Why candidates and pollsters can’t predict Texas voters
(or Why Texans just wish self-rule was on the ballot)
By KATHARINE JARMUL
Feb. 27, 2008
Observer reporter Katharine Jarmul sets her sights on the Democratic primary, scheduled to take place Tuesday. The native Texan claims only she can make fun of Texas, with those “Bless her heart” tendencies that these Washington outsiders just wouldn’t understand.
Growing up in Texas, I remember saluting the Lone Star State before the American flag every morning. I learned “Hook’em Horns” before any other hand signs, and blue bonnets were my favorite flower. When I traveled to Britain later in life, I made sure to stop at the Texas Embassy, now a Tex Mex restaurant, located in London. Texans are an eccentric breed; with a fierce independence that burns deep—created from dogma, propaganda and family lines since its declaration of independence from Mexico in 1836.
Many people assume Texans are just Southerners. Although we love ourselves some barbecue and we do have a drawl, Texans are indeed a separate bunch. Most Texas regiments that fought in the U.S. Civil War chose to fly Lone Star flags, and often were said to fight only for Texas, not for the Confederacy.
And despite their Republican tendencies, Texans don’t always support party-line views. Although it remains one of the most pro-death penalty states in the nation, it also harbors a strong states’ rights support against sweeping federal reforms aimed at homeland security and immigration. Some of the largest immigrants’ rights supporters have found refuge in the border towns in Texas, where landowners have protested and squabbled over heavy-handed federal land grabs to build the “Border Wall.” Texans hold many liberal beliefs, especially when it comes to federal spying, oversight and “homeland security.”
Texans have a tendency of voting for whomever they feel like. Obviously, if they can choose a Texan, they will (hence the votes for Bush Sr. and the current president as well as large percentages for Ross Perot). When they couldn’t vote to re-elect LBJ, they went with Humphrey rather than Nixon—and were the only southern state to do so. They continually have a strong independent party turnout. Unfortunately, the March 5 primary leaves them with slim pickings when it comes to Texans, especially since Rep. Ron Paul is no longer a factor, so whom will they choose?
If Clinton is seen as a Yankee it’ll be her headstone. Yankees are nearly universally hated in Texas. If you’re stuck with family or in-laws and nothing to talk about, try a couple of New York jokes. One popular bumper sticker quips “Love New York? Take I-30 East.” Another blatantly states “Keep Texas Beautiful – Put a Yankee on a Bus.” The Houston Chronicle reported a growing number of Republicans who are pledging to vote for Obama in the open primaries—not because they support him but because they hate Clinton.
Cambio o Clinton? Pollsters venture that the state’s Latino population will follow the national trend by voting for Clinton. Despite those predictions, Obama’s camp has launched numerous ads aimed at the Latino vote, including a television ad with Mariachis exalting “Viva Obama!” The Latino vote will be hard to predict—but may not be enough to give Clinton the lead, even if she wins that third of the population.
You see, in Texas, the voting for the primary consists of two parts—a primary and a caucus. The open primary system allows all registered voters to vote, despite their party affiliation, and the districts are given delegates based on prior turnout rather than population—meaning urban areas, where Obama leads, have higher delegate counts. Additionally, there are caucuses following the primaries—a style of campaigning Obama and crew dominate. (Do ya think he put the Lone Star flag on his posters for nuthin’?)
My prediction for Texas’s Democratic primary: Obama
But remember what I said about Texans?
Unless it’s secession or the Cowboys, don’t bet on it.