I'm sure by now you've seen that Gallup poll, which measured party affiliation in all 50 states and showed Democrats to have a slight edge, by a 43-41 margin, over Republicans in Texas. For a discussion of the methodology, you should of course read Nate Silver. I'll note simply that while the national trend is for those who call themselves independents to lean Democratic, I don't believe that to be the case here. For the most part, I think independents here are still folks who tend to vote Republican, though not monolithically as perhaps some of them once did, but aren't calling themselves Republican any more. My best guess would be that these voters are similar to many of the now-Democratic-leaning independents elsewhere in the country, but who have mostly switched to Democrats at the local level. If and when they start voting for Democrats at the state level, then the description of Texas as "competitive" will be more fitting.
That's one of the points that Burka raises in his lengthy analysis, with which I largely agree. Where I do disagree is that I think the Democrats can raise enough money to compete at both the state and local levels. There hasn't been any focus on this - all the emphasis has been on local races, with great success - and the lack of a bench is a real problem as well. There's just very few Democrats who start out with any kind of name recognition, which makes the hill that much steeper to climb.
But I do believe the money is there to make statewide races competitive. Not as much as there is for the Republicans - the advantage they have as incumbents is the ability to stockpile funds in a way that the Democrats cannot - but enough to be in the same ballpark. There are many more sources for raising funds for local races now, and a lot of that hasn't really been tapped for statewide efforts. There's still a lot of money being raised in Texas for races outside of Texas - the Presidential race, and that million dollar DSCC event from 2007 are two examples of this. And frankly, there's a lot of Democratic incumbents (plus a few now-retired officeholders) at all levels of government, in safe seats, sitting on millions of dollars that could be used to help win other races. I don't blame any of these folks for raising all that money for themselves, but I do wonder if any of their donors ever wonder why it is that we can't seem to compete statewide. Seems to me there's a connection there that maybe some of them ought to consider.Posted by Charles Kuffner on February 05, 2009 to Show Business for Ugly People