Podcast primer: ‘Democrats are catching up to Republicans rapidly’ in Texas

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This week, the Signal sat down with Brandon Rottinghaus, a leading Texas political scientist with the University of Houston and co-host of the Party Politics podcast, to discuss the ongoing Democratic presidential primary in Texas.

According to Rottinghaus, Sen. Bernie Sanders is poised to perform well in the Lone Star State and could receive as many delegates as Biden.

“The way delegates are allocated in Texas, the strongest and the most delegates are going to places where the Democrats ran better in 2016 and 2018,” Rottinghaus said, referring to solidly blue counties with younger voters, like Travis, Hays and Denton. “At that point, you’re probably likely to see the most progressive Democrat winning, so Bernie Sanders is going to take a big chunk of those.”

On Biden’s troubles

While Vice President Joe Biden has led in Texas polls since entering the race, his prospects of winning Texas are looking, perhaps, less likely following two losses in Iowa and New Hampshire. It is still, however, too early to write his obituary. 

Rottinghaus said it’s possible Biden could see a resurgence in the polls if he does well in upcoming states.

“The problem for Joe Biden is that it’s hard to harness a horse while you’re riding it,” Rottinghaus said. “He doesn’t have the kind of ground game in the state that others did. He got in late, he was wishy-washy for a long time, but Bernie Sanders this week is opening offices in Houston, in San Antonio, and McAllen, where you have a tremendous surge of young Latino support for the potential Democratic nominee.” 

Other candidates, including Sen. Elizabeth Warren and Michael Bloomberg– who are almost tied in Texas for third place– have also invested in staffing and repeated visits to the Lone Star State, suggesting Biden has much more competition than just Sanders in Texas come Super Tuesday.

On Trump being underwater in Texas

Polling in Texas shows the president is in a statistical tie with Biden and a few points ahead of Sanders. For those who have lived in Texas during past presidential cycles, that’s a pitiful margin for a traditionally GOP stronghold. 

“Donald Trump should be doing a lot better here. There’s a natural Republican base here,”  Rottinghaus said. “Even if you map the total votes that Democrats and Republicans get, Democrats are catching up to Republicans rapidly.” 

On Texas being first

Before and after dropping out of the presidential race, former Obama-era Housing chief Julián Castro was a vocal critic of the primary process that gave early voting, majority-white states like Iowa and New Hampshire too much influence in determining the nominee. 

Since then, many groups, like She the People, which began a #TrustWomenofColor petition on Wednesday, have pushed for more diverse states to lead the country in voting first.

“Harris County by itself is bigger than New Hampshire, and probably more representative of where the country is,” Rottinghaus said. 

Still, Rottinghaus argued that doing away with an early state voting system altogether was probably for the best.

“The rules for both parties, especially for the Democratic Party, allows this to stretch out for a long time,” Rottinghaus said. “I think it’s a bad thing. In a way, the longer it stretches out, the more complicated it is, the more bad feelings come, and statistically speaking, the lower the turnout in the general, so it has its faults.” 

Photo: TIMOTHY A. CLARY/AFP via Getty Images

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