STREAMING NOW: Watch Now

The threat Sanders poses to Texas Democrats

Article Image

2020 Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders speaks to supporters in Virginia Beach, Virginia, as results roll in from South Carolina's primary ahead of Super Tuesday.

Posted: Mar 1, 2020 5:30 PM
Updated: Mar 1, 2020 5:30 PM

With time running short before Super Tuesday, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders and the other Democratic presidential hopefuls have been barnstorming Texas. Just as a new CNN poll shows Sanders leading former Vice President Joe Biden by 9 percentage points, many Democrats here have deep concerns that not only would the Senator lose to President Donald Trump, but he could also doom down ballot candidates in the Texas House and in the US Congress.

And their concerns may be legitimate. For Democrats to win in Texas -- up and down the ballot -- young and old voters of all races and ethnicities would have to come together. And, right now, Sanders has not shown how he would assemble such a coalition.

But it's even more complex in Texas. Politics is often about backlash. And while opposition to some of the Republican policies pushed in Texas in recent years may have fired up voters who would support Sanders in March, those same voters may be sorely disappointed come November when Republicans show up in force to oppose the self-proclaimed "Democratic Socialist" who wants to ban fracking in the nation's biggest oil and gas state.

Even in close elections, there are simply more Republican voters in Texas than Democrats -- and voters loyal to both parties work in the oil and gas industry, particularly in Houston and South Texas. That's part of why Texas' minority party candidates must win some support from Republicans to even come close to winning a statewide race.

The consequences of losing legislative seats would be dire for Texas Democrats, setting the stage for Republicans to fully control the drawing of political boundaries in redistricting in 2021, just as this state is set to likely gain as many as three new seats in Congress thanks to explosive population growth. While Democrats here haven't lashed out at Sanders, it is telling that no elected officials outside the local level in Texas have endorsed him.

Still, now that Sanders has proven he can win big with Latinos through his decisive victory in Nevada, it's worth explaining how Texas Republicans, led by Gov. Greg Abbott, helped motivate perhaps the largest group of young Latino voters in this state's history.

In 2017, the Texas legislature passed a divisive immigration crackdown, helping to mold a new Texas political environment in which Latinos are more active than I've seen in roughly 20 years. The ban on so-called "sanctuary cities" included a "show me your papers" provision, which allows Texas police officers to question the immigration status of those they encounter on the street. Previous Texas Republican governors, including Rick Perry and George W. Bush, stood fast against the urges of the base of their party to enact such a law. In 2017, Gov. Abbott demanded the bill on his desk.

The long-term effect of the immigration crackdown might be similar to California's Prop 187 of decades ago, denying public benefits to undocumented immigrants. As NPR put it, Prop 187 "Damaged GOP relations with immigrants" and helped pave the way for Democratic dominance in that state. It is anecdotal, but many young Latinos now working for Democrats in Texas have told me the immigration bill signed by Abbott is the reason they are working in politics today. What's not anecdotal is the rise in Latino participation in the following election.

In the 2018 US Senate race between then-Rep. Beto O'Rourke and Republican Sen. Ted Cruz, the CNN exit poll showed Latinos making up 26% of those who cast ballots. That's up from 24% in 2016, a presidential year. Of those Latinos casting ballots in 2018, 64% voted for the Democrat. And they appear to have voted that way down ballot as well, because, when the votes were all in, there were 12 new Democrats in the Texas House, two new Democrats in the Texas Senate and two congressional seats had been flipped.

Anti-immigration measures turn off most Hispanic voters. What turns many of them on is economic stability for their families. As a Democratic operative in Houston told me, "Health insurance is Latinos' love language." The Culinary Union in Nevada tried, and largely failed, to blunt Sanders' appeal to those voters based on how health care should be provided. In Texas, there aren't large unions in any position to even make an argument against Sanders' Medicare-for-All pitch.

So, as the Vermont senator builds momentum, tension is mounting between newer Texas Democrats, young and Latino, who seem more open to nominating him and veteran Democrats, typically white and older, who see him as a potential threat. Glenn W. Smith, a Democratic consultant who worked on former Texas Gov. Ann Richards' winning campaign years ago, crunched the numbers on Sanders' argument that young voters, in particular, will put him over the top.

Smith pointed out that even if Sanders was able to greatly boost the percentage of voters who are 45 and younger and raise overall turnout to unprecedented levels, he'd still lose the general election in Texas. In 2016, 39% of the electorate here was 44 or younger, per CNN exit polls. If that was raised to 55% and overall turnout hit an unprecedented 10.5 million voters, Trump would still defeat Sanders. (10.5 million votes would be unprecedented, Smith noted, given that 8.9 million voted in 2016 and even fewer Texans voted in 2012.)

Academic research published this week supports Smith's calculations. It shows that public polling indicating Sanders is just as electable as more moderate candidates "relies on some remarkable assumptions about youth turnout that past elections suggest are questionable," per the authors of the study. They wrote, "For Sanders to do as well as a moderate Democrat against Trump in November by stimulating youth turnout, his nomination would need to boost turnout of young left-leaning voters enormously."

