Early Midterm Tea Leaves: Warning Signs for Democrats in Texas?

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Posted: May 04, 2021 10:25 AM
Early Midterm Tea Leaves: Warning Signs for Democrats in Texas?

Source: Nick Wagner/Austin American-Statesman via AP, Pool

It's way too early, but a few signals may be pointing in the GOP's favor ahead of next year's midterm elections. Democrats currently wield full control over Washington, holding the White House and both houses of Congress (barely). Historically, Republicans should be in a position to win back at least the lower chamber, considering the long-held trends and Speaker Pelosi's razor-thin existing margin. If Kevin McCarthy and company simply turn in a typical or ordinary performance, they'd win back the gavel next fall. Redistricting could help. But tailwinds are always helpful, and a few new signs suggest that a decent GOP cycle may be shaping up. A small one is the recent retirement announcement from an Illinois Democrat who barely survived in 2020, despite serving as the chair of her party's House campaign arm in recent elections: 


When vulnerable House members start heading for the exits or seeking promotions ahead of a challenging election environment – as we saw from Republicans in 2018 – it's worthy of some attention. For the same reason, I'd say the GOP's prospects in the Senate this coming cycle could be tougher than in the House. Meanwhile, in Texas over the weekend, the results of a "jungle primary" for a vacant congressional seat outside of Dallas might give House Democrats an added blast of heartburn. In a district Donald Trump only carried by a low-to-mid-single digit margin, Democratic turnout was so poor that they were locked out of the runoff, guaranteeing that Republicans will hold the seat. And it's actually worse than that


Kraushaar has been writing about how TX-06 and NM-01 will be early "stress tests" in relatively safe seats – one for each party. We now have a clear verdict about the Texas race: A major Republican overperformance. If Democrats also underperform in New Mexico next month, alarm bells will start to sound at DCCC headquarters. But the congressional special election primary results weren't the only notable developments in the Lone Star State over the weekend. As COVID cases continue to drop after Gov. Abbott reversed the statewide mask mandate and allowed full re-opening of businesses (predictions of doom have failed to materialize), voters in various Texas communities voted overwhelmingly against far-left agenda items: 

Candidates and voters on both sides described the election as a "fork in the road" for Southlake, a wealthy suburb 30 miles northwest of Dallas. "So goes Southlake," a local conservative commentator warned in the weeks leading up to the election, "so goes the rest of America." In the end, the contest was not close. Candidates backed by the conservative Southlake Families PAC, which has raised more than $200,000 since last summer, won every race by about 70 percent to 30 percent, including those for two school board positions, two City Council seats and mayor. More than 9,000 voters cast ballots, three times as many as in similar contests in the past.

These were landslides, with high-engagement turnout. And in famously liberal Austin, residents decided they'd had enough of an out-of-control homelessness situation and reversed a "progressive" policy that has led to chaos. That vote was fairly lopsided, too:

After all votes were counted in Austin, Proposition B soared to victory in a race many thought would be tighter than it ended up. In a hotly contested debate involving the city's homelessness crisis, 57% of voters said they were in favor of reinstating criminal penalties for camping in public spaces and 42% said they were not. More than 150,000 voters cast a ballot: 85,830 in favor, 64,409 against. Proposition B took center stage among eight ballot propositions, giving residents the voice they did not have two years ago when Mayor Steve Adler and the Austin City Council made it lawful to camp in most public spaces by canceling a 23-year-old ordinance that had prohibited it. The council's decision to end the ban sparked a backlash from many Austin residents and business owners, particularly as the city's unsheltered population seemed to multiply during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

You can only push people so far. I'll leave you with one more note out of Texas, where Republicans are looking to build upon gains among Latino voters: 

The front door of the Hidalgo County Republican Party’s office is covered with photographs of high-profile politicians in the party: Gov. Greg Abbott, Senator John Cornyn and former President Donald J. Trump. Nearly all of them are white men. Step inside, and you’ll see a bulletin board with pictures of local Republican leaders: Adrienne Pena-Garza, Hilda Garza DeShazo, Mayra Flores. Nearly all of them are Hispanic women. Hispanic Republicans, especially women, have become something of political rock stars in South Texas after voters in the Rio Grande Valley shocked leaders in both parties in November by swinging sharply toward the G.O.P...Conversations with voters and activists in Hidalgo County suggested that there is not one answer but many: Women who staunchly oppose abortion voted for the first time; wives of Border Patrol agents felt convinced the Trump administration was firmly on their side; mothers picked up on the enthusiasm for Republicans from friends they knew through church or their children’s school...

Other right-leaning Hispanic voters described a simple ideological shift.  “My family doesn’t come from money, I have friends who are undocumented, I support medical cannabis,” she said. “But I definitely think Democrats are pushing free everything, giving the message that there’s no value in your hard work, and that’s not something I can believe in.” Like Ms. Rivera, Jessica Villarreal, 33, was only an occasional voter, and she had no desire to be politically active while she served in the Army. But now she considers herself a faithful Republican and is considering a run for elected office. “There are more of us who realize our beliefs are Republican, no matter what we’ve been told in the past,” Ms. Villarreal said. “I am a believer in God and the American dream, and I believe the Republican Party represents that.”

Perhaps Democratic activists can keep using invented, alienating terms like "Latinx" to describe these people, and lean into bizarre anti-family messaging like this from coastal leftists: