After spending millions to gain attention and a relative handful of delegates in the first four primary and caucus states, presidential candidates will now train their sights on Super Tuesday and the mother lode of Texas delegates that could help clinch the nominations.
Texas is the richest prize on March 1, when partisan primaries or caucuses are held in 13 states and American Samoa. At stake will be 661 GOP delegates, with 155 in Texas, and 1,107 Democratic delegates, including 252 in Texas. When voting ends that day, more than half of the delegates needed for the nomination in each party will have been awarded.
“In terms of bragging rights, all eyes will be on Texas March 1,” political scientist Mark Jones of Rice University said.
With early voting already under way, candidates are starting to show up at Texas events.
Hillary Clinton visited Houston late Saturday, and Bill Clinton will stump at campuses in Laredo and Dallas on Monday. On Thursday, the dwindling field of Republicans gathers in Houston for another crucial debate.
The ground wars being waged by the two Democratic contenders are starkly different. Hillary Clinton, with a legion of loyal friends and significant financial resources, is conducting a conventional campaign that relies heavily on her established Texas ties, including those with Housing Secretary Julián Castro and his twin, U.S. Rep. Joaquin Castro, D-San Antonio.
Sanders, meanwhile, is backed largely by volunteers with low-cost tactics such as hand-painting campaign signs and a reliance on social media. Sanders supporters will hold a national day of action for the candidate Saturday.
Polls give Clinton a substantial lead in Texas, but Robert Feria, coordinator for the San Antonio group SA4Sanders, voiced optimism about Sanders’ chances. “The bottom line is once people ‘feel the Bern,’ they don’t turn back,” he said.
“Polls” is an overstatement. According to Real Clear Politics, there have been exactly two Democratic primary polls of Texas conducted in 2016. There was a Dixie Strategies poll (whoever they are) done January 25 and 26 that gave Clinton a 50-16 lead, and a PPP poll from February 14-16 that had Clinton up 57-34. That latter result was one of a dozen that PPP released, all for so-called Super Tuesday states. That’s it so far. I had figured there would at least be a UT/Trib poll by now.
On Friday, Clinton’s campaign uncorked its first TV ad for Texas, and the Sanders campaign has bought a small slice of airtime for ads in Wichita Falls. That leaves the likely scenario of presidential candidates deluging the state’s airwaves almost exclusively during the final week before the primary.
So far the only TV ads I’ve seen have been for Gene Green. That will change this week, but not by very much, and at this time not in the Houston area. Which feels a little weird, but I’m not complaining. The Trib and the Press have more.