The Beto-Abbott voters

I have three things to say about this.

Rep. Beto O’Rourke

Barring divine intervention, Greg Abbott will handily beat Lupe Valdez — the only real question is by how much. The floor, if there is one, is Wendy Davis’ crushing loss to Greg Abbott by 20 percentage points in 2014. Abbott has the money, the power of incumbency, the “R” behind his name and more cash than an offshore account in the Cayman Islands. At the one and only gubernatorial debate, Abbott barely even acknowledged Valdez’s presence onstage, instead reciting anodyne talking points while making minor news about an extremely modest marijuana measure.

To her credit, Valdez has done more than a lot of bigger-name Democrats who have been “up and coming” for so long they’ve worn out the phrase: She is running. But even an extraordinary Democratic candidate running a flawless campaign would face difficult odds against Abbott, whose lackluster governing style doesn’t seem to bother the Republican electorate. That, I think it’s fair to say, does not describe Valdez or her campaign.

Interestingly, there is an unusually energetic Democratic candidate running a well-above-average statewide campaign this cycle — Beto O’Rourke affords us a rare opportunity to see just how much of a difference all that makes. Polls consistently show Abbott leading Valdez by 10 to 20 percentage points, while Ted Cruz appears to have a much narrower single digit lead over O’Rourke. That’s a remarkably steep drop-off. Are there really that many voters who will vote for Beto O’Rourke and Greg Abbott? I want to meet these strange folks! In any case, the Abbott/Valdez and Cruz/O’Rourke results will be meaningful, but imperfect, data points to gauge the “Beto effect.”

1. You know, just in 2016 Hillary Clinton got about 300,000 votes that otherwise went to Republicans. And in 2010, Bill White got even more than that. So maybe the Beto-Abbott voter this year looks like the Bill White-David Dewhurst voter from 2010, or the Hillary Clinton-pick a Republican judge voter from 2016. It’s not that mysterious, y’all.

2. No question, Beto polls better than Valdez – the difference was generally small early on but is more pronounced now – and I certainly don’t question the notion that he will draw more votes, possibly a lot more votes, than she will. That said, it’s not ridiculous to me that part of the difference in the polls comes from Beto’s name recognition being higher than Lupe Valdez’s. We’ve seen it before, when pollsters go past the top race or two and ask about races like Lite Guv and Attorney General and what have you, the (usually unknown) Democratic candidate hovers a good ten points or more below their final level of support. It may be that one reason why Beto and Valdez were closer in their levels of support early on because he wasn’t that much better known than she was at that time. My best guess is that Valdez will draw roughly the Democratic base level of support, whatever that happens to be. Maybe a bit less if Abbott draws some crossovers, maybe a bit more if she overperforms among Latinos. In the end, I think the difference in vote total between Beto and Valdez will come primarily from Beto’s ability to get crossovers, and not because people who otherwise voted Democratic did not support Valdez.

3. Of greater interest to me is whether the Rs who push the button for Beto will also consider doing so for at least one other Democrat. Mike Collier and Miguel Suazo have both been endorsed by the primary opponents of the Republican incumbents they are challenging, the Texas Farm Bureau and other usual suspects are declining to endorse Sid Miller even if they’re not formally supporting Kim Olson, and we haven’t even mentioned Ken Paxton and Justin Nelson. Plus, not to put too fine a point on it, but those Congressional districts that have drawn so much interest because of their being carried by Hillary Clinton were ten-points-or-more Republican downballot. (CD07 and CD32 specifically, not CD23.) The game plan there and in other districts that the Dems hope to flip – not just Congressional districts, mind you – is based in part on persuading some of those not-Trump Republicans to come to the other side, at least in some specific races. The question is not “who are these Beto-Abbott voters”, but whether the ones who vote for Beto are the oddballs, or the ones who vote for Abbott.

Related Posts:

This entry was posted in Election 2018 and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to The Beto-Abbott voters

  1. Chris says:

    How about the local microcosm of how will Lina Hildago do against Ed Emmet in Harris County?

  2. Saul Fettoncordt says:

    Most Beto voters will punch his button and cast the ballot. They’re a one candidate voter.

  3. Chris – I’ve said elsewhere that Ed Emmett will be the last Republican countywide elected official standing in Harris County. He has run well ahead of the Republican pack in the past, and will again this year. That doesn’t mean he can’t lose, just that he has better defenses against the tide than, say, Orlando Sanchez.

    Saul – Having studied election returns in great detail over the past decade plus, I don’t agree with your assessment. There will be a few people who show up to just vote for Beto, but their numbers will be relatively miniscule.

  4. Mainstream says:

    I know a fair number of Beto-Abbott voters. They may also vote against or withhold a vote from Ken Paxton out of ethics concerns, but they are unlikely to vote against Sid Miller, because they know little about him or what his office does, and they are not likely to vote against George P. Bush for Land Commissioner. Some will vote against Dan Patrick.

    The GOP voters who oppose George P. Bush are on a spectrum ranging from social and cultural traditionalists to the fringe of white nationalists. Almost all are motivated by concerns about proposed changes to the Alamo. Only a few are motivated by hurricane relief delays. None of them will be voting for Beto. I have doubts that many will vote for Miguel Suazo, just based (sadly) on ethnic bias, but I would not be surprised if they vote for the Libertarian or withhold a vote in that contest.

    The big effect of all this Republican ticket-splitting will be on the countywide judicial candidates, as some voters will not vote all the way to the end of the ballot.

  5. asmith says:

    You could be right Kuff. Although in 2006 in Dallas, people though then GOP County Judge Margaret Keliher was unbeatable, even John W Price endorsed her and she still lost in the wave. I think most Beto voters will vote straight ticket D this year, even a few Republicans will quietly.

Comments are closed.