clearn.png
Tuesday June 2nd, 2020 11:27PM

Wanted: Texas Republicans need new voters in 2020, and fast

By The Associated Press
Related Articles
  Contact Editor

PFLUGERVILLE, Texas (AP) — It's normal to target new voters ahead of Super Tuesday. Think volunteers holding clipboards at street festivals, malls or outside grocery stores. Democrats in Texas have made it a perennial focus, hoping they can end decades of losses by rousing more voters to the polls.

Republicans here, meanwhile, never really needed to bother — but now that's changing as worries deepen about their grip on the state in 2020.

With their base not expanding and their margins of victory getting thinner, Texas Republicans have begun spending big on finding more conservatives to vote. And they've taken a different approach to it ahead of the Texas primaries on March 3.

Hired canvassers to stand outside driver's license offices, pushing a petition on gun rights by asking, “Do you have a moment to support the Second Amendment?" People who stop are nudged to identify themselves as liberal or conservative. Finally, things cut to the chase: they're offered the chance to sign up to vote.

But if a reporter arrives, they scram — abruptly sweeping voter registration forms into boxes, taking down signs, and heading for their cars.

“We're instructed to break down whenever press is here," says a man with Engage Texas, the political super PAC coordinating the effort, declining to explain why or provide his name.

The effort is another sign of the intense partisan struggle underway in a state that's been the GOP's largest and most important asset but also is key to Democrats' hopes for future electoral dominance.

Despite the canvassers' nothing-to-see-here retreat, many conservatives acknowledge that the ground seems to be shifting after a generation of lopsided victories on Election Day. Party activists are looking beyond just motivating registered voters who sometimes don't get to the polls. They're spending big, putting up more than $12 million so far, searching for those who aren't on the rolls at all.

The GOP's electoral base, mostly aging and white, has delivered around 4.5 million votes in every presidential year since 2004, but that number has scarcely budged even as Texas' population has boomed. In 2018, Democrats surpassed 4 million votes for the first time, and Republican Sen. Ted Cruz survived reelection by a mere 215,000 votes.

The sprawling metropolitan suburbs that have started turning purple have put Democrats in reach of flipping a handful of congressional districts and given them an outside chance at winning a majority in the Texas House. The GOP holds a 23-13 edge in the congressional delegation and are fighting to retain half a dozen districts it narrowly hung onto last cycle.

Sending out clipboard holders — equipped with a line of questions that screens for likely Republicans — shows a willingness to take up even the unglamorous grind of signing up new voters.

“We're buying an insurance policy," said Steve Munisteri, a former White House adviser under President Donald Trump who now leads a separate campaign to turn up new Republican voters in Texas. “I feel like we can go anywhere from losing by a smidgen to winning by a comfortable margin.”

Democrats, who accuse Republicans of waging a decade-long campaign of voter suppression ranging from ID laws to shutting down polling locations, say the irony isn't lost on them.

“If I'm a Republican and my path ahead in Texas is in registering a lot of voters, I've run out of other options," said Cliff Walker, deputy executive director of the Texas Democratic Party.

Walker would not say how much Democrats are spending, but the party says it will have 1,000 people on the ground this cycle to sign up new voters.

Texas enters Super Tuesday having surpassed 16 million voters for the first time, and voter registration in recent years has outpaced population growth. A core belief among many Democrats is that higher turnout generally favors their side — but already in 2020, lower-than-expected attendance in the Iowa caucuses and a defeat in a Texas legislative special election are raising warning flags about enthusiasm.

Trump may have a cushion here in the presidential race after winning Texas by nine points in 2016, but there is still no other outfit in the country that compares to Engage Texas. It has raised nearly $12 million exclusively from major GOP donors and groups. Among them are Dallas-based Energy Transfer, whose CEO is billionaire Kelcy Warren, and Dallas oil tycoon Ray Hunt. Although it is not the first political action committee singularly dedicated to registering new voters, there appear to be few parallels on this scale.

Leaders of Engage Texas said unfair press coverage toward Republicans is why their employees packed up and left at two driver's license offices after being approached by an Associated Press reporter.

“Republican-build efforts don't always get a fair shake. They're going to be a bit skeptical," said Chris Young, the executive director of Engage Texas.

Young, who was the field director for the Republican National Committee in 2016, would not provide data on how many voters his group has registered or his targets. But he said “hundreds" of paid staff were working largely around Texas' big cities and booming suburbs.

