Can Hillary turn Texas blue?

Look on the bright side: She might not run. In which case we won’t have to worry about Texas imposing a Democratic stranglehold on the White House for the foreseeable future until, oh, 2024 or so.

Or maybe 2020? Much depends on the time frame for that path to citizenship that Schumer, McCain, Rubio, et al. are cooking up.

While the knee-jerk reaction among many Republicans would be to dismiss the idea that the state could be competitive in 2016 — just four years after Mitt Romney carried it by 16 points over President Obama — Texas GOP Chairman Steve Munisteri is in no mood to sneer.

In an interview with RCP, Munisteri said that he has long taken seriously the possibility that Texas could become a battleground as early as 2016, particularly if Clinton becomes the Democratic standard-bearer.

“If she’s the nominee, I would say that this is a ‘lean Republican’ state but not a ‘solid Republican’ state,” he said. “I don’t know anyone nationally who’s scoffing at this. The national party leadership is aware and tells me they’re taking it seriously.”

Munisteri said that he has had recent discussions with Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus about the need to prepare for a significant change in the political dynamic here, noting that the need will likely become even more pressing in the next decade. That’s when Texas is expected to see its minority population rise more sharply — as it adds as many as four additional electoral votes to make it an even shinier target for Democrats than it already is.

Texas had 38 electoral votes last year, second only to California and equal to the EVs of Ohio and Pennsylvania combined. If RCP is right about there being four more EVs on tap by the end of the decade, Texas’s 42 would match the sum of Florida and Virginia. Assuming California and New York hold steady at their current totals, winning those two plus Texas with 42 would start Democrats off with 126 electoral votes, just shy of halfway to the 270 needed to win the White House with plenty of reliably blue northeastern states still to be counted. If that doesn’t put in perspective for you how important it is for the GOP to hold the Lone Star, chew on this: After Texas, the state that delivered the most electoral votes to Romney last year was Georgia with … 16. Obama won seven states with 16 or more EVs. Iceberg, right ahead.

More from the Times:

Democrats are hopeful that the immovable object — the overwhelmingly male, conservative Republican power structure — is about to meet the unstoppable force: demography. Texas is home to 9.5 million Hispanics, about 38 percent of the population, just seven points behind the non-Hispanic white population. In 2020, Hispanics will begin to surpass the white population and will outright dwarf it in 2030…

But the biggest problem is voter participation. Only about half of eligible Hispanic voters show up nationwide; this edged up slightly in 2012 to 53 percent. In Texas, just 4.1 million Hispanics are registered to vote, and only about half of them make it to the voting booth…

[Improving Latino turnout] requires ground troops, voter education and turnout efforts over a multicycle campaign. It also requires that Democrats stop assuming they’re going to lose. “If we start treating this as a purple state,” said Matt Glazer of the activist group Progress Texas, “we would be one that much sooner.”

Yeah, what’s most alarming about all this isn’t Hillary’s star power or demographic nuances, it’s that Democrats haven’t really even been trying in Texas recently. There was no reason to; defeat was a fait accompli, so money and manpower were best applied in other states. That won’t be true for much longer. In fact, one of the more amazing details in the RCP and NYT pieces is that Rick Perry only pulled 39 percent of the Latino vote in 2010. That’s exceptionally good by Republican standards, but Perry’s not a standard Republican. He was a two-term incumbent at the time; he presided over jobs growth even as the rest of the country was staggering from the aftereffects of the recession; and he was, as many prominent Republicans in Texas are, more moderate on immigration policy than the GOP nationally. (Which hurt him in the presidential primary debates, natch.) He ended up winning the election with nearly 55 percent of the vote. And yet he still couldn’t crack 40 percent among Latinos. Imagine what Republican numbers will look like once OFA or whatever its successor is gets serious about organizing and turning out Latino voters.

As for Hillary, here’s the PPP poll from last month that has 2016 strategists wringing their hands. Rubio fares best against her but even he’s trailing by a point at the moment (that’ll change, needless to say, as his name recognition rises to rival hers). A Hillary run is bad news for every Republican, I think, except for Rubio, for whom it’s mixed news: She’s the most formidable potential candidate on the Democratic side by light years, but precisely because she performs so well with Latino voters, there’ll be added pressure on the Republican side to try to counter that by nominating Rubio. Will it work? Well, per the NYT piece, Ted Cruz apparently got fewer Latino votes last year than John Cornyn did in 2008. The author theorizes that that’s because he’s of Cuban ancestry whereas most of Texas’s Latino population is Mexican; Rubio’s of Cuban ancestry too, so if it’s a barrier for Cruz it might be a barrier for him. Then again, it could be that the reason Cruz fared more poorly with Latinos is because he ran further to the right than Cornyn did and Latinos are, after all, mostly Democrats. Rubio would run a bit further to the center as a presidential nominee so maybe that would close the gap.

Exit question: Second look at the National Popular Vote movement? (Exit answer: No.)