Posted on November 5, 2020

Why Democratic Hopes Were Dashed in Texas

Dylan Scott, Vox, November 4, 2020

Democratic dreams of flipping Texas will not be realized this year: For the 11th presidential election in a row, the state has voted for the Republican candidate.

President Donald Trump’s estimated margin of victory over Joe Biden (6 points, 52-46) appears to be the narrowest for a Republican since Bob Dole beat Bill Clinton by 5 in 1996. But that is a hollow victory for Democrats.

A close race was supposed to power the party’s down-ballot candidates and flip US House seats and the Texas House, giving them a foothold of power in the state government. Texas saw a record amount of Democratic spending, with the Biden campaign putting down $6 million on TV ads and Michael Bloomberg adding another $15 million in the final days of the race. One Democratic super PAC spent $12 million to flip the state House.

But instead, Democrats may not gain any congressional seats, and the Texas House will remain in the GOP’s hands. {snip}

It was another disappointing night for Democrats in a state they believe is destined to turn their way. A combination of longstanding demographic trends (Texas is becoming more nonwhite) and the formerly Republican suburbs turning on Trump seemed to give them a chance to compete as soon as 2020.

Democrats did appear to make some inroads with the voters they needed: After Trump won white college graduates by 30 points in 2016, Biden narrowed the president’s margin to 13 this year, according to the New York Times exit poll. (Exit polls should always be read with caution, however.)

But Trump held a huge edge among white voters without a college degree (winning them by 45 points, per the Times) and he seemed to make up ground with nonwhites who don’t have a college degree, particularly Hispanics.

Republicans showed strength with Hispanic Texans

Biden won the Hispanic vote by 19 points this year, according to the exits, but that’s down from Hillary Clinton’s 27-point margin in 2016. A number of heavily Hispanic counties in the Rio Grande Valley shifted toward Trump: Zapata County, to name one, broke for Trump by 5 points with most of the expected vote counted after Clinton won it by more than 30 points in 2016. The president’s share of the county’s vote jumped from 33 percent to 52 percent in his reelection bid.

In 2020, the Democrat also lost several counties — Val Verde, Jim Wells, Frio among them — that Barack Obama, Clinton and Beto O’Rourke had won in previous elections.


Some Democratic strategists had been warning for weeks that Democrats were struggling with Hispanic voters in places like Texas. Chuck Rocha, who had focused on those voters for Bernie Sanders’s presidential campaign, told Vox’s Nicole Narea in early September that outside Democratic groups were not focusing enough on the Latino vote.


Those fears proved prescient on election night. Starr County, which is 96 percent Latino, went from Clinton +60 to Biden +5. The polls had looked somewhat promising for Biden ahead of the election (Trump led by 1.1 points in the final FiveThirtyEight average), but pollsters often have some difficulty in surveying Hispanic voters. The polling appears to have missed the shift to Trump among those voters.