The more I think about the analysis by Professor Mark Jones and his emphasis on Ann Richards’ campaigns and elections in 1990 and 1994, the more things I find that make the analysis troublesome. The electorate in 2014 will not be identical to the electorate that existed in 1990 or even 1994. Let me point out three major differences.
First, young people and their vote choices in 1994 were strongly Republican, and that is unlikely in 2014. In 1994, George W. Bush garnered 59 percent of the 18-29 year-olds’ votes and 54 percent of the 30-44 year-olds’ votes. In party identification, 19-29 year-olds chose the Republican Party over the Democratic Party by a margin of 22 percent—51 percent were Republican and only 29 percent were Democrats. By comparison, Rick Perry, in 2010, received only 46 percent of the 18-29 year olds’ votes and 49 percent of the 30-44 year-olds’ votes. In 2014, Wendy Davis should win a majority of the 18-35 year-olds’ votes. The problem, of course, is to ensure that they vote.
Second, the Hispanic population has increased dramatically since 1994. According to the William C. Vasquez Institute, there were approximately 3,909,000 voting age Hispanics in Texas in 1994, and there were about 1,553,000 Hispanics who were registered to vote. In 2014, there are projected to be 6,694,304 voting age Hispanics, and there will be approximately 3,364,000 registered Hispanic voters. The Hispanic share of the electorate has more than doubled since 1994, making any comparison between the electorate in 1994 and 2014 troublesome.
Third, efforts by Battleground Texas, Lone Star Project, and One Texas to identify and organize Democrats through registering citizens to vote, providing candidate assistance, and organizing the grass roots will change the context for the election in 2014. Whether these efforts will yield significant gains in support for Democratic candidates in 2014 is questioned by Republican political operatives. There is no doubt among pundits that the Texas Democratic Party does not have organizational resources that are equal to those of the Republican Party of Texas; however, the individuals involved with these efforts surely have the expertise and experience necessary to create a difference in Texas. All that is necessary is for them to apply their abilities effectively.
On the other hand, there are two major similarities between 1994 and 2014. First, the party identification of registered voters in 2013 is similar to the party identification of voters in the exit polls in 1994. In October 2013, the Texas Tribune/UT poll found the following distribution among Texas registered voters: 36 percent Republican; 33 percent Democrat; and 31 percent Independent. In 1994, the VNS exit poll produced the following results: 40 percent Republican; 34 percent Democrat; and 23 percent Independent. The party identification of voters tends to favor Republicans because of their higher turnout rates. So I’d consider party identification a draw as the 2014 election approaches.
Second, the split in the Republican Party of Texas between purists and pragmatists, which has been a fixture in intra-party Republican politics for some time, continues. Republican purists maintain that the party’s principal function is representing a conservative position on issues. On the other hand, pragmatists maintain that the party’s principal function is winning elections so that its positions on issues become public policy. Purists view compromise and an expansion of the party’s membership to include moderate conservatives as anathema. Pragmatists, on the other hand, want the party to reach out to groups that will expand the party’s base and help win electoral majorities. Currently, Tea Party supporters in the Republican Party represent the purists, challenging “Republicans in name only”—RINOs—as unfit to be members of the Republican Party’s coalition. Purists drive the party to an extreme position ideologically; whereas pragmatists force the party toward moderation. If purists continue to increase their influence in the Republican Party of Texas, the party faces the dilemma of becoming too ideologically extreme to represent the ideological preferences of a majority of Texans.
Again, the conclusion is that Wendy can win, but winning will require lots of work! Definitely!