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Republicans realize they're losing ground in Texas: ‘The base is shrinking. Period’

U.S. Senator Ted Cruz of Texas speaking at the 2018 Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in National Harbor, Maryland. // Credit: Gage Skidmore

Texas is still a red state, but at this point, it’s light red rather than deep red. The fact that Sen. Ted Cruz defeated Democrat Beto O’Rourke by a mere 2% in the 2018 midterms was a troubling sign for the Texas GOP, and in a report for Axios, journalist Alexi McCammond notes that Lone Star Republicans are troubled by the departure of six members of the U.S. House of Representatives who won’t be seeking reelection in Texas in 2020.

“The 2018 midterms spooked Texas Republicans after they lost two congressional seats, saw closer-than-expected margins in a number of other races, and watched Beto O'Rourke surf a blue wave built in part on the state’s shifting demographics,” McCammond notes. And now, according to McCammond, “the six-pack of GOP retirements in one cycle is hard to ignore.”

One of those departures is Rep. Will Hurd, the only African-American Republican in the House of Representatives. McCammond quotes a dire warning from Hurd about the GOP: “The base is shrinking. Period. End of story.”

Until Democrats start winning more  statewide races in Texas, it will be premature to describe Texas as a swing state. Republicans still have the advantage in Texas’ statewide races, but as O’Rourke’s 2018 campaign shows, that advantage is shrinking. And in U.S. House races, Democrats can perform quite well in parts of Texas — which is why, as McCammond reports, the GOP is aggressively trying to register more Republican voters in the Lone Star State.

A GOP strategist in Texas, interviewed on condition of anonymity, told Axios, “We need a new Republican Party because the one we have is getting our asses kicked in House races.”

In the 2000s, many Democratic strategists viewed Texas as a lost cause for their party when it came to statewide races. But times have changed. And the 2018 midterms made it clear that President Donald Trump is not universally loved in that state.

McCammond concludes the Axios article by noting how increasingly bullish Democratic strategists are on their prospects in Texas. “It’s truly a sign of the times that Democrats think Texas in 2020 could mimic California in 2018 — where the party picked up seven GOP seats and helped Dems win back the House, ” McCammond reports.

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