Voter turnout huge for mid-term election
An abnormal number of Texans are voting early in this year's mid-term elections. By election day Nov. 6, it may come close to the larger turnouts registered in presidential elections.
So, what does it mean, and who is turning out?
Democrat Beto O'Rourke challenge to Republican U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz
In Texas, it might be easy to credit the expanded turnout to Democrat Beto O'Rourke's ambitious, volunteer-heavy campaign to unseat Republican U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz.
O'Rourke has energized a Democratic base dormant for at least two decades. If there is a catalyst for a refurbished grassroots Democratic party in Texas, his campaign is it.
The El Paso congressman's campaign reported Sunday that its voter turnout workers had knocked on more than 1 million doors.
Referendum on Donald Trump
However, huge off-year turnouts are occurring all over the country. Readers of election tea leaves think there's a national interest in the election, as a referendum on Republican President Donald Trump.
How much of that affects the O'Rourke-Cruz faceoff remains to be seen.
Ingredients For Change?
How many of those voters across the country, and in Texas, are young people, who are registering and voting in large numbers, and are presumed more likely to vote Democratic? Will they, and will it be enough to make a difference?
Mexican-Americans, and the Hispanic "Sleeping Giant."
How much will the Hispanic vote turn out? They also tend to lean Democratic – when they vote. But for the last several election cycles, Democrats' hopes that they would turn out haven't been fulfilled.
Whether they've been energized enough against Trump's "Build the Wall" effort to close off the country's southern border to countries like Mexico, from which many of them or their forebears came, will significantly boost their vote, remains a big question.
And, can Beto – who grew up in El Paso, speaks fluent Spanish (which Cruz does not), and talks lovingly of the bi-cultural border life – attract enough normally non-voting Hispanics to the polls to make a significant difference?
The #MeToo movement to eradicate sexual harassment, that came into being a year ago in the wake of allegations about movie producer Harvey Weinstein, that quickly spread to journalism and then politics, has energized an enormous number of women.
There are half again as many women running in congressional and legislative races than ever before. And, allegations from several women that Donald Trump sexually harassed them have helped cause a number of women who normally vote Republican to re-evaluate their choices.
How much that comes to pass could have an important effect on the election outcomes.
Have the events of the last few years, including:
νTed Cruz's shutting down the federal government trying to wipe out ObamaCare – including its prohibition of insurance companies denying policies because of pre-existing conditions;
νDonald Trump's erratic and combative performance as president, including dismantling several international alliances;
– caused a significant number of Republicans, or Republican-leaning Independents, to vote Democratic, or stay home?
Is Texas too Red to Make a Difference?
As recently as 1987, there were just two statewide Republican elected officials: U.S. Sen. Phil Gramm, and Gov. Bill Clements.
Election year 1994 was the last time that Democrats won a statewide office – and all of the winners were incumbents. In 1998, Republicans swept every statewide office on the ballot, and haven't lost an election since.
It reached the point several election cycles ago that winning the Republican primary for a statewide office meant the nominee could coast through the general election. The result was pre-ordained.
For example, after Cruz beat then-Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst for the Republican nomination for the U.S. Senate, in a 2012 runoff, he went on to defeat Democrat Paul Sadler by more than 1.2 million votes.
Fascinating Wrinkle in Attorney General Race: Milder endorses Nelson
It was interesting when Scott Milder, who lost the Republican primary challenging incumbent Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, endorsed Democrat Mike Collier for that job.
But Milder has now also endorsed Justin Nelson, the Democratic attorney general candidate challenging incumbent Republican Ken Paxton.
Paxton, indicted for commercial fraud three years ago, also has been criticized by Nelson for his refusal to defend the Texas Ethics Commission in a lawsuit brought by a far-right group called Empower Texans, which has contributed hundreds of thousands of dollars to Paxton's campaign.
Milder's open letter to "Rational Conservative Texans" said he voted for Nelson because "Ken Paxton thinks his role as AG is to serve himself, a handful of his legislative colleagues, his billionaire funders, and his puppet master Empower Texans."
Paxton has responded to Nelson's ads spotlighting the pending criminal charges against him by charging that Nelson is too "liberal" for Texas.