November 06, 2008
The big urbans and the big suburbans revisited

Precinct level data won't be available for some time, but let's revisit my discussion of the big counties with the numbers that are currently on the Secretary of State homepage. Here's that spreadsheet again, updated to include 2008 numbers. Note that the makeup of the top 25 counties is slightly different, with Taylor dropping out and Ellis coming in. Some other counties moved up or down in the population list as well.

The first thing to notice is that what had been an 800,000 vote deficit for John Kerry was this year a 75,000 vote deficit for Barack Obama. McCain lost 80,000 votes from Bush's total, while Obama won 645,000 more votes than Kerry. This 725,000 vote gain by Obama accounts for nearly the entire amount of the pickup from 2004. Maybe you're not ready to call Texas a swing state just yet, but this is a huge step in that direction.

The big urbans led the way on this. What had been a 240,000 vote surplus for Bush (I goofed on the math when I first did this) became a 267,000 vote deficit for McCain, or a total turnaround of over a half million votes. Dallas was a 115,000-vote blowout for Obama, who won with 57.5% there. Both Travis and El Paso were at around 65% for Obama, with Travis' margin for Obama (117,000) the biggest of them all, and both Harris (50.43%) and Bexar (52.42%) went blue. Tarrant, which gave just 37% of the vote to Kerry, gave almost 44% to Obama. The big urbans are Democratic turf, and much of the basis for future growth of the Democratic Party.

The big suburbans had a role to play as well. Though none went blue, Fort Bend (48.53% for Obama) and Hays (48.14%) both approached parity. Williamson went from 33.6% Democratic to 42.7% Dem. Collin and Denton both went from sub-30% to around 37%. Brazoria ticked up a notch from 31.0% to 34.8%, and even Montgoemery was a teeny bit less hopeless, going from 21.4% to 23.2%. Hey, I said there was no place to go but up. This shaved a 370,000 vote shortfall for Kerry to a 275,000 vote gap for Obama.

For the remaining counties, the story was one part the collapse of Republican support in Latino counties, as Hidalgo (54.86% to 69.07%), Cameron (49.16% to 64.07%), and Webb (56.92% to 71.45%) all came back strongly to the Dems, though still at below-average turnout levels, and one part everywhere else, where Obama still gained even in bright crimson areas like Lubbock (24% to 31%) and Brazos (30% to 35%). The biggest surprise to me was seeing Bell County, not a place where I expected any gains, jump from 34.07% for Kerry to 44.76% for Obama. I presume Bell's higher than average black population may have had something to do with that. The bottom line here was that a 193,000 vote deficit shrunk to just 65,000 votes.

There's still room for further improvement. None of the Latino counties, which gave Obama his biggest percentages, had turnout levels above 50, except for Nueces, which is more Republican. I expect Harris to get bluer, as should Dallas and Tarrant. The suburbs are ripe for Democratic renewal; both Fort Bend with Richard Morrison and Williamson with Diana Maldonado saw Dems win seats that had been exclusively Republican before. Collin and Denton should be next in line, though that may take a couple more cycles. And this is where a growing share of the vote is; it was 71.3% of the statewide total in 2004, and 72.7% in 2008. Even if the rest of the state doesn't get any more purple - and remember, even outside the top 25, the Republican advantage dropped a little, from about 893,000 votes to 875,000 votes - gains in the biggest counties will eventually swamp it. This is where the action is for the Democrats, and it's the road map for putting Texas in play in 2012, with a stop along the way for the state races in 2010. I'm excited about the future.

By the way, I wrote all this last night, before I saw this Chron story about the statewide trends and the gains the Dems made in urban and suburban areas, though the article is less clear on that point. I think the bottom line can be summed up as follows: Therre were 640,000 more votes cast in the Presidential race this year than there were in 2004. The Democrats had a net gain of 688,000 votes for their Presidential candidate. The Republicans had a net loss of 60,000 for theirs. I know which side of that trend I'd rather be on.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on November 06, 2008 to Election 2008

Your analysis seems to support the growing consensus that the battlegrounds for 2010 are going to be the big suburban counties, particularly, Fort Bend and Hays.

Posted by: Jeb on November 7, 2008 10:48 AM
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