This is encouraging news.
In a sign that Democratic frontrunner Barack Obama is not prepared to concede Texas to the Republicans in the fall, his campaign announced an intensive voter registration effort beginning [Saturday] in the state's four largest media markets -- Dallas-Fort Worth, Houston, Austin and San Antonio.
The kickoff will be a training effort for volunteers to seek out the unregistered Texans who fit the profile of a Democratic voter. The effort could affect several down-ballot races, including a couple of Tarrant County state House contests, Democratic analyst Kelly Fero said Friday.
"Texas is definitely in play, more so down the ballot in state Senate and House races than in the presidential," said Fero, who's not aligned in this year's presidential sweepstakes. "But the presidential race will significantly shape some of the down-ballot races and create a tide that could sweep incumbents out of office and challengers into office."
The smart money back in March held that once the Democratic primary ended, whoever got the presidential nomination would need Texas only for its deep-pocket donors. The drive to register new Democratic-leaning voters, being conducted in all 50 states and the District of Columbia, might mean the GOP can't have Texas' 34 electoral votes that easily. But state Republican Party spokesman Hans Klingler brushed aside the notion that any Democratic presidential nominee has achance to take Texas this year. The state has been rock-solid Republican in every presidential race since 1980.
"As [then-Democratic gubernatorial candidate] Tony Sanchez showed in 2002, you can spend millions of dollars on voter registration in Texas and still come up double-digits behind the Republicans in Texas," Klingler said.
The downballot race issue is one worth keeping in mind. My concern is that whatever new voters Obama will turn out in November will primarily be people who are there to vote for him, and don't have much interest in other races. The big dropoff in the primary from the Presidential race to the Senate and other statewide races is a potential danger sign. I don't think it's necessarily going to be a problem - at the very least, I know there will be money spent in Harris County to push the straight-ticket-Democratic message - but it is something to pay attention to. A boost in turnout is only beneficial if it helps all candidates.
Speaking of turnout boosts, this BOR diary, which builds off the models created by Poblano, shows how various turnout scenarios radically change the landscape for Obama. I'm hesitant to invest too much in this - we all remember how new voters were going to carry Kinky Friedman to the Governor's mansion in 2006, right? - but it's hard to see record-breaking primary turnouts in state after state (Indiana, like Texas, had more Democratic votes cast in their primary than John Kerry received in the 2004 general election) and not believe that this time it's different. Read it and see what you think.
Finally, check out Matt Stoller on the network Obama has built nationwide. There's a lot there to feel good about, and more than a little to be queasy about. Either way, there's a lot to think about.Posted by Charles Kuffner on May 13, 2008 to The great state of Texas