Could Texas really become a swing state?

The Lone Star state is as red as they come, but demographic changes could soon make it competitive for Democrats

People from the Texas delegation wave cowboy hats during the third day of the Republican National Convention on August 29, 2012 in Tampa, Florida.
(Image credit: Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

Mitt Romney thrashed President Obama in the race to win Texas' 38 Electoral College votes (only California has more Electoral College votes, with 55). Romney captured 57 percent of the electorate in Texas, to Obama's 41 percent — besting John McCain's 55 percent in 2008 and seemingly proving that the Lone Star state hasn't diluted its redness with even a drop of blue during Obama's first term. Still, given shifting demographics, prominent Republican officials are warning that Texas could soon become a swing state, with former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush recently predicting that Texas could find itself in the toss-up category within four years. Here, a guide:

How is Texas' electorate changing?

Between 2000 and 2010, Texas added more people — 4.3 million — than any other state, according to the latest Census. Eight of the nation's 15 fastest-growing cities are located in Texas. Many people moving to Texas come from blue regions of the country, and the state's major urban centers — Houston, Dallas, Austin, and San Antonio — voted for Obama. Most worryingly for Republicans, 88 percent of Texas' 4.3 million new residents were Latino, black, or Asian — three groups that swung heavily for Obama in the election.

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What would a blue Texas mean for Republicans?

In a word, death. Democrats hold a lock on California and the third-most valuable electoral state, New York. If Texas goes blue, "no Republican will ever again win the White House," Ted Cruz, the recently elected senator from Texas, told The New Yorker. "We won't be talking about Ohio, we won't be talking about Florida or Virginia, because it won't matter. If Texas is bright blue, you can't get to 270 electoral votes. The Republican Party would cease to exist."

Is Texas really going to be a swing state in four years?

No. While the Latino population is indeed growing in Texas, "white Texans keep getting more Republican," says Nate Cohn at The New Republic. "With 75-plus percent of the white vote, Republicans will be able to endure incremental increases in the Hispanic share of the electorate for a long, long time." Unless Democrats can start winning a lot more than 25 percent of the state's white vote, Democrats may not have a fighting chance at Texas until 2024 or 2028.

So Republicans can breathe a sigh of relief?

No. Unless the GOP can make a more appealing pitch to Latinos, "Texas will return to a two-party state," Cindy Rugeley, a professor at Texas Tech University, tells The Houston Chronicle. Several factors could accelerate the growth of the Latino electorate. For example, Texas' population is currently 39 percent Latino, but Latinos constitute only 26 percent of the eligible voting population, meaning there's room to expand the voter base. And there's always the possibility that Democrats could field a statewide candidate who has crossover appeal.

Sources: Census, The Houston Chronicle, Houston Tomorrow, The New Republic, New York, The New Yorker, Next American City, The Washington Post

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