The enthusiasm is understandable. Democrats point to changing demographics and a growing Hispanic population as one reason Texas might eventually turn blue. Trump has done more to alienate Hispanic voters than any Republican presidential candidate in recent memory. That could drive Democratic turnout in Texas to historic highs. Clinton herself has even projected confidence that she could win if enough voters show up at the polls. “If black and Latino voters come out and vote, we could win Texas,” Clinton told New York Magazine not long ago.
Yet for all the optimism, it’s highly unlikely that Democratic dreams of turning Texas blue will become a reality this year. “It’s really more wishful thinking than anything else that the state would vote for Clinton over Trump,” said Josh Blank, the manager of polling and research for the Texas Politics Project at the University of Texas at Austin. A single poll showing a slight lead for Clinton is hardly a guarantee of a win, and neither is a newspaper endorsement.
“Hillary will not win Texas, I can promise you that,” said Michael Joyce, a spokesman for the Texas Republican Party, who added that he’s skeptical of the methodology used to conduct the poll that showed Clinton with a slight lead in the state. “This is a perfect example of Democrats latching onto anything for relevance. They are always trying to find that one spark that’s going to jumpstart the party, but the Republican Party continues to be dominant.”
Nevertheless, contemplating the possibility that Clinton might win has motivated Democrats in a state where championing liberal candidates can be demoralizing. “It’s hard being a Democrat in Texas,” said Nick Laughlin, the president of the Texas College Democrats and a student at Texas State University in San Marcos. “In the past it’s been difficult to get people to even come to meetings on campus, but now we’re seeing a lot more enthusiasm.” The prospect of a Clinton victory could help Democrats recruit volunteers and encourage political participation in the run up to November, even if she doesn’t take the state.
Texas Democrats hope Trump’s candidacy can also be used to broadly discredit Republicans. “Our mission is to remind voters that Trump is a reflection of the Republican Party in Texas. They are cut from the same cloth, and they believe the same things,” said Crystal Perkins, the executive director of the Texas Democratic Party. (Joyce of the Texas GOP doesn’t believe this will be effective. “I don’t think you’ll be able to tie Texas Republicans to Trump,” he said. “Voters don’t look at it in the same light.”)
Nationwide, Democrats have started to suggest that Trump could prove to be such a historically weak candidate that even states typically considered reliably Republican could turn into Democratic-friendly territory. That Texas has been included in this speculation at all is remarkable. But Democrats stand a far better chance of making inroads in states like Arizona and Georgia. The Cook Political Report currently describes both as Republican-leaning states in its electoral college vote ratings, while Texas is rated as solid Republican.