“We need to massively expand our voter registration ambitions,” according to the review conducted and authored by Hudson Cavanagh, the Texas Democrats’ director of data science. “From 2018 to 2020, we lost ground in terms of voter registration, losing about 26,000 net votes. However, there are more than enough potential registrants to flip the state if we invest in and execute effective programs at scale.”
“Republicans did better in activating their base in Texas among high-propensity voters, low-propensity voters and everyone in between. Republicans had a better turnout operation than we did,” the report states.
The Democratic dream of turning Texas blue failed to materialize last November. But President Biden came closest to flipping the Lone Star state than any other Democrat in the last 25 years, losing the state to Donald Trump by 631,221 votes.
The last Democratic presidential candidate to win the state was Jimmy Carter in 1976, though recent demographic changes since the 2016 election bode well for the left. At least 2 million moved to the state from California, New York and Florida — many of them Democrats — and an estimated 800,000 young Latino Americans turned 18.
Texas Democrats decided to undertake a review of their 2020 performance after falling short of high expectations. They thought they could not only beat Trump, but be competitive in the Senate race to topple GOP Sen. John Cornyn, flip the state house and several U.S. House seats. But Cornyn handily won reelection against MJ Hegar, and Texas Republicans largely held Democrats off.
The report concludes their losses were largely due to three things: limited spending in the state, sub-par outreach to and mobilization of Latino voters, and the suspension of in-person voter contact that hindered efforts to turn out low propensity voters.
The report cites modeling projecting at least 2.17 million “solidly Democratic unregistered voters in Texas,” based on figures from the 2010 census. In turn, Texas Democrats want the national party to make major investments to turn the state “sustainably blue,” according to the report.
Democrats turnout efforts were severely hampered by suspension of in-person voter contact due to the coronavirus pandemic, according to the report’s findings, along with “inefficient targeting” of low-to-moderate propensity voters. That, wrote Cavanaugh, was “partially a symptom of our inability to do in-person canvassing because we were not able to effectively reach large portions of our base for whom we lacked quality contact information.”
“The pandemic prevented us from getting the most out of our most powerful competitive advantage: our volunteers. We struggled to reach voters for whom we did not have phone numbers, who were disproportionately young, rural and folks of color,” the report concludes.
Door knocking and in-person campaigning was largely paused at the behest of the Biden campaign and national Democrats. Republicans from the top to bottom of the ballot, on the other hand, resumed in-person campaigning and door knocking several months after the pandemic roiled the country. By the fall, Republicans were touting their robust ground game operation as a leg up over Democrats; the GOP managed to out register Democrats across some battleground states.
Democrats eventually resumed limited door-knocking efforts. And Biden’s campaign manager herself downplayed the impact that the moratorium on in-person contact had on boosting turnout.
“While you might hear our opponent spend a lot of time talking about the millions of door knocks or attempts that they’re making week to week, those metrics actually don’t have any impact on reaching voters,” Biden’s campaign manager, Jen O’Malley Dillon, told reporters in a call in September. “Our metric of success, the numbers we look at and use, are conversations.”
Texas Democrats, however, have firmly concluded the suspension of in-person voter contact meant losing…