Saturday, November 8, 2008

Crunching the Election's Numbers Nationwide & in Texas

Or, alternate title: I was under the impression there would be no math involved in tonight's debate

As is usually the case George Will wrote an excellent article about what warning signs the Republican Party should acknowledge in the aftermath of the presidential election.
If you look at the electoral college map coupled with what has occurred in the Congress, you have a party without any meaningful presence in the Northeast or West. Let's start by looking at the Northeast. Dems hold all 22 New England House seats now after Nov. 4 (New England not including NY). But NY doesn't get much better, out of 29 House seats Repubs hold only 3 and only one seat from an urban district. The House and Senate losses by the Repubs in the last two election cycles are the worst since 1930 and 1932.

And of course the far West (California, Oregon, Washington) is solid blue. What has to be troubling for the Repubs is that the Southwest, namely Nevada, New Mexico and Colorado went to Obama. Plus, Arizona has a Dem governor that may challenge McCain for his seat. Some are attributing Obama's success in the region to his draw of Hispanic voters:
While he did capture roughly two thirds of the Hispanic vote Obama and the Dems also did well in growing urban (code for big cities) areas and did especially well with not only Hispanics voters but voters across the board that live there.

Now what does that mean for Texans? Let look at some numbers in Texas generally and specifically in key counties:

Texas went for McCain by a large margin about 55% to 44% and 4.5 million versus 3.5 million.

Now lets look at some key counties:
Dallas: Obama 57% vs. McCain 42%

Bexar (San Antonio): Obama 52% vs. McCain 47%

Harris (Houston): Obama 50% vs. McCain 49%

Travis (Austin): Obama 64% vs. McCain 35%

Nueces (Corpus): Obama 47% vs. McCain 52%

Jefferson (Beaumont) Obama 51% vs. McCain 49%

Lubbock: Obama 31% vs. McCain 68%

Potter (Amarillo): Obama 30% vs. McCain 69%

Midland (Midland Odessa): Obama 21% vs. McCain 78%

El Paso: Obama 66% vs. McCain 33%

Laredo (Webb County): Obama 71% vs. McCain 28%

Cameron (Brownsville) Obama 64% vs. McCain 35%

Ok so that's a lot of numbers but, what do they mean? I'll tell you what I think the numbers mean. First, Texas has been a red state since 1980 but these numbers in big towns in 2008 have to be alarming to Repubs. Keep in mind that since 1980 a Bush has been on the Repub presidential ticket each time, except in 1996 and now in 2008, and let's face it, Texans are loyal to other Texans (even fake ones like H.W.). However, looking at the 2008 county numbers it is obvious that McCain won by picking up the smaller counties, albeit at a tremendous rate.

What about Texas counties with statistically significant minority populations generally and Hispanic populations specifically? First, keep in mind that generally such counties are also among the fastest growing in Texas.

The presidential election offers some insight into the changing landscape of Texas voters. McCain generally did not win in counties that are growing and/or have statistically significant minority populations. McCain's only win in a county of any size that has a statistically significant minority population is Nueces County (Corpus Christi). But, I think the large military presence there can account for his narrow victory in Nueces County. But, again it was a narrow victory. Contrast Nueces County with Bexar County (San Antonio) which has a statistically significant minority population especially when taking into account both the Hispanic and African American populations. San Antonio also has more military bases than most towns have McDonald's. But, Obama actually won Bexar County. McCain's loss in San Antonio has to be concerning not only to Repubs in Texas but on a national level.

Hispanic voters, in my experience, are very loyal to their chosen candidates whether they be Republican or Democrat. And I believe to some extent there is a generational gap in the Hispanic voting block. Certainly, there were Hispanics that voted for Reagan H.W. and W. that voted for Obama. However, the increase in Hispanic voters under 40 years old in Texas in the last 20 years cannot be underestimated and those Hispanic voters overwhelmingly voted for Obama.

As it stands, the Repubs couldn't defeat the openly gay, Hispanic, female Democratic Dallas County Sheriff. If you would have told me that even 10 years ago I would have thought you were crazy. All the above says something significant about where the Texas Repubs voting base is and isn't. The Repubs voting base appears to be in small, rural counties. The Repubs cannot take for granted winning in the growing, ethnically/racially diverse big cities in a statewide elections. But, McCain did demonstrate that in a statewide election if you win the smaller counties handily you can win statewide with a decent showing in the big, diverse counties. On the flip side, if, on a statewide level, the Dems can put forward a good/great candidate that is appealing, even somewhat, to rural white voters the Repubs could be in serious trouble.

Don't worry Repubs, Texas is still red. But, if the Texas Dems find a candidate for a statewide office that is appealing in the slightest to rural Texas voters Texas could elect a Dem to a statewide office for the first time in a long time. We'll have to wait and see if the Dems can find such a candidate.

demographics of Texas