Dave McNeely

Dave McNeely

Texas could be a focal point for the 2020 elections – even if the state doesn’t support a Democrat over Republican Donald Trump.

That’s the prediction of political scientist Rachel Bitecofer, whose analysis in 2018 that the Democrats would flip significantly more congressional districts than other prognosticators predicted was correct.

Especially since a lengthy interview with Salon.com, in mid-August, her forecasting is gaining attention.

Bitecofer is the assistant director of the Judy Ford Wason Center for Public Policy at Christopher Newport University in Newport News, Va.

She has predicted the Democratic presidential candidate will get at least 278 electoral votes in 2020 – eight more than the 270 needed to win.

And that’s without Texas’ 38 electoral votes.

Some have attributed the Democrats’ impressive showing in 2018 to moderate Republicans voting against Trump.

Bitecofer, however, predicted that more college-educated Democrats, who hadn’t voted in the 2016 presidential election, would come off the couch to vote against Trump.

She had tested that hunch in Virginia’s 2017 legislative elections, and after the Democrats made significant gains that many hadn’t anticipated, she applied that to the 2018 congressional elections.

She predicted a 42-seat Blue Wave for the Democrats. As it turned out, Democrats got more than 40, which stunned other predictors, and almost double the number Democrats needed to control the U.S. House.

In 2020, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee has targeted six congressional districts in Texas – in three of which incumbents aren’t seeking re-election:

– The 22nd, from Houston southwest, where Pete Olson is retiring;

– The 23rd, which stretches from San Antonio to El Paso, and where incumbent Will Hurd is retiring;

– And the 24th, Dallas north, where Kenny Marchant is retiring.

The three other districts the DCCC is targeting, in growing suburban areas, are:

– The 10th, which stretches from Austin to the outskirt of Houston, represented by Michael McCaul;

– The 21st, from Austin to San Antonio and west for six counties, held by freshman Republican Chip Roy;

– And the 31st, represented for years by Republican John Carter.

But Bitecofer also thinks Democrats could flip three other districts that aren’t on the DCCC’s hit list:

– The 2nd, wrapping around northern and western Houston, held by first-termer Dan Crenshaw (52.8 percent in 2018);

– The 3rd, northeast of Dallas, represented by former Texas House and Senate veteran Van Taylor (54.2 percent in 2018);

– And the 25th, which stretches from south of Austin to Fort Worth, represented by Roger Williams (53.5 percent in 2018).

If nine districts should flip, Texas would go from a 23-13 Republican/Democrat delegation to 22 Democrats to 14 Republicans.

Bitecofer says for the whole state to flip Blue, it would take energizing Hispanic Democrats to vote.

# # #

Sen. Bennet blasts Democratic debate criteria ... A few Democrats seeking the party’s presidential nomination who faced difficulty meeting the Democratic National Committee’s criteria to be included in the mid-September dropped out – and are running for something else.

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee quit his presidential campaign, and said he’ll seek a third term as governor.

Former Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper quit the race, and the next day became the front-running Colorado Democrat vying to unseat Republican U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner.

But another competitor for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination, Colorado’s other U.S. senator, Michael Bennet, said the DNC’s debate qualification are hurting the party.

The filtration criteria don’t make for the kind of broad debate needed to defeat Donald Trump next year, Bennet told hundreds of delegates Aug. 23 at the DNC’s summer meeting in San Francisco.

“I’m ready to lead our party and our country to victory next November, but I’ve got to be honest, and I say it with love,” the Colorado senator told the delegates, “the DNC process is stifling debate at a time when we need it most ... rewarding celebrity candidates with Twitter followers” – emphasizing polling and ratings, rather than substance.

Bennet lamented that Inslee, who made the climate challenge his single most important issue, quit the presidential race after failing to qualify for a Sept. 4 CNN town hall on climate change. Bennet also hadn’t qualified.

The criteria for that event were the same as those to qualify for the DNC debate a week later: 130,000 unique donors, and a 2 percent showing in four major polls.

While he indicated he plans to keep running even if he doesn’t qualify for the next debate, “Think about that for a moment — if we wanted to be the party that excluded people, we’d be Republicans,” Bennet told the DNC members.

“These rules have created exactly the wrong outcome, and they will not help us beat Donald Trump,” Bennet said.

McNeely is the dean of the Texas Capitol press corps. Contact McNeely at davemcneely111@gmail.com or 512/458-2963.

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