In short: Sanders is doing quite well with people who are less likely to vote in the general election and poorly with people who are likely to cast a ballot in November.

Younger, idealistic Democratic Texas voters who largely prefer Sanders have only the O'Rourke-Cruz race as a frame of reference for what a feelgood campaign looks like -- and, remember, O'Rourke still lost. But that was prior to his statements on the presidential campaign trail in favor of confiscating certain firearms and punishing churches through loss of tax-exempt status if they disagree with gay marriage. Before he took those more liberal positions, more than 400,000 Texans voted for both O'Rourke and Gov. Abbott, a conservative. Would they do that now?

Meanwhile, older, more pragmatic Democrats who might prefer a candidate like Biden, former Mayor Mike Bloomberg, former Mayor Pete Buttigieg, Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar or even Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren can look back to the days of how good it felt to actually beat Texas Republicans.

Minnesota Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 90942

Reported Deaths: 2021
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Hennepin26054922
Ramsey10572318
Dakota7216125
Anoka5801132
Stearns381223
Washington361055
Scott245833
Olmsted231927
Nobles193616
Blue Earth16116
Wright15407
St. Louis140034
Carver13607
Rice13088
Mower12935
Clay128140
Sherburne110414
Kandiyohi9332
Winona85218
Lyon6524
Waseca5338
Freeborn5223
Steele5222
Benton5153
Watonwan5064
Nicollet50416
Todd4792
Chisago4581
McLeod4522
Le Sueur4454
Crow Wing43918
Otter Tail4004
Beltrami3795
Goodhue3329
Martin3299
Pine2840
Itasca28213
Polk2754
Isanti2650
Douglas2622
Becker2482
Carlton2451
Cottonwood2190
Pipestone2159
Unassigned21252
Morrison2081
Dodge2020
Chippewa1971
Sibley1843
Meeker1832
Brown1802
Wabasha1800
Yellow Medicine1622
Murray1572
Rock1550
Mille Lacs1503
Redwood1420
Renville1367
Jackson1341
Faribault1320
Cass1313
Swift1231
Roseau1170
Houston1140
Pennington1121
Fillmore1110
Koochiching1113
Kanabec1098
Lincoln1020
Stevens931
Pope890
Hubbard830
Aitkin731
Big Stone700
Wadena670
Grant594
Lake570
Wilkin563
Norman520
Marshall501
Lac qui Parle470
Mahnomen461
Red Lake390
Traverse300
Clearwater260
Lake of the Woods211
Kittson120
Cook60

Iowa Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 80698

Reported Deaths: 1275
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Polk15366259
Woodbury504263
Johnson501127
Black Hawk437586
Linn3808108
Story331517
Dubuque282341
Scott281827
Dallas269838
Pottawattamie200238
Buena Vista195112
Marshall176234
Sioux13723
Wapello127157
Webster120214
Clinton107419
Muscatine106854
Plymouth105820
Crawford10145
Cerro Gordo100221
Warren9326
Jasper77232
Des Moines7407
Marion7265
Tama69431
Carroll6375
Henry6204
Lee5997
Wright5631
Dickinson4876
Boone4788
Bremer4687
Washington43211
Louisa42515
Mahaska34619
Delaware3423
Franklin34218
Hamilton3153
Jackson3043
Floyd3023
Winneshiek2995
Clay2963
Benton2871
Hardin2841
Winnebago27511
Butler2622
Lyon2603
Clarke2563
Emmet25210
Poweshiek2528
Buchanan2511
Allamakee2486
Jones2483
Shelby2441
Clayton2343
Guthrie2315
Kossuth2310
Cedar2231
Chickasaw2220
Sac2200
Grundy2062
Madison2062
Cherokee2042
Fayette2002
Iowa1921
Mitchell1830
Howard1826
Harrison1812
Humboldt1763
Hancock1742
Calhoun1722
Mills1691
Palo Alto1630
Pocahontas1542
Lucas1526
Monroe15010
Page1420
Monona1401
Cass1362
Jefferson1341
Osceola1300
Appanoose1253
Taylor1241
Union1223
Davis1164
Van Buren1111
Ida1030
Worth1030
Keokuk911
Fremont900
Greene890
Montgomery885
Wayne842
Audubon681
Adair671
Decatur600
Ringgold442
Adams290
Unassigned70
Rochester
Clear
56° wxIcon
Hi: 80° Lo: 55°
Feels Like: 56°
Mason City
Clear
54° wxIcon
Hi: 82° Lo: 54°
Feels Like: 54°
Albert Lea
Clear
61° wxIcon
Hi: 80° Lo: 56°
Feels Like: 61°
Austin
Clear
57° wxIcon
Hi: 81° Lo: 55°
Feels Like: 57°
Charles City
Scattered Clouds
55° wxIcon
Hi: 81° Lo: 53°
Feels Like: 55°
Warmer Weather Ahead
KIMT Radar
KIMT Eye in the sky

Community Events