Dave McNeely

Dave McNeely

A lot of eyes have been on the March 3 Super Tuesday Democratic presidential primaries, and particularly Texas.

The state’s 228 pledged Democratic National Convention delegates are about two-and-a-half times the 90 awarded in the first four states – Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina.

Texas is second to California’s 419, among the 14 states and one territory voting on March 3. Altogether, 1,344 pledged delegates will be awarded – about a third of the 3,979 pledged delegates nationally.

Former Vice President Joe Biden’s strong comeback in South Carolina’s primary Saturday – 48 percent against front-runner Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders’ 20 – following mediocre performances in Iowa, New Hampshire and Nevada, brought his delegate count almost even.

Saturday evening, billionaire Tom Steyer dropped out. Pete Buttigieg did so Sunday.

Moderate Democrats in Texas and other states worry that Democratic Socialist Sanders could lose to Donald Trump in November, and cost Democratic congressional and legislative races down-ballot. Many who favored others may coalesce behind Biden as the most electable moderate alternative to Sanders.

The convention has 3,979 pledged delegates, allocated among states based on their past votes for Democrats.

Any candidate who amasses 1,991 pledged delegates before the July 13-16 Democratic National Convention in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, wins the nomination outright.

If no candidate has a majority, the choice will go to the convention. That would add 771 unpledged delegates – members of congress, and other Democratic officials – who can vote for whomever they want.

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Texas Blue? … It once was said that a Democrat couldn’t win the presidency without carrying Texas.

That played a part in John F. Kennedy choosing Texan Lyndon B. Johnson in 1960 as his running mate. The ticket won Texas – and the White House.

But the last Democratic presidential candidate to win Texas was Jimmy Carter, in 1976. In 1980, he lost Texas, and the presidency, to Republican Ronald Reagan.

It probably was no accident Reagan chose Texan George Bush, his opponent in the GOP presidential primary, as his running mate. They carried Texas, and the White House.

No Democratic presidential candidate has carried Texas since.

In 1992, Democrat Bill Clinton won the presidency without carrying Texas, and again in 1996.

In 2008, Democrat Barack Obama lost Texas, but won the presidency. He repeated in 2012.

So, a Democrat can become president without carrying Texas. But now, can a Republican? Democrats hope to test that in 2020.

Some say the Democratic drought in Texas since 1980 was because a Bush from Texas was on the Republican presidential ticket for six of the seven presidential elections from 1980 through 2004. So Democratic presidential campaigns didn’t spend much time or money in Texas.

Here’s the record:

• 1980 – George Bush for vice president.

• 1984 – George Bush for vice president.

• 1988 – George Bush for president. (Former Massachusetts Gov. Michael Dukakis chose Texas U.S. Sen. Lloyd Bentsen as his running mate. But it didn’t work.)

• 1992 – George Bush for president. He lost to Democrat Bill Clinton – with the help of independent candidate Ross Perot of Texas.

• 1996 – No Bush on the presidential ballot, but Bush’s son, George W. Bush, had been elected Texas governor in 1994. He easily won re-election in 1998, and Republicans for the first time swept every statewide elected office.

• 2000 – George W. won a squeaker presidential election, decided by the U.S. Supreme Court on a 5-4 vote.

• 2004 – George W. was re-elected by a comfortable margin.

Former Texas Comptroller John Sharp, a Democrat who lost for lieutenant governor to Republican Agriculture Commissioner Rick Perry, on George W.’s re-election coattails, said Texas wasn’t so much a Republican state as a Bush state.

Finally in 2020, the Democratic National Committee, months before the November general election, on Feb. 25 declared Texas a battleground swing state – and is pumping in money for staffing and infrastructure, hoping to again turn Texas blue.

“The DNC is making historic, early investments to build strong, multiple pathways for our eventual nominee to win in November and support Democrats at every level of the ballot,” said DNC chairman Tom Perez.

Texas Democratic Chair Gilberto Hinojosa thanked the DNC for its “historic investments.”

“Texas is the biggest battleground state in the country,” he said. “Once Texas turns blue, the White House will follow.”

Texas Democrats hope it will help Democrats for congress and state legislative races – especially winning nine more Texas House seats, to control the chamber, and block Republicans in 2021from partisan gerrymandering of legislative and congressional districts for the next decade.

Of course, the Republicans hope to prevent all that. We’ll see in November how it works out.

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

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