Texas Republicans show strength in Democratic cities

June 7, 2021

This Week: The Briefing, Vol. IX, Issue 23

  • Manchin upends Democrats’ plans for am election power-grab
  • Republican gains with Texas Latinos look increasingly real
  • Trump emerges, endorses Budd


Voting ‘Reform’ Bill: Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.V., just threw cold water on Democrats’ attempt to federalize U.S. elections, forbid voter ID measures, and otherwise stack the deck in favor of their party’s own current election practices. The bill had passed the U.S. House by a narrow 220-to-210 vote earlier in the Spring. 

This may be a sign that, despite a few earlier indications to the contrary, Manchin will indeed play the moderating role in his party that many observers had expected. He also reiterated that he would not “vote to weaken or eliminate the filibuster,” which would have been necessary to pass that partisan bill along party lines. 

As the least-woke link in an increasingly far-left Democratic Party, Manchin has a lot of power. Ever since taking power in January, Democrats have been hoping to pass highly partisan and divisive legislation with the barest of majorities. This includes the election legislation, D.C. statehood, taxpayer funding of abortion, abolition of right-to-work, forced unionization of home-care workers, and a number of other highly partisan priorities.

Texas: Republicans in Texas have seen their weaknesses with suburban whites highlighted in recent elections. But the weekend’s runoff elections there contained another data point regarding one of their growing strengths — Republicans’ ascendancy with Hispanic voters in the Lone Star State. 

Republicans carried three mayoral races in three large, heavily Hispanic towns. Their victories in Fort Worth, Arlington, and especially McAllen, a deep blue South Texas town, point to the notion that President Trump’s gains with Hispanic voters in Texas’ border regions were real and could be lasting.

For ages, Republican strategists talked about the need to accommodate Hispanic voters by taking lax positions on immigration and even supporting an outright amnesty. The fallacy behind this thinking was always that actual Hispanic voters are U.S. citizens, and most of their families have been for generations. The idea that all or most or even a large plurality of them have some stake in immigration and want some kind of accommodation in that regard is just a crude ethnic stereotype.

On the other hand, the residents of Texas border towns are now once again finding their cities overwhelmed by unrestricted illegal immigration, and they are upset. McAllen’s new mayor-elect, Javier Villalobos, was not shy in talking about this problem. He pointed the finger at federal officials and objecting to the idea that local taxpayers will have to pay for immigration “chaos” forced on them by the feds. Increasingly, this sort of talk has become common among both Republican and Democratic politicians in South Texas. As the Democratic Party’s left wing calls for the abolition of ICE and zero deportations, Hispanic Democrats are moving rapidly in the other direction, and this is likely one of the things affecting their voting habits.

This issue gained currency in recent years as less populous sectors farther west were blocked by walls built both before and during Trump’s tenure. Since the Bush era, the largest share of the illegal traffic in people and drugs shifted over the last 15 years from Arizona to the Rio Grande Valley. 

This may be one reason why Trump, with his tough-on-immigration talk — and perhaps not even in spite of it — grew on Hispanic voters so much during his tenure and scored so surprisingly well in South Texas. It may also be why Hispanic Republicans in these areas are finally starting to break through. It bears noting that the Republican candidate in Texas’ 15th district, Monica de la Cruz Hernandez, came within three points of defeating Democratic Rep. Vicente Gonzalez in 2020. This is a district specifically drawn to absorb Democratic voters and form a Hispanic majority. But Trump came within two points of carrying the district, which Hillary Clinton had won with 56% in 2016 and Barack Obama had won with 57% in 2012.

Governor 2021

Virginia: Former Gov. Terry McAuliffe is the overwhelming, easy favorite for the Democratic nomination in the June 8 primary. Assuming he wins, McAuliffe will start out as a modest favorite against businessman Glenn Youngkin, whom Republicans selected last month in their virtual convention.

Senate 2022

Missouri: For some context on how bad things have become for Democrats in Missouri, their only statewide officeholder — a 38-year-old who in any other state would likely be an up-and-comer in politics — has announced she will retire at the end of her term rather than run for re-election or for Senate or seek any other office. She ran against popular Gov. Mike Parson, R, and lost by more than 16 points in 2020. 

Missouri’s open-seat Senate race seems less unwinnable than that governor’s race was, if only because it’s an open seat and controversial former Gov. Eric Greitens is attempting to win the GOP nomination in what is becoming a very crowded primary. Yet all other credible Democrats have so far backed away from that race because Missouri just isn’t the state it once was when a Democrat like Claire McCaskill could just sweep in and defeat an incumbent GOP senator.

North Carolina: President Trump used his appearance at the state Republican convention over the weekend to endorse Freedom Caucus member Rep. Ted Budd for Senate. The endorsement came after Trump’s daughter-in-law, Lara Trump, officially announced that she would not be running for the seat being vacated by scandal-scarred Sen. Richard Burr, R.

This comes much to the chagrin of Rep. Mark Walker, R, the former chairman of the conservative House Republican Study Committee, who actually still won the straw poll at the convention by a convincing margin. Aside from Trump’s endorsement — a huge development, obviously — Walker has otherwise seemed to have the inside track up to now. 

Budd, who did not know for sure that he was getting Trump’s endorsement until 15 minutes before it happened, delivered a speech filled with barbs for another one of his rivals in this race, former Gov. Patrick McCrory, who was defeated for re-election as governor in 2016. This could be one of the cycle’s more consequential primaries in terms of whether Republicans are able to regain Senate control and provide a check on President Biden’s presidency.