December 04, 2008
Poll shows Democrats gaining ground in Texas

Burka was the first one to report on a survey of Texas voters done by Hill Research Consultants, a Houston-based Republican polling firm, which contains some not so good news for the state GOP. Here's a quick summary of some of the findings.

Are you likely to vote for Republican or Democrat in the next election for governor?

Republican, 31 percent Democrat, 44 percent

For state representative?

Republican, 31 percent Democrat, 45 percent

Parties' favorable/unfavorable:

Republicans, 47/45 Democrats, 59/29

Poll respondents also identified Republicans as more arrogant, racist and corrupt, while more said Democrats were innovative, smart and fair.

Overall job approval of Republicans in state government:

Approve, 45 percent

Disapprove, 50 percent

Have Republicans performed well enough to deserve re-election?

GOP deserves re-election, 32 percent

Give Democrats a chance, 54 percent

That's almost too good to be true, but as Rod Dreher writes, it is being taken seriously in some GOP circles.

"Every single person I've shown this to has said, 'Wow, I thought something like this might be happening,' " says David B. Hill, who ran the poll. "I don't think it's terribly surprising."

The full report, which will be released today, knocks the legs out from under two principles cherished by the party's grassroots: staunch social conservatism and hard-line immigration policies. At the state level, few voters care much about abortion, school prayer and other hot-button issues. Immigration is the only conservative stand-by that rates much mention - and by hitting it too hard, Republicans lose both the Hispanics and independents that make up what the pollster defines as the "Critical Middle."

Who's in the Critical Middle? Mostly young males who see themselves as moderates and who lean slightly GOP. Clustering around Austin, they're largely unchurched and care little about social issues or immigration. They're open to a GOP appeal to overall spending cuts and credible promises to be good economic stewards.

"Republicans are going to have to win 70 to 80 percent of these voters if they're going to win statewide," Mr. Hill tells me.

You may ask, if things are so bleak for the Republicans, how did they manage to do so well statewide? Greg suggests a reason.

There's two ways of looking at this:

One way is that these people are still voting for Republicans in Texas in the two worst climates thus far in the "Age of Bush".

The second way is that there really hasn't been a sufficiently-funded Democratic candidate to press the issue.

There's nothing to suggest the first point won't alleviate somewhat for the GOP. But there's also nothing to suggest that the second point won't be getting any easier in the future. The statewide judicials actually had a semi-respectable chunk of change to run with in 2008 and demonstrated that Texas was, intrinsically, a 51-45 GOP state. I don't know that there's anything terribly frightening about a 6-point hill to climb when you're used to having head handed over to you without benefit of a silver platter by 12-20 points previously.

Indeed. Just as a reminder, let's compare the 2008 statewide non-Presidential results to the 2004 versions. Here's 2004:

Railroad Commissioner

Victor G. Carrillo(I) REP 3,891,482 55.46%
Bob Scarborough DEM 2,872,717 40.94%
Anthony Garcia LIB 252,497 3.59%
Race Total 7,016,696

Justice, Supreme Court, Place 9

Scott Brister(I) REP 4,093,854 59.23%
David Van Os DEM 2,817,700 40.76%
Race Total 6,911,554

Judge, Court of Criminal Appeals Place 6

Michael E. Keasler(I) REP 3,990,315 57.85%
J.R. Molina DEM 2,906,720 42.14%
Race Total 6,897,035

And here's 2008:

Railroad Commissioner

Michael L. Williams(I) REP 4,003,789 52.13%
Mark Thompson DEM 3,406,174 44.35%
David Floyd LIB 270,078 3.51%
Race Total 7,680,041

Chief Justice, Supreme Court

Wallace B. Jefferson(I) REP 4,092,181 53.10%
Jim Jordan DEM 3,374,433 43.79%
Tom Oxford LIB 239,063 3.10%
Race Total 7,705,677

Justice, Supreme Court, Place 7

Dale Wainwright(I) REP 3,926,015 50.99%
Sam Houston DEM 3,525,158 45.78%
David G. Smith LIB 247,512 3.21%
Race Total 7,698,685

Justice, Supreme Court, Place 8

Phil Johnson(I) REP 4,018,396 52.31%
Linda Reyna Yanez DEM 3,428,179 44.63%
Drew Shirley LIB 234,092 3.04%
Race Total 7,680,667
Judge, Court of Criminal Appeals Place 3

Tom Price(I) REP 3,949,722 51.64%
Susan Strawn DEM 3,482,718 45.53%
Matthew E. Eilers LIB 216,060 2.82%
Race Total 7,648,500

Judge, Court of Criminal Appeals Place 4

Paul Womack(I) REP 4,044,788 52.96%
J.R. Molina DEM 3,340,754 43.74%
Dave Howard LIB 250,672 3.28%
Race Total 7,636,214

Houston improved on Bill Moody's percentage from 2006 by nearly a point, while Wainwright was a fraction behind Don Willett. Basically, that's converting some of the "not-Republican" votes into actual Democratic votes. Bob Scarborough was down 14.5 points to Victor Carrillo for the "closest" race in 04. Everyone this year was within ten, with all but two within eight. That's still a hill to climb, but it doesn't sound that steep to me. These are gaps that can be realistically closed by a sufficiently funded candidate with a good message. You already know who I think that is, so I'll just note that Campos and BOR are on this as well. I look forward to seeing the full study when it is released.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on December 04, 2008 to Show Business for Ugly People
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