Democrats were hoping to make a statement in the Texas primary, but Tuesday night’s turnout numbers make it pretty clear that Texas is still a Republican state.
With over 99% of precincts counted (and not including votes for any third parties), Democratic turnout did top one million in a midterm primary for the first time since 2002, but it still lagged well behind the over 1.5 million votes cast in the Republican primary. Put another way, 60% of all votes cast in Tuesday night’s primary went to Republican candidates. That’s 20 points more than the 40% that went to Democratic candidates.
The margin has shrunk significantly from 2010 and 2014, when the margin between votes cast in the Republican and Democratic primaries ran closer to 40 percentage points.
The margin, however, is not any better and is actually slightly worse for them than it was in 2006, another year when Democrats turned out exceptionally well. Republicans cast a little more than 56% of the primary votes to the Democrats’ 44%.
That year, Democrats took back both the US House and Senate, but Republicans easily won the major statewide races in Texas, including the governorship and a US Senate election.
That means if primary turnout in other states look like 2006, it might be another sign (along with the generic congressional ballot and special elections) that 2018 is shaping up to be a big Democratic year nationwide.
But there’s also no way one can look at the results and think Democrats are going to win in Texas in 2018, which is not good news for Democratic candidates like Rep. Beto O’Rourke, who is hoping to unseat Sen. Ted Cruz in November.
All of this, of course, depends on how indicative primary turnout is for the general election.
Dating back to 1970, turnout by each party in midterm primaries in Texas has not necessarily been associated with strength in statewide general elections. Democrats had far better turnout in the 1994 primary, for example. Later that year, Republican George W. Bush and Republican Kay Bailey Hutchison would respectively win the gubernatorial and US Senate elections in the state easily. No Democrat has won a race for either since.
More recently, there are signs that primary turnout may tell us something. Nate Cohn of the New York Times has shown that nationally turnout in primaries since 2004 seems to predict outcomes in the fall.