Rather than position itself as more populist, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) has decided to embrace an interventionist strategy in the 2018 elections. The first big test of their involvement in Texas House primaries took place yesterday, where they actively campaigned against an activist campaigning in Houston for being a carpetbagger. How’d that work out? Not so well, Politico reports:
The first primary of the 2018 midterm elections has already scrambled the political landscape, after a Democratic candidate spurned by the national party qualified for a primary runoff in one of the districts central to Democrats’ efforts to win back control of the House next year.
Laura Moser, an activist and journalist, finished second in Tuesday’s Democratic primary in a Houston-area congressional district held by Republicans — despite opposition from the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, which called Moser a “Washington insider” who would lose in the general election. …
In the closing weeks of the campaign, the DCCC posted a memo featuring opposition research about Moser, including her residency, until recently, in Washington. The committee declined to back Fletcher explicitly early Wednesday but did reiterate in a statement its commitment to defeating Culberson, noting that Democrats in the district had picked “a clear front-runner” and “are in a strong position to win in November.”
The decision to get this granular seems rather surprising, given the current political mood. Voters don’t trust party apparatuses, both Republican and Democrat; the energy among voters is hardly among the so-called “establishment.” That may be especially true among Democrats, who remember the DNC’s underhanded tilt toward the Clinton establishment in 2016, but grass-roots Republicans have long chafed at similar interventions by the NRCC and NRSC in either selecting challengers to Democratic incumbents or pushing off challengers to GOP incumbents.
Still, Democrats appear to have had a good day, even if the DCCC wound up with a bit of egg on its face over Moser. The results from yesterday’s primaries in Texas showed Democratic participation way up over previous primaries, heightening expectations of a “blue wave” in the Lone Star State:
Democrats hoping for a blue wave in November were buoyed, if not jubilant, Tuesday as Texas voters cast the first ballots in this year’s midterms in closely-watched primaries for Senate, House and governor.
While final turnout numbers were not as strong for Democrats as had been suggested by the heavy early voting, more than 1 million Texans cast ballots — the first time the party has topped that figure in the primary since the 2002 midterms. …
Thanks to Texas’ booming population, both parties saw a record number of voters head to the polls.
But Democratic turnout was up 84 percent from the last midterm primary in 2014, while Republican turnout increased about 14 percent, according to data from the secretary of state’s office. GOP turnout was highest since 2010.
That sounds impressive — until one looks at the vote counts from the primary races. Democrats did indeed top one million ballots cast, but Republicans outvoted them by 50%:
Trump’s first term produced a wave of voters Texas hasn’t seen in years. Spurred by big numbers in early voting, Democratic voters topped the 1 million mark, a total not seen since the 2002 primary. Republicans responded in even larger numbers, passing 1.5 million, breaking the party record of 1.48 million set in 2010. …
The Democratic turnout in a deep-red state like Texas will be studied for whether it’s a sign of nationwide momentum for the left since Trump’s election in 2016. Democrats still face long odds at ousting Republicans in the nation’s largest conservative state, where they’ve not won statewide office since 1994. Republican Congressional candidates across the state had pledged fealty to Trump.
Trump’s support appeared to help a couple of statewide Republican officeholders. Land Commissioner George P. Bush, the nephew of former President George W. Bush, and Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller. Both were endorsed by Trump and avoided runoffs in bitter primary fights.
The difference was even more dramatic in the Senate primaries, where Democrats think that Beto O’Rourke has a chance at unseating incumbent Ted Cruz. Even with a big Democratic turnout, though, the gap is rather dramatic:
— Jay Caruso (@JayCaruso) March 7, 2018
Cruz wound up with almost twice as many votes as all of the Democratic primary candidates put together. Nate Cohn later put the turnout gap at 22 points, 61/39. Democrats’ biggest gains came in the cities and wealthy suburbs, which doesn’t hint at much turnover in the general election, Dave Wasserman noted.
Dems accounted for ~40% of all TX primary votes cast this year. That's up from 29% in 2014 & 31% in 2010, but it's a bit lower than some Dems were hoping (they were 44% in 2006). Despite Trump's mediocre standing in TX, it's still a pretty Republican state.
— Dave Wasserman (@Redistrict) March 7, 2018
Bear in mind, though, that there doesn’t need to be much realignment nationally for Democrats to win the House. All they need are 24 seats, and picking up three in Texas certainly would help. In midterm election with a controversial president’s performance as material for a referendum, this doesn’t exactly look like sunny news for Republicans.
In Texas, though, it doesn’t seem to indicate that we’ll see much change in its status as a deep-red state. The predictions of a “blue wave” in Texas seem extraordinarily optimistic, to say the least.