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Win or lose, Beto O'Rourke will help Texas Democrats

First things first: The theme song of the week is ...

Posted: Aug 26, 2018 9:13 AM
Updated: Aug 26, 2018 9:13 AM

First things first: The theme song of the week is Jet Set by Mike Vickers from the television show "Jackpot."

Poll of the week: A new Marist College poll shows Republican Sen. Ted Cruz with a 49% to 45% advantage over Democrat Rep. Beto O'Rourke (TX-16) in the Texas Senate race.

Beto O'Rourke

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This is the latest poll that gives Cruz a small, but clear advantage in the contest. Cruz held a 6-point lead in the last Quinnipiac university poll, for example.

What's the point: Cruz is more likely than not going to win the Senate race in Texas. I've driven that point home many times, including in this column.

What I have not mentioned nearly enough, however, is how this contest is the first major Senate race to be competitive in Texas in a generation. Democrats haven't come within 10 points of winning either Texas seat since 1988.

Why does the closeness of the race matter if Cruz is probably going to win? It's all about driving turnout in the House races in the state, and it could help Democrats down-ballot.

If you look at the House map, there are arguably at least six Texas House races that are going to be competitive this fall. These include Texas 2nd, Texas 7th, Texas 21st, Texas 23rd, Texas 31st and Texas 32nd.

It's been shown in academic literature that states where there are competitive Senate races tend to have higher turnout in House races than states that don't (once you control for other factors).

Texas could use the turnout boost. With the exception of Hawaii, no other state had a lower turnout rate of its voter eligible population in 2016 than Texas. Just 52% of all eligible voters cast a ballot two years ago.

It's likely that this low turnout hurt Democrats in 2016. According to 2016 polling from Marist College, no other state polled in October or November had a greater difference between how all how registered voters and likely voters felt about then-President Barack Obama. This measure of partisanship showed that Obama's net approval rating (approval rating - disapproval rating) was 6 points lower among likely voters than registered voters.

Some of this difference is because registered voters in Texas are less white than those who actually end up casting a ballot. The share of the those who cast a ballot was 3 points more white than all registered voters in 2016, according to the government's Current Population Survey. That difference between registered voters and those who cast a ballot was tied for the highest in the nation.

In midterms, nonwhite voters tend to be an even smaller part of the electorate than in a presidential year election. A competitive Senate race could help draw some of those non-midterm and non-2016 voters out to the ballot box to vote in House races.

Now, most of these House races are not occurring in the state's most diverse districts. Still, even in the whiter districts in Texas, there are a lot of nonwhites. All the competitive House races listed above have citizen age voting populations that are at least 30% non-white. Texas 23rd's district is nearly 70% non-white. Democrats ability to beat Republican Rep. Will Hurd in said district could hinge on whether enough non-traditional voters come out to vote for Democrat Gina Ortiz Jones.

I should say there is the potential that higher turnout could, in theory, hurt Democratic House candidates. Democratic voters are very motivated this year in a way Republicans aren't. A competitive Senate race could draw out Republican voters who might otherwise have sat home.

That said, Texas Democrats face such a deficit in voter turnout that anything that increases overall turnout is more likely to help them than it would in other states.

O'Rourke's ability to create even the appearance of a competitive race could help push a House Democrat or two over the finish line, who might otherwise might have fallen a little short.

Minnesota Coronavirus Cases

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Cases: 603966

Reported Deaths: 7611
CountyCasesDeaths
Hennepin1248011773
Ramsey52461895
Dakota46789470
Anoka42717458
Washington27397290
Stearns22550224
St. Louis18128312
Scott17543134
Wright16403148
Olmsted13388102
Sherburne1200194
Carver1066148
Clay825592
Rice8186110
Blue Earth762343
Crow Wing681594
Kandiyohi667285
Chisago619552
Otter Tail585684
Benton582998
Goodhue483473
Douglas475381
Mower470733
Winona461151
Itasca458963
Isanti439764
McLeod429861
Morrison424462
Nobles407950
Beltrami407360
Steele397616
Polk389072
Becker386555
Lyon363853
Carlton352756
Freeborn346932
Pine335023
Nicollet331045
Mille Lacs311454
Brown307840
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Todd285632
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Waseca237823
Martin234932
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Renville182446
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Pennington153820
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Aitkin138737
Watonwan13589
Rock128719
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Yellow Medicine114920
Pope11296
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Swift106918
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Cook1720

Iowa Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 370754

Reported Deaths: 6042
CountyCasesDeaths
Polk58203638
Linn21197339
Scott20297246
Black Hawk16085312
Woodbury15232230
Johnson1461185
Dubuque13502211
Dallas1128999
Pottawattamie11219174
Story1070948
Warren583791
Clinton561493
Cerro Gordo553593
Sioux516974
Webster515294
Muscatine4878106
Marshall486576
Des Moines466970
Wapello4335122
Buena Vista426940
Jasper421072
Plymouth402981
Lee381956
Marion366076
Jones300857
Henry294237
Bremer287860
Carroll286852
Boone268534
Crawford268440
Benton259655
Washington257051
Dickinson249444
Mahaska232351
Jackson225242
Clay216627
Kossuth216166
Tama211771
Delaware210943
Winneshiek198135
Page194522
Buchanan193433
Cedar192123
Hardin187444
Fayette186543
Wright185840
Hamilton181851
Harrison179973
Clayton171057
Butler166035
Madison164619
Mills163324
Floyd163042
Cherokee159438
Lyon158841
Poweshiek157036
Allamakee152552
Hancock150134
Iowa149824
Winnebago144431
Cass139155
Calhoun138913
Grundy137133
Emmet135841
Jefferson133535
Shelby131437
Sac130820
Union129935
Louisa129649
Appanoose129049
Mitchell126643
Chickasaw124617
Franklin123323
Guthrie123132
Humboldt119526
Palo Alto113523
Howard104922
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Clarke100924
Keokuk96432
Monroe96230
Unassigned9560
Ida91535
Adair87332
Pocahontas85822
Davis85225
Monona82931
Osceola78916
Greene78011
Lucas77923
Worth7598
Taylor66712
Fremont6269
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