Reasonably informative, though nothing here that I found terribly surprising.
Texas Democrats have come to the conclusion that they fell short of their expectations in the 2020 election largely because Republicans beat them in the battle to turn out voters, according to a newly released party report.
The Texas Democratic Party laid the blame in part on their inability to campaign in person, particularly by knocking on doors, during an unusual election cycle dominated by the coronavirus pandemic.
The party also said its voter turnout system was inefficient. It contacted reliably Democratic voters too often and failed to reach enough “turnout targets” — people who were inclined to support Democrats, but weren’t as certain to actually show up at the polls.
“Despite record turnout, our collective [get out the vote] turnout operation failed to activate voters to the same extent Republicans were able to,” according to the “2020 Retrospective” report, which was authored by Hudson Cavanagh, the party’s director of data science, and was first obtained by The Washington Post and The Dallas Morning News.
Texas Democrats did manage to register and turn out voters in record numbers in 2020, but Republicans likewise beat expectations — enough to erase any gains made by Democrats and stave off what some hoped would be a “blue wave.”
The report described the party’s voter targeting efforts as “inefficient,” saying it didn’t have reliable contact information for some of its highest priority targets.
“The pandemic prevented us from getting the most out of our most powerful competitive advantage: our volunteers,” the document said. “We struggled to reach voters for whom we did not have phone numbers, who were disproportionately young, folks of color.”
But Texas Democrats pushed back on the idea that they lost ground with Latino voters — particularly in counties in the Rio Grande Valley, which Biden carried by 15 points after Clinton won them by 39 in 2016.
Texas Democrats conceded that Latino voters in parts of the state did move toward then-President Donald Trump, but said those same voters continued to support other Democrats down the ballot.
In addition, Texas Democrats contend that data suggesting a massive shift toward Republicans among Latino voters is more accurately explained by increased turnout among Republican Latinos.
“Roughly two-thirds of Latinos continue to support Democrats, but Republicans Latino voters turned out at a higher rate than Democratic Latino voters in the 2020 cycle, relative to expectations,” the report found.
Despite an underwhelming performance in 2020, Texas Democrats continued to paint an ambitious picture of a “sustainably blue” state over the next 10 years.
The party concluded that with “sufficient investment and ambition,” Democrats can register 100,000 to 150,000 more voters than Republicans per cycle and flip Texas blue by 2024.
See here and here for the background, and here for a copy of the report. They answered a couple of my questions, but most of the rest were outside their scope. Overall, I found the report a little frustrating to read – the graphs were quite technical, but there wasn’t much explanation for how the numbers were calculated. I don’t have any cause to quarrel with any of the data, but I don’t feel like I understand it enough to explain it to someone who hasn’t read the report.
I don’t want to sound too grumpy. I appreciate that the TDP did this at all, and made the results public. The big picture is clear, and the basic causes for what happened in 2020 were also easily comprehensible. I’d note that in addition to dampening turnout, the lack of in-person campaigning also helped erode the Dems’ voter registration edge, with Republicans doing a lot of catching up in the last three months of the campaign. I’ve said before that the lack of traditional campaigning is a one-time event, and while it had bad effects in 2020 it still gave the Dems the chance to try new things, and it also showed them the need to bolster their data collection and management. If that can be turned into improved performance in 2022, it will at least not have been wasted.
The report paints a pretty optimistic picture for the Dems’ trajectory over the next couple of election cycles, which the Republicans deride and which I feel a bit wary about. The GOP’s ability to boost their own turnout, their continued and increasing advantage in rural Texas, the uncertainty of the forthcoming Biden midterm election, the growth of lies and propaganda as campaign strategy, these are all things I worry about. Again, much of this was outside the scope of the project, but I do wonder if a report written by outsiders would have come to similar conclusions. I don’t want to be a downer, but I also don’t want to be naive.
Like I said, I’m glad they did this. It’s a good idea, and it should be done after every election, because the landscape is constantly evolving and we have to keep up with it. I hope that it inspires action and not just a sense of “okay, now that’s over with”. What did you think?