It’s time to get real.
Donald Trump’s margin of victory in Texas was 5 percentage points lower than the margins for most other statewide Republican candidates. One could view these non-Trump Republicans as attractive targets for voter persuasion, but it’s too early to say what these folks will do in 2018. It’s up to local Democratic candidates to make the case to these voters–and others–that voting D in local races is the only way to hold the Trump administration accountable.
When we look at races in the Texas House according to non-presidential statewide results, we can see that the climb toward a Democratic majority is quite steep. The tipping point district (in this case, Wayne Faircloth’s HD 23 in Galveston and Chambers counties) had a Republican advantage of 15.4 percentage points in 2016.
15.4 percentage points is a pretty huge margin. In HD 23, that meant that Wayne Faircloth beat Lloyd Criss by precisely 11,000 votes out of 62,002 votes cast. (The district was much closer in 2014: Faircloth beat Judge Susan Criss by only 3,000 votes out of over 32,000 cast.)
Maybe this will make you feel better: the average margin in the 20 weakest Republican-held seats is only 8.67 points. Some back-of-the-envelope math says that makes a total deficit of only 52,000 votes (distributed very efficiently!) for Democrats to control the Texas House. I know, I know, that’s not exactly how campaign field operations work, but 52,000 sounds a lot more manageable than the 1.2 million votes by which Democrats are accustomed to losing our statewide efforts.
The current generic Congressional ballot on RealClearPolitics has Democrats on +7, which is eight points ahead of the party’s actual 2016 result. Once again, I have outlined HD 112 with a broken line on the chart to indicate the strongest incumbent Democrats could expect to defeat if those numbers exactly predicted the result in November of 2018.
Seven or eight new Democratic seats would be great; that’s more Democratic votes on key policies, more Democratic committee chairs, more young Democrats hired on as Capitol staffers. But my instincts tell me that between 2018 and 2020, 2018 will be the best cycle for picking up seats (reasons include historical precedents for midterms, the threat of divisive Democratic primaries in 2020, and the element of surprise.) Therefore, I’m not going to rest easy until I feel like Democrats are on track to win more than 10 legislative seats next year.