Massive numbers of Democratic ballots are coming in as the Texas primary race kicks off this week. Early voting began on February 20 and turnout by Democrats is up 90 percent from the 2014 midterms, indicating that even the deep red state of Texas is not immune to this year’s blue surge.
The Texas primary will determine the Democratic and Republican frontrunners for all 36 of the state’s congressional districts, a US Senate seat, and the governor’s office.
Republicans are nervous
At a recent GOP event, Republican Senator Ted Cruz tried to strike fear into the hearts of conservative voters, saying Democrats would “crawl over broken glass in November to vote.”
But Cruz himself must be worried, with his approval rating in the gutter at 36 percent, and his likely challenger, Congressman Beto O’Rourke, far ahead in fundraising.
It’s the first time in 25 years that Democrats are running in every congressional district in Texas. And though Democrats know they can’t win everywhere, they are eyeing three congressional districts where Hillary Clinton did well in 2016. The districts containing Houston, Dallas, and San Antonio are all held by Republicans, so Democrats will be putting the most money and energy into those races.
What can early voting tell us?
Early voting numbers cannot predict an election’s outcome, but they can tell us something about voters’ enthusiasm. Generally a lot of early voting means a lot of decided voters, and in this case, a lot of decided Democrats.
In fact, in some of the largest districts in Texas, we are seeing higher early voting numbers this year compared to even the general election in 2016. It is common to see lower turnouts in midterm elections, so this is yet another indicator of voter initiative.
But, primary turnout does not necessarily correlate to turnout in the general election. And it is especially hard to predict what will happen in November because Texas is known for low-turnout overall, especially among minorities and young people.
Democrats will have to keep building enthusiasm among voters in Texas’ major cities to pull off wins in November. And though it would be foolish to put too much stake in early voting numbers, they do show that the current is moving in Democrats’ favor.