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Obama & Texas
Posted by Ashish on 06.26.2008

People seem really into the idea of Obama winning Texas. Since people keep asking me to comment on whether I think he can win it or not, and since we just got a poll today showing him trailing McCain in Texas by just 5%, here's my view right now.

Can he win it? If he puts a huge effort into the state, he can. Will he? Very probably not. We already know that Obama does not plan to buy TV advertising or do any serious campaigning in Texas. He has a lot of volunteers in the state (roughly 10,000) and they do plan to send 10-15 paid staff there as well, so they will compete to some extent, but the fact that he isn't going all out means a few things. One, that he doesn't think he has a great shot at winning it. Two, that even if he could win it by going all out, it isn't worth the risk. Obama does not need Texas at all. He is currently up or tied in 12 states Bush won in 2004 and has a better chance of winning any of those states than he does Texas, which means it makes no sense to take away money, time, and resources from those states and put them in Texas which is one of the most expensive, complicated places to run a campaign in the country. And anyway, if Obama is still within single digits of McCain in Texas when October rolls around, that means he is doing VERY well elsewhere in the country and is probably in position for a near landslide victory, so again, in that case, Texas is not needed.

Sure, Texas might seem like a nice state to go after since it is the second most valuable state in the country in terms of electoral votes, but again, the risk is not worth the reward. Based on what David Axelrod said about Texas, their goal there seems to be to stay close enough to help down-ballot Democrats, especially Democrat Rick Noriega who is running close to Republican Senator John Cornyn and could grab that seat for the Democrats. Even if a poll shows up in October that has Obama within, say, six points of McCain, he won't spend any money or time there. It just isn't worth it when he is in such good position in so many other swing states. And we already know that the very red states that he plans to gamble on a bit are Georgia, Alaska, Indiana, and North Carolina, and he has a much better chance in those than in Texas. Even if he wanted to, Obama can't compete in every state. He has to pick and choose based on where he thinks he has the best chances to win or drain resources from McCain. McCain will never spend money in Texas because he knows that if Obama is in position to win Texas, the election is already lost. There is no scenario where McCain somehow wins states like Ohio, Florida, Iowa, etc. but loses Texas because to win those states, his position would have to improve, meaning it would improve in Texas as well.

Demographically, Texas IS a state Obama can win. If we look at the 2004 exit polling from Kerry/Bush in Texas, we see that 66% of voters were white, 20% were Hispanic, 12% were African American, 1% was Asian, and 2% was other. This breakdown is VERY different from the state's overall racial breakdown which has whites making up less than 50% of the population, and Hispanics/African Americans making up more than 50%. That being said, we know based on the Texas primary results that Hispanic turnout is going to be WAY up this year. We also know that African American turnout is going to be way up this year. Let's say Hispanic turnout increases to 23% and African Americans to 16%, reducing whites to 58% (we'll keep Asians at 1% and other at 2%). This would probably be a best case scenario for Obama.

Now, let's say he wins 92% of African Americahs, which he probably will, and 60% of Hispanics, which he probably will, as well as 60% of Asians and 50% of other. That gets him to 31.3% of the vote. John Kerry got 25% of the white vote in Texas in 2004. Say Obama manages to get 30% of the white vote, that would get him to 48.7% of the total vote. For that to be enough to win, Bob Barr and Ralph Nader would have to combine for at least 2.7% of the vote. If that happens, McCain would finish with 48.6%. So, as you can see, Obama can win, but even under a best case scenario where Hispanic turnout increases 3%, African American turnout increases 4%, Obama does 5% better among whites than Kerry, AND Barr/Nader do somewhat well, he still would only win by .1%. It's just too risky to gamble on such an expensive state when even a best case scenario has you only winning by .1%.

The only way Obama would compete in Texas is that by, say October, it's evident that Obama is going to win the election in a landslide, and that he has put away the majority of swing states. If that happens, he may go after Texas as sort of an exclamation point at the end of a landslide win, but right now, that doesn't seem likely.

I think Obama has picked the states he will compete in pretty wisely. Risking too much in Texas would be a foolish move, as tempting as it may be.


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