There’s a story in Politico today about a new organization coming to Texas called Battleground Texas. It’s a very encouraging article and all the right things are being said. It will be a long-term plan to register, motivate, and get progressive voting Texans to the polls. Oh, and it will be well-funded. From the article, Democrats launch plan to turn Texas blue.
National Democrats are taking steps to create a large-scale independent group aimed at turning traditionally conservative Texas into a prime electoral battleground, crafting a new initiative to identify and mobilize progressive voters in the rapidly-changing state, strategists familiar with the plans told POLITICO.
The organization, dubbed “Battleground Texas,” plans to engage the state’s rapidly growing Latino population, as well as African-American voters and other Democratic-leaning constituencies that have been underrepresented at the ballot box in recent cycles. Two sources said the contemplated budget would run into the tens of millions of dollars over several years – a project Democrats hope has enough heft to help turn what has long been an electoral pipe dream into reality.
At the center of the effort is Jeremy Bird, formerly the national field director for President Barack Obama’s reelection campaign, who was in Austin last week to confer with local Democrats about the project.
In a statement to POLITICO, Bird said the group would be “a grass-roots organization that will make Texas a battleground state by treating it like one.”
“With its diversity and size, Texas should always be a battleground state where local elections are vigorously contested and anyone who wants to be our commander in chief has to compete and show they reflect Texas values. Yet for far too long, the state’s political leaders, both in Austin and in Washington, D.C., have failed to stand for Texans,” said Bird, who recently founded a consulting firm, 270 Strategies. “Over the next several years, Battleground Texas will focus on expanding the electorate by registering more voters — and as importantly, by mobilizing Texans who are already registered voters but who have not been engaged in the democratic process.”
Said Bird: “Candidates who represent Texans should have to fight hard for the honor — and Battleground Texas will help make sure they do.
One Democrat close to the planning process said the group intended to bring in “top campaign talent to Texas” for a long-term organizing push. Strategists filed papers with the Texas Ethics Commission to create Battleground Texas earlier this month with that goal in mind.
“It’s going to take a sustained effort and we’re going to have to prove ourselves over time,” the Democrat said. “We need to have the talent in state to build something real over time and make the environment such that you can look someone in the eye and say, ‘You can run statewide and you can win,’ or you can tell a presidential candidate that you should really consider putting resources here.”
Another strategist tied to Texas called the project a “very positive effort to try to put together a pretty broad grass-roots organization to try to identify and ultimately mobilize progressive voters.”
“There’s a realistic view that that will take more than one cycle,” the strategist said. “None of this stuff is ever real until you’ve got money.”
Democrats have eyed Texas longingly for years, watching as the Republican bastion has transformed into a majority-minority state. The 2010 census found that 38 percent of Texans identified themselves as Latino or Hispanic; just under 45 percent were non-Hispanic whites.
But the Democratic infrastructure in Texas has decayed over two decades of GOP ascendancy. Congressional and legislative redistricting has undercut the party’s efforts to rebuild there. Republicans control every statewide office, and Obama lost to Mitt Romney in the state by 16 points in November. No exit poll was taken in Texas last November, but Latinos have typically made up a smaller share of the electorate than the overall population.
Still, Democrats buoyed by the breadth of their 2012 victories are looking to Texas as a political holy grail: a prize so spectacular that it might just be worth a big, sustained investment of money and energy. If state and national party leaders committed the time and almost presidential-level resources required, the thinking goes, the most important cornerstone of the GOP’s electoral map could become competitive. [Emphasis added]
Show us the money! We can certainly use help like this in Williamson County. It’s hard to trust something like this is going to happen until it actually does. The TDP has been starved for money to organize for at least a decade. But this looks promising, and sooner or later, the Democrats at the national level have to reengage in Texas.
Republicans have consistently scoffed at Democratic attempts to woo the Texas electorate — and with some cause. As strategists in both parties see it, national Democrats periodically find themselves gripped with excitement about competing there, only to find that the state is too big, too expensive and too culturally conservative for them to pull it off.
The party fielded a strong candidate for governor in 2010, former Houston Mayor Bill White, only to see him lose by 13 points to incumbent Gov. Rick Perry. Two years later, Democrats recruited retired Gen. Ricardo Sanchez into the open-seat Senate race, presenting him as a candidate who could appeal to conservative voters and energize Latinos. Sanchez withdrew several months later after raising a paltry sum for the race.
From the deeply skeptical Republican perspective, Democratic hopes for flipping Texas — even over the medium to long term — recall the GOP’s short-lived aspirations to compete in California at the height of George W. Bush’s popularity.
Republican strategist Dave Carney, who has worked extensively in Texas and steered Perry’s 2010 reelection, dismissed mocked Democratic claims that a brand-new voter mobilization project would help transform the state. He called it a matter of “consultants coming up with a project to get paid.”
“The more money they spend on [Battleground Texas], the better it is for Texas and the taxpayers of Texas, because it will basically lead to continued conservative dominance of the state. There’s a reason voters are low-propensity voters. They don’t vote,” Carney said. “It’s their message that hurts [Democrats]. It’s their inability to articulate a message that the vast majority of Texas voters agree with.” [Emphasis added]
Andy Seré, a national GOP strategist with Texas ties, emphasized just what a steep challenge Democrats have ahead of them: “Democrats simply lack anything close to the statewide infrastructure that a majority party has, and they don’t appear even close to it. In order to become competitive, they need to expand their donor base beyond trial lawyers and their voter base beyond minorities. And until they do, they are not going to be competitive in a state as big and fast-growing as Texas is.”
Even more-than-usually upbeat Texas Democrats acknowledge that state Republicans have built a formidable edifice to protect their majority. If Perry currently looks like a weakened governor, he has been underestimated before; and state Attorney General Greg Abbott is waiting in the wings as a possible successor with a massive war chest at his disposal.
“Republicans here have a decade’s worth of fundraising and infrastructure that plays to their advantage. I don’t care what state you’re in, that’s going to be hard for any challenger to go up against,” said Austin-based Democratic operative Ed Espinoza. “Having said that, we have some really bright stars. We don’t have a deep bench, but we do have a good bench.”
Looking to 2014 and beyond, Espinoza echoed the Democratic consensus that building viable statewide institutions for Democrats is the top priority.
“We do need to have a good team, and we do need to have a good ticket. We’ve had too many go-it-alone candidacies that just weren’t able to do it on their own,” he said. “Coordination should focus on things like who can raise money, who can build structure and who can build votes. Too often we say, ‘Well, this person’s brown, so they can win brown votes, and this person’s a woman, so she can win women’s votes.’”
There’s much more in the article, so read the whole thing. It’s hard not to get excited about what looks like a great effort coming to help “turn Texas blue”. One thing I noted is that, even though the TDP has decayed, they didn’t talk to anyone from the TDP for the story. It would be nice to know what they think and how they will fit in with this effort.
Carney’s comments are what is to be expected from the Texas GOP about an effort like this. Democrats have been unable to compete because of a lack of resources over the past decade or so, which has enabled much of the free ride the GOP has had in Texas during that time. They know this kind of effort is the only thing that can get in their way. A real, sustained, and well-financed effort like is truly the only thing that will ever make the Texas demographic myth a reality, and bring the future Democratic success in Texas.
Other takes on Battleground Texas:
National Democratic plan to turn Texas blue might first need to reassure Texas Democrats.
‘Battleground Texas’ launches new multimillion dollar effort to turn Texas blue.
Democrats Launch Plan To Turn Texas Blue.
Win Texas, Win Forever.