Whaaa? Exit poll shows Beto O'Rourke won native Texans, Ted Cruz won transplants

Liberals are circulating this on social media, with good reason.

Beto won the cowboy vote while Cruz cleaned up with the cucks?

That’s a narrative-buster, all right.

Righties like to point to Texas’s growing population and wonder why the Californians flowing in would vote for the same garbage policies that led them to flee the Worst Coast in the first place. Maybe they aren’t. Maybe removing themselves from a blue behemoth that takes 10 percent off the top for state income tax to a red stronghold with no state income tax at all has warmed them up a bit to the merits of smaller government.

Or maybe native Texans just couldn’t pull the lever for a filthy Canadian. They don’t bathe, you know. That’s what I hear.

No, really, though, it can’t be that newly minted Texans who have arrived from blue states are suddenly shedding their ideological baggage and embracing not just Republican candidates but Mr. Populist Conservative, Ted Cruz. Or can it? Chuck DeVore points to this old (2013) but newly relevant poll from the Texas Tribune:

With its economic troubles, California has been losing people in droves. The plurality of those migrants have moved to Texas, as many as 70,000 in 2011 and 60,000 in 2012. Given this influx of new residents, we are fortunate to have at times asked our respondents whether they have moved to Texas from California, and though the actual number of these people is but a small subsample of our surveys, we have enough respondents to make two broad conclusions. First, these newcomers, on average, tend to be conservative. Pooling data from the May 2012 and February 2013 UT/Tribune surveys, we found that 57 percent of these California transplants consider themselves to be conservative, while only 27 percent consider themselves to be liberal (a fair guess as to the margin of error is somewhere around +/- 7 percentage points). Second, these new Texans aren’t rushing to find homes in the state’s urban centers: 55 percent are heading to the suburbs, the rest evenly dividing themselves between rural and urban locations.

Makes sense, really. Who’s more likely to go to the trouble and expense of decamping from Big Blue to the Lone Star State, people who like California-style governance or people who don’t? More particularly, if you’re drawn to Texas’s lower cost of living, chances are it’s because you have a family and are looking to spread out a bit. Which party has tended to do better at the polls with married couples (traditionally, I mean, if less so recently)?

As for Beto, Elaina Plott continues to make the case that he may have lost because he wouldn’t compromise even a little to attract centrist Republicans. Those voters might have been leery enough of Cruz that they would have opted for O’Rourke if he’d thrown them a bone on anything — impeachment, guns, abortion, the border, an-ee-thing. He refused, which may have sunk him. It’s a fair point but I remain skeptical for the simple reason that every concession to the center *might* have cost him some enthusiasm on the left. I say “might” because once Democrats nationally fell in love with Obama in 2008, they were willing to forgive him any pander in the interest of victory, up to and including letting him pretend that he opposed gay marriage. (O may have gotten away with that one partly because everyone except low-information voters knew it was bullsh*t on stilts.) Could have been true with O’Rourke as well. But at some point the less doggedly progressive he’d been, the more he would have been merely Beto instead of Beto! to his fans and turnout would have faltered. If you tend to agree with Plott, though, here’s another data point from the same exit poll that bolsters your case:

Cruz made a big deal of O’Rourke’s defense of the NFL protesters, not because the issue is important but because he knew Beto’s stance on it would say a lot in a pithy way to undecided voters about the challenger’s overall worldview. On Election Day, voters split 38/50 against the protests with O’Rourke and Cruz winning equal shares of their respective sides. If Beto had followed Plott’s advice (and Obama’s lead) by pretending that he disapproved of the protests, would that have reassured some centrists? But if it did, how many liberals who swooned for days over his apologia for the anthem protests — a clip that went viral many times over on social media — would have stayed home? Plott notes the biggest surprise of the election: Eight million Texans turned out to vote in the end, fully two million more than the meticulous Cruz and his team of data nerds had expected. O’Rourke blew the roof off in terms of enthusiasm. Wouldn’t have been the same if he had gotten mushy on big cultural flashpoints.

Exit question: Did native Texans turn against Cruz because some are still old enough to remember that the Kennedy assassination happened on their home turf and, well … you know?