Gloria Salinas, Managing Director, Economic Development
With three weeks left until Election Day, the countdown is on in the race for the White House, and key seats in Congress and the Senate.
Dallas Regional Chamber Senior Vice President of Public Policy Matt Garcia hosted a virtual discussion with Politico Campaign Pro Reporters Zach Montellaro and Ally Mutnick to discuss how pivotal Texas races will play a role in the national electoral landscape. The Dallas Mavericks sponsored the Thursday, Oct. 8 event.
“If there is one thing you need to know about this election, it’s that it’s been stable,” Montellaro said. “Joe Biden has led this race from the beginning, and he continues to lead now.”
Early voting in Texas runs from Oct.13 through Oct.30. Election Day is Nov. 3.
Here are four key takeaways from the election experts on the presidential race, Congressional and Senatorial match-ups in the Dallas Region, and the impacts they could have on redistricting the state legislature.
A Uniquely Stable Lead
“What makes this race unique is there are very few undecided voters or swaying voters,” Montellaro said. “Ninety-two percent of voters who have picked a candidate are sticking with them, and eight percent haven’t landed on a candidate. And it’s not really a close race nationally.”
In 2016, President Donald J. Trump carried the senior citizen vote. Today, Vice President Joe Biden carries the senior vote, but he is a little less stable in carrying Latino and Black voters.
“Trump is doing much better than Biden is doing with Hispanics,” Montellaro said. “It is off-setting the fact that Biden is doing much better with senior citizens. The tradeoff there is Biden may be losing Latino support that Trump is picking up while losing the senior vote.”
While the presidential race remains close in battle ground states, Wisconsin, Michigan, and Pennsylvania are key states that President Trump must win to win the election, Montellaro said. A major change in the 2020 election is that Wisconsin, Michigan, and Pennsylvania cannot start processing mail-in ballots until the morning of Election Day, making it possible that the presidential race may not be called until late Election Day or the following morning.
“Joe Biden is leading (the polls overall), and it has been a stable lead since he entered the race,” Montellaro said. “Biden’s lead is more stable and much larger than Hillary Clinton’s in 2016.”
As of October 7, Biden is leading by 9.4 percentage points at 51.6 percent to President Trump’s 42.2 percent. In Texas, President Trump is leading Vice President Biden by a narrow margin.
Texas: A Strategic Battleground for the House
Texas is a big part of the Democratic strategy to hold on to the House majority by capitalizing on President Trump’s unpopularity in suburban districts he won in 2016.
“Democrats fundraised well, and they are holding 34 seats in Trump-won suburban districts,” Mutnick said. “Texas is a good formula for Democratic House seats, and President Trump is incredibly unpopular in the suburbs.”
Democrats have flipped the House, and this year, Republicans would need to flip 17 seats to reclaim control of the chamber – a very unlikely scenario, Mutnick said.
While there are not a lot of competitive house races because Dallas and Houston are longtime Republican seats, in 2018, former Democratic Congressman Beto O’Rourke came within 2.6 percent of defeating longtime Texas Republican Senator Ted Cruz. Narrow margin losses, such as O’Rourke’s, have Democrats looking to go farther by flipping open districts Mitt Romney won in 2012. Key Texas Democratic House targets are the 21st District in Central Texas, 22nd District in the Houston suburbs, 23rd District in West Texas, and the 24th District in Dallas-Fort Worth.
Close North Texas House races to watch are the 24th District race between Republican nominee Beth Van Duyne and Democratic nominee Candace Valenzuela, and 32nd District northeast Dallas race between Democrat incumbent Colin Allred and Republican nominee Genevieve Collins.
Texas Senate Spotlight on Cornyn-Hegar Race
By-and-large Republicans are on defense to hold on to Senate seats this year as Democrats look to gain three seats if Vice President Biden wins the presidential race, or four seats if he loses.
“Democrats have to win four-out-of-five seats in Colorado, Maine, Arizona, North Carolina, and Iowa because Alabama Republican Tommy Tuberville is favored to win over Democratic Senator Doug Jones,” Montellaro said. “That being said, there’s more expansion seats in play this year as well, and all but one of them is held by Republicans — Michigan, Montana, Alaska, Kansas, South Carolina, two elections in Georgia, and Texas.”
In Texas, incumbent Republican Senator John Cornyn is leading over Democratic challenger MJ Hegar, even though Hegar outraised Cornyn with $13.5 million in the third quarter.
“The race between Cornyn and Hegar is one that favors Cornyn, and it has not attracted the same kind of national attention that others have,” Montellaro said. “Texas is an expensive state to campaign in, so no outside group is playing in the race, except for one pro-Cornyn group.”
Texas Stands to Gain Representation
For the first time in years, the Texas House is in play as Democrats look to flip nine seats in 2020 to take the chamber. Democrats won 12 seats in 2018.
After the completion of the Census, Texas could gain three congressional seats, growing from 36 to 39. But Democrats will not have a say in redistricting of the state legislature map if they do not flip the Texas House.
“Democrats had no balance in the Texas delegation, so to have a say in drawing the map and having representation in the large population growth is important for them,” Mutnick said. “[Texas] is on track to gain three Congressional seats.”
But where the three additional congressional seats will go still holds many unknowns, Mutnick said. It all really depends on how many seats Texas gains.
For more information on voting, visit Dallas County Votes.