The first I read of this poll, this is what was highlighted:U of T at Austin poll of Texas voters: "When asked their likelihood of reelecting Trump in 2020, 39% and 11% ... said they would definitely or probably vote for the incumbent, respectively, while 43% and 7% said they definitely or probably would not."— Maggie Haberman (@maggieNYT) June 17, 2019
“This isn’t good news, and it shows the continued weakness of Trump in Texas,” said Daron Shaw, professor of government at the University of Texas at Austin and co-director of the poll. “But if I were in his campaign looking at these numbers, I wouldn’t say we’re in big trouble in Texas. And if I were a Democrat, I’m not sure I’d spend a lot of money here.”
So, is Maggie Haberman misrepresenting the poll? No, not at all:
Half of the registered voters in Texas would vote to reelect President Donald Trump, but half of them would not, according to the latest University of Texas/Texas Tribune Poll.
Few of those voters were wishy-washy about it: 39% said they would “definitely” vote to reelect Trump; 43% said they would “definitely not” vote for him. The remaining 18% said they would “probably” (11%) or “probably not” (7%) vote to give Trump a second term.
That's the lede from the Texas Tribune article reporting this poll. Rather a different view than Raw Story gives it, frankly (which is not to condemn Raw Story, but every reader must think for themselves, not expect all reporting to be propaganda they favor. I'm looking at you, Twitter.*) Look at the numbers carefully, there's not a lot of comfort for Trump there:
“That 50-50 number encapsulates how divisive Trump is,” said James Henson, who runs the Texas Politics Project at the University of Texas at Austin and co-directs the poll. But, he added, the number is not necessarily “a useful prediction for an election that’s 16 months away.”
Among Republicans, 73% would “definitely” vote for Trump; among Democrats, 85% were “definitely not” voting for another term.
Which means the issue in 2020 comes down to turnout; just as it did in 2018. It also means Daron Shaw and I disagree on what the Democrats should do in Texas.
Texas was a one-party state since Reconstruction (yes, that long). It finally flipped from one-party Democrat to one-party Republican in the 1990's (it was actually cemented with the election of W. to the governorship in that year, so call it 1992). A mere 27 years later (my daughter's lifetime, but she's a child), Texas is threatening to do something it hasn't done in about 140 years: become a two-party system. Nine more Democrats in the Texas House, and it flips to Democratic control; that's after 12 were elected in 2018, and I know at least one who, if he runs again, will probably take that seat from a Republican. He came out of nowhere (never held elective office) to almost do it last year. The entire elected judiciary of Harris County (no longer the Urban Cowboy locale so many still think it is) were elected on the Democratic slate: all of them black women. Two long-term Republicans were turned out of the U.S. House in favor of Democrats. People who saw no reason to vote, or to vote for Democrats, in Texas, are now seeing a reason. Greg Abbot is inordinately popular in Texas, but if he rests his popularity on the last Legislative session, he may be in trouble. Pardon a digression as I explain:
Texas has one basic form of tax, aside from the sales tax (which some proposed raising in exchange for actually lowering property tax rates; nobody liked that idea). The primary source of income for government is the property tax. The Lege decided to fix the tax rate and require local taxing authorities (Port of Houston is one around here; school districts; counties; municipalities) to hold an election if they raise rates beyond that limit. Problem is, taxes are going up not because of increased tax rates, but because of increased property valuations, a by-product of the "Texas Miracle" politicians love so much. Nothing in the legislation lowers property tax evaluations, or even slows them (how could you interfere with the market like that?). Most people pay more taxes every year because their property becomes more valuable, not because governments are raising rates to have more money to spend. Tax rates were capped anyway (Houston is grossly underfunded as it is because of such caps; that's a whole 'nother argument). Abbott is popular right now because he championed tax relief. Did he deliver? No, not really. We'll see what that does for him.
He's also popular because Dan Patrick was a lunatic firebrand two years ago. Patrick kept his head down this session, which raised his approval ratings. The new Speaker of the House talked like a right-wing ideologue, but governed like a rational person. So that triumvirate of Governor/Lt. Gov./Speaker, is regarded well at the moment. They didn't do anything to embarrass Texas, and the Lege got rid of the Secretary of State who embarrassed Texas with the voter roll purge debacle (yeah, the Governor was behind it, but that's the way it goes).
Texans are right wing, in other words, but you can go too far. Abbott has learned to talk like a moderate (well, moderate for this day and age). The crazies in the Lege may find their seats up for grabs in 2020; and the movement toward a two-party state will continue apace.
Which is why it is very bad news that, in 2019, Trump only commands possibly 50% of the electorate. Of course, he didn't carry Texas by double digits in 2016. The possibility that he could lose it this time, is very real indeed.
*The Twitter thread at Maggie Haberman's tweet seemed to think this poll was by UT Austin of UT Austin students, or just of Austin, which still is highly overrated as the "liberal" domain of Texas (they have yet to elect a lesbian mayor or, so far as I know, a mayor of color. Houston has had both since I've lived here.) It' s pet peeve of mine, but then, political Twitter is amazingly dim, so I can't really hold it against them.