___

Follow Paul J. Weber on Twitter: www.twitter.com/pauljweber

  • Associated Categories: U.S. News, Associated Press (AP), AP National News, AP Online National News, Top U.S. News short headlines, Top General short headlines, AP Online Headlines - Washington, AP Online Congress News, AP Elections, General Presidential Election News
© Copyright 2020 AccessWDUN.com
All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without permission.
2 Ohio State football players plead not guilty to rape
Two former Ohio State football players have pleaded not guilty to holding a woman against her will and raping her
12:05PM ( 11 minutes ago )
US announces 15th virus case, this one in Texas evacuee
U.S. officials have announced the country's 15th confirmed case of the new coronavirus — an evacuee from China who had been under quarantine in Texas
12:00PM ( 16 minutes ago )
Wanted: Texas Republicans need new voters in 2020, and fast
Big Republican donors in Texas are spending millions of dollars in 2020 looking for new votes
11:59AM ( 18 minutes ago )
U.S. News
Pompeo 'outraged' by UN list of firms with settlement ties
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo says he is “outraged” by the U.N.'s publication of a list of companies accused of violating Palestinian human rights by operating in Israel's West Bank settlements
11:54AM ( 23 minutes ago )
Booker to replace Lillard at All-Star, 3-point contest
Devin Booker is finally headed to his first NBA All-Star Game
11:52AM ( 24 minutes ago )
Amsterdam bans tour groups from sex workers' windows
The local government in Amsterdam has banned guided tours that take groups past the famed windows in the city's red-light district where visitors watch semi-naked sex workers pose
11:51AM ( 26 minutes ago )
Associated Press (AP)
Astros' Bregman, Altuve apologize for sign-stealing scheme
Houston Astros players Alex Bregman and José Altuve say the team is sorry for its sign-stealing scheme that was investigated and punished by Major League Baseball
11:25AM ( 51 minutes ago )
401(k)s hit records as workers sock away more, stocks jump
Fidelity Investments says the average 401(k) balance rose to a record $112,300 last year
11:04AM ( 1 hour ago )
Tesla offers $2B in added shares, stock up despite dilution
Shares of Tesla Inc. rose about 1% in trading Thursday morning after the electric vehicle and solar panel maker said it would sell more than $2 billion worth of additional shares
11:00AM ( 1 hour ago )
AP National News
House acts to remove deadline for Equal Rights Amendment
In a bid to revive the Equal Rights Amendment, the House has approved a measure removing a 1982 deadline for state ratification and reopening the process to amend the Constitution to prohibit discrimination based on sex
11:23AM ( 54 minutes ago )
UK's Johnson under pressure over luxury Caribbean vacation
Opposition lawmakers in Britain are demanding that Prime Minister Boris Johnson disclose who paid for his luxury post-election holiday in the Caribbean
11:02AM ( 1 hour ago )
Hope Hicks returning to White House
Hope Hicks, one of President Donald Trump's most trusted and longest-serving aides, is returning to the White House
10:53AM ( 1 hour ago )
AP Online Headlines - Washington
With impeachment over, critics see Trump 'retribution tour'
In the week since his acquittal on impeachment charges, a fully emboldened President Donald Trump is demonstrating his determination to assert an iron grip on government
5:42AM ( 6 hours ago )
Ousted Ukraine ambassador urges students to pursue diplomacy
The career U.S. diplomat who was ousted from her post in Ukraine by President Donald Trump is urging college students to follow in her footsteps because the U.S. “needs diplomats that are ready and capable
1:41AM ( 10 hours ago )
Some Democrats fear fallout from Sanders atop the ticket
Sen. Bernie Sanders' robust start in the race for the presidential nomination is triggering alarm among congressional Democrats
12:12AM ( 12 hours ago )
AP Online Congress News
AP Exclusive: Pro-Trump effort raises over $60M in January
Pro-Trump groups raised more than $60 million in January and have more than $200 million on hand for this year's general election
5:22AM ( 6 hours ago )
Democrats seek path through diverse states after Iowa and NH
Democratic presidential candidates are plotting their paths forward into a primary expanding to include voters of color, while the party's establishment braces for a long and uncertain nomination fight
12:14AM ( 12 hours ago )
2020ers look to Super Tuesday even as 2 other states loom
Nevada votes next, then South Carolina, but Democrats vying for their party’s presidential nomination are already looking ahead to the biggest prize on the primary calendar, “Super Tuesday
12:09AM ( 12 hours ago )
AP Elections
The Latest: Biden raises about $4M since lackluster caucuses
Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden has raised about $4 million since his lackluster performance during the Iowa caucuses and will run radio ads in Nevada and South Carolina as part of a retooled strategy
3:32PM ( 20 hours ago )
The Latest: Biden raises $4M since lackluster Iowa caucuses
Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden has raised $4 million since his lackluster performance during the Iowa caucuses and will run radio ads in Nevada and South Carolina as part of a retooled strategy
3:25PM ( 20 hours ago )
The Latest: Warren pulls TV advertising from South Carolina
Democratic presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren is pulling TV advertising from South Carolina just over two weeks out from the state's primary
3:18PM ( 20 hours ago )
General Presidential Election News
2 Ohio State football players plead not guilty to rape
Two former Ohio State football players have pleaded not guilty to holding a woman against her will and raping her
12:05PM ( 11 minutes ago )
US announces 15th virus case, this one in Texas evacuee
U.S. officials have announced the country's 15th confirmed case of the new coronavirus — an evacuee from China who had been under quarantine in Texas
12:00PM ( 16 minutes ago )
Torrential rains leave swollen rivers, downed trees in South
Days of torrential rain across the Southeast left residents to deal with rising rivers, falling trees, weakened dams and mudslides
11:30AM ( 46 minutes ago )
Weinstein lawyer: Prosecutors have a 'tale,' not a case
Harvey Weinstein’s lawyer told is telling jurors that prosecutors in the rape case against him acted like moviemakers and portrayed a world where women aren't responsible for how they interact with men
11:11AM ( 1 hour ago )
Longest-serving federal judge, named by LBJ, retires at 98
A federal judge in New York City who was nominated by President Lyndon Johnson is retiring at age 98
11:04AM ( 1 hour ago )