National Democrats are launching an ambitious project to turn Texas blue by 2018. The goal, if achieved, could undermine one of the most important cornerstones of the GOP's national electoral map.
The project, dubbed Battleground Texas, is led by former Obama field director Jeremy Bird, who plans to capitalize on the surging Hispanic population in Texas by convincing them to vote Democratic, while also mobilizing politically inactive voters likely to lean that way as well.
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The goal is to use much of the same grassroots manpower and data-mining the Obama campaign successfully employed to swing states such as Colorado and Virginia in the last two elections, according to the Wall Street Journal
The Democrats have already tested the project in Texas. In 2010 they focused on Hispanic and African-American communities in Travis County and convinced inactive voters to get to the polls. Election results showed a 54 percent jump in Democratic voting and a turnout rate nearly 20 percent higher than the rest of the county.
"People respond if you ask for their vote," Travis County Democratic Chairman Andy Brown, who ran the voter drive, told the Journal. "And in Texas, millions of people have never been asked."
"We Democrats haven't even begun to pick the low-hanging fruit," added San Antonio Mayor Julián Castro, who told the Journal he was stunned by the success of the Obama voter mobilization effort in the 2012 presidential election.
Hispanics, who voted heavily Democratic in the 2012 national vote, now represent 38 percent of the Texas population. By 2016, nearly a million more Hispanics will be eligible to vote in Texas.
But sceptics argue there's a slim chance that America's second largest state could swing to the Democrats, pointing out that Mitt Romney won Texas by a margin of 1.2 million votes, or 16 points, last November. And Republicans have held all of Texas' 29 state-wide offices since 1994, the longest streak of single-party dominance in the country.
"We are not despairing. Far from it," Texas Republican Party Chairman Steve Munisteri told the Journal. "But nor are we taking anything for granted."
Indeed, the GOP is already taking steps to protect its lead in the state that holds a crucial 38 electoral votes.
Last year, the state party changed its official stance on immigration, dropping its calls for mass deportations and instead proposing a guest-worker program. And the Texas Federation of Republican Women voted to support a federal path to citizenship for millions of immigrants who came to the U.S. as children.
Looking to counter the Democrats' Battleground project, several GOP groups are also working on recruiting and funding conservative Hispanic candidates, including one led by George P. Bush, the son of former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush.
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