Texans haven’t sent a Democrat to the United States Senate since the early 1990s, and haven’t elected a Democrat as governor since 1991. Nevertheless, with the perennially unpopular Donald Trump on the ballot for re-election in less than two years, and with Beto O’Rourke’s surprisingly strong showing in the 2018 midterms, Texas Republicans are reportedly starting to worry that their once-reliably red state could be on the verge of turning blue—or at least purple—in the not-too-distant future.
According to the Washington Examiner, a cadre of longtime Lone Star State conservatives and donors are readying a multi-million dollar push to keep Texas firmly in GOP hands, starting with a massive voter registration project to sign up as many of the state’s estimated two million unregistered Republicans as they can.
Per the Examiner, the newly created Engage Texas 501(c)4 group plans to spend up to $25 million by the coming 2020 elections, focusing on voter registration, and hoping to stem the tide of an increasingly liberal electorate that could realign the state’s political reality.
“Everybody thinks it was a Cruz-Beto thing. But it’s a mess,” one Republican official who declined to be identified told the Examiner. “Independents are behaving like Democrats — like they did in 2018.”
Of course, given that this is Texas we’re talking about, there’s no guarantee that Democrats will carry the state in 2020 based on pure demographic shifts alone; Republican Gov. Greg Abbott won re-election by double digits in 2018, and Texas has spent the past few years at the forefront of a number of hard-right GOP policies, including rolling back LGBTQ rights and, in a bill signed by Abbott on Monday, the protection of conservative chicken chain Chick-fil-A.
Still, as Abbott himself warned Republicans in early 2018: “We had always hoped the liberal wave would never hit Texas, but these early voting returns aren’t encouraging so far.”
However the 2020 race turns out, the fact that Texas Republicans feel forced to pour millions of dollars into holding what once was a given is certainly notable.