General Election Update

OCTOBER 27, 2016

by Jim Dow

Democrats are as circumspect about things as the Republicans are nervous.  There’s consensus for the most part—based on a lot of objective data—that this is a wave year, but even Dems are quick to acknowledge that they lack the money and infrastructure to do what they should to capitalize on it in Texas.  A lot of Republicans seem to be more fatalistic about things than the Democrats are optimistic.  Everyone seems to be doing exactly what they should:  Republicans are running scared for their lives, Democrats are keeping their eyes on the prize.  Everyone is working hard and smart.  (But they’re my friends, which makes them smart!)

And here’s today’s good news for all mankind: This will be over soon. 

Democrats’ optimism going forward centers on the fact that they can mark those voters off their turnout list and concentrate on continuing to turnout even more low-propensity voters. In a normal year, even high-propensity Democratic voters are slower to vote than Republicans, but they have to worry over those people until their ballots are actually cast. That’s not the case this year—they get to focus on “extra credit,” so to speak.

Basically, Democrats believe that the Republicans run out of GOTV opportunities faster than they do. It’s the “comatose giant” versus the well-oiled Texas Republican machine.  History tells us to bet on the machine.

Almost no one believes that Texas is actually in play for Hillary, largely because her investment is too little, too late. And no one faults her campaign for that. Even with a huge investment they still couldn’t have made a sound value proposition in Texas. It’s Republicans that seem to most believe that she might still have some chance. I don’t buy that, personally.

If Hillary somehow ekes her way to 45%, what Democratic statewide has the chops to run 5 points ahead of that number? Spoiler: Zero. For historical reference: Obama almost made it to 44% in 2008, dropped back to 41% in 2012. There’s been some demographic change since then, but not THAT much.

To me, the really big unanswered question is how badly does Trump screw up Republican straight-ticket voting and how many down ballot Republicans have the lead in their pencils to ride that out.


The crazy turnout bump in early vote so far has been mostly high-propensity voters from both sides.

Democrats do see a 10-15% increase in turnout among low-propensity Democratic voters so far. (They’re especially happy about Dallas and Harris counties.) How much they can actually do to bolster that trend is the $64,000 question.

On the polling, it’s Trump coming down to meet Hillary and not the other way around. She has a 43% ceiling in the polls so far.


The common bogey on State House races is 5. Sheets and Anderson are the bubble races. Galindo, Pena, and whatever Republican won the special election in San Antonio are the three check downs. Everyone I talk to on either side acknowledges that the Republicans are running a first class campaign operation that might be able to accomplish some miracles. Miracles will be required in the bubble districts if the Democrats’ analysis of early voting so far is correct and they can continue the trend they believe they’re on.

The Republican worst case scenario in the House would also have Burkett, Villalba, Koop, Lozano, and S. Davis in jeopardy as well. For a lot of different reasons that I won’t go into, it’s very hard for me to imagine that. But most of the credit goes to Speaker Straus and his lieutenants for having their act together, anyway.

Above all, this is a harbinger election for Texas.

How Hillary and Democrats perform—or fail to perform—will tell us how Texas may tilt after more demographic change and population growth in the decade(s) to come. That will determine how soon large dollar investments might be made that could make Texas general elections interesting as more than just academic pursuits.


CD 23 is the Congressional race most worth watching. Congressman Will Hurd has run an exceptionally good campaign but that district tilts Dems’ way even in marginal Presidential years. If he makes it through this one, Paul Ryan owes him a special prize.

Nothing’s in play in the Texas Senate.