runaway train called the Trump campaign between now and November.
The Capitol Inside crystal ball foresees a cataclysmic November shaping up for the Republicans who could be on the verge of fumbling away the 38 Texas electoral votes and a U.S. Senate seat as well if Trump doesn't pull off the biggest comeback in modern American history.
Barring a miraculous economy recovery that's Trump only hope for a successful re-election bid, the tentative forecast here has the Democrats running up the score on the critical state House battlefield this fall with a net gain of at least 15 seats with the potential for more at the rate the Republicans are going now.
While the 2020 election is harder to predict than votes in the past, the current outlook for the Legislature's lower chamber is a solid blue with a minimum of 82 Democrats and 68 Republicans or less taking the oath in January. The Democrats have a good chance to flip more than a half-dozen congressional districts in Texas with a toxic president leading the charge for the GOP. The minority party will oust GOP State Senator Pete Flores of Pleasanton in a district where he was lucky to win in the first place in a special election in 2018.
After predicting that Democrats would pick up 11 Texas House seats in 2018 when they wrestled a dozen away from the GOP, the crystal ball here sees Republican incumbents and open race candidates with cause for concern in any district where Trump failed to win less than two-thirds of the vote four years ago.
U.S. Senator John Cornyn would have won a new term in a November blowout if he hadn't wrapped himself in a president who'd sought to portray the worst public health crisis in more than a century as a partisan hoax before ordering the military to attack peaceful protesters for the sake of a campaign photo op.
Cornyn might still have a 50-50 chance of surviving Trump in a development that could help minimize the down-ballot devastation that appears to be on the horizon for the Republicans here.
Cornyn and the GOP's other candidates in Texas can be expected to be hounded by Democratic foes about the latest Trump administration scandal in the aftermath of revelations that he either knew about Russia bounties on American soliders or didn't know because his staff feared the potential for dangerous consequences from sharing that information with him. The Republicans will have plenty of chances when asked to say which of those two possible options is worse. The timing of the disclosure could not be worse in light of the fact that Trump has already been investigated in connection with Russian meddling in his first election.
Some Republicans like State Senators Jane Nelson of Flower Mound and Larry Taylor of Friendswood and State Reps. Charlie Geren of Fort Worth, Angie Chen Button of Garland and Sarah Davis of Houston might have a shot to dodge the tsunami as a result of their own individual qualities, experience and proven skills as a candidates.
Nelson is the most powerful state senator in Texas as the Finance Committee chair - a job that she's handled in a way that's won rave reviews. Taylor wields substantial clout as well as the Senate Education Committee chairman who teamed with Nelson as the chief architects of a massive public education and property tax relief package last year.
Button, whose parents fled China in the wake of the communist takeover there, will be hoping that some Republican voters don't turn against her at a time when Trump and the GOP has been trying to start a new cold war with the Chinese government as revenge for the coronavirus spread in the United States. Geren is a legislative titan who's product of a highly-respected family that has been devoted to public service. Davis is the GOP's most moderate lawmaker in Austin as a fifth-term representative who's been popular on both sides of the aisle in a district that's anchored by the world's largest medical center and contains the largest LGBTQ community in the state.
But other Republicans in Texas legislative and congressional districts where Trump received less than 60 percent of the vote in 2016 could be doomed as a consequence of guilt by association exclusively on a ticket with a self-destructing president at the top.
Texas Republicans have tried to dismiss the blue wave in 2018 as an offshoot of Democrat Beto O'Rourke's strong showing as the minority party ticket leader in a battle that he almost won against U.S. Senator Ted Cruz. But the truth is that Trump had dramatically accelerated the conversion of Texas from red to blue with the results at the polls in 2016 and 2018 as obvious evidence of the unprecedented drain that he's had on the Republicans here.
The Democrats who would reclaim the state House with a net gain of nine seats. They could accomplish that simply by winning in every GOP-controlled district that O'Rourke carried two years ago. in November.
Republicans will be running as underdogs in most of 17 House districts where Trump garnered less than 55 percent of the vote in his first White House race. Some of seven GOP candidates in House districts where the president claimed between 55 percent and 60 percent of the 2016 vote are probably going to lose as well.
Governor Greg Abbott - the most popular Republican in Texas at the statewide level - has done nothing this year to help the GOP cause with the way he's handled the coronavirus crisis in a state where his lax approach set the stage for state's emergence as the new epicenter.
Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick has given the Democrats an enormous boost with shocking claims about older Texans be willing to die for the economy and the way he's consistently undermined Abbott's attempt to lead during the pandemic.
The Texas GOP will be contributing to the disaster in the making if Abbott allows the party to proceed with the state convention in Houston in two weeks as an event that could spark yet another virus surge that's worst than the current wave.
Abbott can expect to be booed out of the building if he has the nerve to show up at a convention that will be dominated by hard-line conservatives who've have lambasted his leadership for failing to comply with their demands for a reopening without any restrictions as though the virus did not exist.
While anything can happen in the next four months, the Republicans in Texas simply haven't shown any signs at all of being able to win on their own in spite of a president who'd been getting more radioactive with each passing day. They have four months to try to save themselves in the Lone Star State.