It started with this:
what does a biden win in texas look like? here’s how a D+1 nailbiter might turn out, if we use 2016 and 2018 as a guide → (hint: biden would win 9 currently R-held districts and win the 2 that flipped in 2018 by over 10%)
— matt mohn (@mattmxhn) 9:35 PM – 10 July 2020
You might think wow, that’s a really optimistic take, but after the Tuesday primary runoff, we also got this:
All of these races were single digits in the House last time, despite no serious contest.
All were Cruz+5 or less (TX10 was a Beto win).
TX3, last I looked, has the highest college graduate percentage of any GOP held district remaining in the land
— Nate Cohn (@Nate_Cohn) 6:20 AM – 15 July 2020
As a result, I have no real doubts about whether Biden *could* win a district like TX03, which was Trump+14 last time. That’s not to say he will. But I don’t see how that’s even controversial at this point, and if so it would pbly mean no better than a low single digit House race
— Nate Cohn (@Nate_Cohn) 6:29 AM – 15 July 2020
I’d quibble with the categorization of those 2018 contests as “not serious” – all of the candidates raised a decent amount of money that year, and prognosticators had CD10 on their radar by the end of the cycle – but I take his point. And in the replies to that tweet, we got this:
A second Blue Wave in the suburbs?
Well-educated suburban districts, particularly ones that also were diverse, were a major part of the Democrats’ victory in the House in 2018. Democrats captured many formerly Republican districts where Donald Trump performed significantly worse in 2016 than Mitt Romney had in 2012. Democratic victories in and around places like Northern Virginia, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Detroit, the Twin Cities, Atlanta, Orange County, CA, parts of New Jersey, and elsewhere came in seats that meet this broad definition.
And then there’s Texas. Democrats picked up two districts there, one in the Dallas/Ft. Worth Metroplex (TX-32) and another in suburban Houston (TX-7). But Democrats put scares into several other Republican incumbents, and the closeness of presidential polling in Texas could lead to unexpected opportunities for Democrats there this November.
Trump has generally led polls of Texas, but many have been close and Biden has on occasion led, like in a Fox News poll released last week that gave him a nominal lead of a single point.
Tellingly, of 18 Texas polls in the RealClearPolitics database matching Biden against Trump dating back to early last year, Trump has never led by more than seven points — in a state he won by nine in 2016. It seems reasonable to assume that Trump is going to do worse in Texas than four years ago, particularly if his currently gloomy numbers in national surveys and state-level polls elsewhere do not improve.
In an average of the most recent polls, Trump leads by two points in Texas. In 2018, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) won reelection over then-Rep. Beto O’Rourke (D, TX-16) by 2.6 points. If Trump were to win Texas by a similar margin this November, the congressional district-level results probably would look a lot like the Cruz-O’Rourke race. Those results are shown in Map 1, courtesy of my colleague J. Miles Coleman.
Map 1: 2018 Texas Senate results by congressional district
Cruz carried 18 districts to O’Rourke’s 16. That includes the 11 districts the Democrats already held in Texas going into the 2018 election, as well as the two additional ones where they beat GOP incumbents (TX-7 and TX-32) and three additional districts that Republicans still hold. Those are TX-23, an open swing seat stretching from San Antonio to El Paso; Rep. Michael McCaul’s (R, TX-10) Austin-to-Houston seat; and TX-24, another open seat in the Dallas-Ft. Worth area.
TX-23 is competitive primarily because it’s two-thirds Hispanic, and it already leans to the Democrats in our ratings. TX-10 and TX-24 better fit the suburban mold: Both have significantly higher levels of four-year college attainment than the national average (particularly TX-24), and Republican incumbents in both seats nearly lost to unheralded Democratic challengers in 2018.
Cruz won the remaining districts, but several of them were close: TX-2, TX-3, TX-6, TX-21, TX-22, TX-25, and TX-31 all voted for Cruz by margins ranging from 0.1 points (TX-21) to 5.1 (TX-25). These districts all have at least average and often significantly higher-than-average levels of four-year college attainment, and they all are racially diverse.
In other words, these districts share some characteristics of those that have moved toward the Democrats recently, even though they remain right of center.
This is all a long preamble to an alarming possibility for Republicans: If Biden were to actually carry Texas, he might carry many or even all of these districts in the process. In a time when ticket-splitting is less common than in previous eras of American politics (though hardly extinct), that could exert some real pressure on Republicans in these districts.
Ted Cruz carried 20 districts to Beto’s 16, a minor quibble. Remember this post in which Mike Hailey of Capitol Inside predicted Dems would flip eight Congressional seats? Not so out there any more.
Look at it this way: Since the start of June, Trump has had exactly one poll, out of eight total, in which he has led Joe Biden by more than two points. The four-point lead he had in that poll is smaller than the five-point lead Biden had in a subsequent poll. In those eight polls, Trump has led in three, Biden has led in three, and the other two were tied. The average of those eight polls is Biden 45.9, Trump 45.6, another data point to suggest that Biden has gotten stronger as we have progressed.
Insert all the usual caveats here: Polls are snapshots in time. It’s still more than 100 days to Election Day. Things can change a lot. No Texas Democrat has won a statewide race since 1994, a losing streak to rival Rice football versus UT. (As it happens, the last time Rice beat UT in football was…1994. Coincidence? I think not.) The polls all said Hillary was gonna win in 2016 and we know how that went, smartass. Fill in your own rationalization as well.
The point here is simply this: If Joe Biden actually wins Texas, it could be really, really ugly for Republicans downballot. Even if Biden falls short, it’s likely going to leave a mark on them as well.
I’ll leave where we started:
you can write an entire piece on how this would’ve given them space to shore up TX-10 and TX-31 too, but oh well
— matt mohn (@mattmxhn) 4:32 PM – 15 July 2020