Sen. Rand Paul: Texas Might Turn; Gallup: Not Going Blue Anytime Soon

Matt Vespa
By Matt Vespa | February 10, 2014 | 12:57 PM EST

Ashe Schow at the Washington Examiner reported today on remarks made by Sen. Rand Paul (R- KY) over the weekend at a Texas Republican dinner in Harris County about how the party needs to change, or risk the Lone Star State turning blue as a consequence. "That means we evolve. It doesn't mean we give up on what we believe in, but it means we have to be a welcoming party." Paul said.

Yet, Gallup's February 7 poll poured cold water all over that liberal dream.

For starters, the fact that Democrats can't make in-roads with the white population in Texas, who are flocking to the GOP, is a major problem.  Second, Texas Hispanics are more Republican now than they were in 2008.

Andrew Dugan at Gallup wrote:

Relative to 2008 -- the year of President Barack Obama's landslide presidential victory -- Texan Hispanics have gradually become more Republican, even as the percentage of Hispanics identifying with or leaning toward the Republican Party has remained relatively stable nationwide. The six-percentage-point gap between the percentage of Texan Hispanics and Hispanics living in all other states who identify or lean GOP is the highest it has been in over six years.

That's not terribly devastating.  And, as Dugan mentioned in his analysis, it means the GOP has been making small, but critical gains within this community in Texas.

With white Texans, the political leanings are hardly a surprise, according to Dugan:

While Texas has a sizeable proportion of Hispanics living in its borders, nearly half of the population (46%) is non-Hispanic white. This group has grown more heavily Republican over the past five years, a fact that no doubt contributed to President Obama's large 2012 defeat in Texas, larger even than his 2008 drubbing. Currently, 61% of white Texans identify or lean Republican, up four points from 2008.

In all, what's the diagnosis?  Dugan added:

Long-suffering Texas Democrats appear to have some hope that their political fortunes in the Lone Star state could soon reverse. The growing Hispanic population, along with the solidly Democratic African-American population, present the best path for the party to move Texas out of its consistent "red state" category and into a more competitive position. Texan Hispanics are more likely to identify as Democrat than Republican, and this could prove advantageous to Democrats.

At the same time, the path toward victory for Democrats may not be as smooth or linear as this logic might suggest. Hispanics in Texas are more likely to identify as Republican than are Hispanics elsewhere, and the Republican Party in Texas has seen more growth in Hispanic support over the past five years than the Democratic Party. While this has not changed the overall equation -- Democrats still lead big among Texan Hispanics -- it does suggest the GOP may be more competitive with this bloc than many assume.

Nor is it clear that Hispanics alone can alter the political trajectory of Texas. While nearly 38% of the Texas population is Hispanic -- over double the national rate -- political participation among this group is not high. So while Texas is a majority minority state in terms of population, differences in political participation by racial and ethnic group -- despite those groups' political leanings -- continue to make Texas a solidly Republican state.

It follows that the biggest challenge for Democrats hoping to turn Texas blue may be in registering and turning out minority voters in that state. But the Democratic Party's relatively poor standing with white Texans will continue to impede its ability to compete on a statewide basis for the foreseeable future.

So, there you have it.  Armageddon is not upon Republicans.  Granted, Texas is the largest guaranteed share of electoral votes for Republicans in national elections; it's their California. If Democrats can poach that in the future, the GOP is no longer competitive on the national level.  So, they should keep an eye on the Lone Star State, but there's no reason for them to be at Defcon 1 readiness yet.