The Atlantic Politics Daily: Texas Isn’t Purple Just Yet

A special election jolts Democrats back to reality about their immediate prospects in the state.

It’s Wednesday, January 29. The CDC has confirmed another U.S. case of coronavirus. “Based on what’s known so far, the virus is dangerous,” James Hamblin writes, “but not unprecedentedly so.”

On Capitol Hill, the question-and-answer portion of the impeachment trial started on Wednesday. Meanwhile, Republicans seem poised to block the testimony of new witnesses—including John Bolton.

In the rest of today’s newsletter: Republicans come back to life in Texas. Plus: What Iowans of color really think of the state’s caucuses.



Texas Isn’t Purple Just Yet

In 2018, Republicans in Texas got caught napping.

Accustomed to one-party rule, the GOP lost control of two House seats and nearly lost a Senate race to Democrat Beto O’Rourke.

But this week, Democrats got a rude awakening that Republicans aren’t going to easily cede more ground. In a special election that had captured the attention of national figures in both parties, a Republican candidate for the Texas state House walloped his Democratic opponent.

It’s just one election, but as my colleague Russell Berman writes, it still has lessons for both parties as they head into November.

Democratic operatives I spoke with this morning conceded that it was a stretch to call Texas a winnable state for the party’s eventual presidential nominee in 2020. (These dampened expectations are a contrast to the hype that built up after 2016, when the nine-point gap between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton in Texas was smaller than the gap in Iowa and barely larger than the one in Ohio.) … In 2018, O’Rourke’s near-upset of Cruz was a wake-up call for Texas Republicans. Yesterday, in their first 2020 test, they answered it.

Texas’s quickly changing demographics have long given Democrats a sense of hope. Since 2010, as Ronald Brownstein writes, Texas has added four times the number of new Latino residents as white residents.

So far this cycle, however, Democrats haven’t exactly done a great job of reaching Latino voters who could help deliver the state for them, as my colleague Christian Paz writes:

Some of the Latino political organizers I spoke with described the primary season so far as a master class in “political malpractice”—as one person phrased it—with candidates struggling to engage Latino voters, address issues beyond immigration reform, and treat Latinos as the influential voting bloc they are.

Read here about why Democrats should be worried about the Latino vote.

—Saahil Desai


(Andrew Harnik / AP)

John Delaney is still running for president. Less than a week out from the Iowa caucuses, the millionaire former Maryland congressman is still pouring his own money into a campaign in which he’s not even breaking 1 percent in the national polls.



1. “They believe that the state’s overwhelmingly white population makes it utterly unrepresentative of the nation as a whole.”

What do Iowans of color think about their state’s outsized role in the presidential-primary process? Elaine Godfrey spoke with a handful of nonwhite activists in the state who worry that it’s too white to go first.

2. “The number of people who are dissatisfied with democracy is greater than the number of people who are satisfied with it.”

A new report on the health of democracy around the world backs up a worrying trend: More people living in democracies are growing disenchanted with democracy as a form of government. In some countries, including the United States, those unsatisfied actually outnumber those who are satisfied with it, Yascha Mounk and Roberto Stefan Foa write.

3. “Two impeachments and an internet later, impeachment polls have become …‘a form of cultural hysteria.’”

While polling helps show how Americans feel about their commander-in-chief, the president’s popularity should not be a key factor in determining if he should be removed from office, Jane Chong argues.


Supporters of President Trump peruse campaign memorabilia before a rally in Wildwood, New Jersey. (SETH WENIG / AP)

Donald Down the Jersey Shore

President Donald Trump’s latest rally brought him to a New Jersey beach town in the dead of winter. Why did he make the trek to a deep-blue state in an election year?

John Hendrickson explores:

New Jersey’s Second Congressional District went for Trump in 2016 after twice voting for Barack Obama. Its congressman, Jeff Van Drew, flipped it blue in 2018, then recently flipped himself for Trump: A week before Christmas, Van Drew voted against both articles of impeachment before formally joining the GOP and declaring his “undying support” for the president. Just over a month later, Trump gave him a slap on the back in the form of this off-season Wildwood boardwalk rally, up to and including bringing Van Drew onstage as part of a broader effort to paint the GOP as a “big-tent party.”

Read John’s Jersey Shore dispatch here.


Today’s newsletter was written by Saahil Desai, an associate editor on the Politics desk, and Christian Paz, a Politics fellow.

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