RCP Ranking: Leans GOP
----------PAST KEY RACES----------
2016: President | TX-23
2014: Governor | Senate | TX-23 | TX-34
2012: President | Senate | TX-14 | TX-23
2010: Gov | TX-15 | TX-17 | TX-23 | TX-25 | TX-27
2008: President | Senate | TX-22
2006: Governor | Senate | TX-22
2004: President | TX-19 | TX-32
The rise of the Republican Party in the Lone Star State is a fascinating tale of how one party consistently bit off its nose to spite its face. Texas always had a small Republican Party in the panhandle, in the German counties north of San Antonio, and later in the growing suburbs of Dallas and Houston. But the two-party system mostly played out among Democrats. It was divided between conservative Tory Democrats, who plotted to depose Franklin Roosevelt as the Democratic nominee in 1944 and who supported President Eisenhower in the 1950s, and the liberal Democrats.
When LBJ was elected vice president, a conservative Democrat was appointed to replace him. In the ensuing special election, liberal Democrats either stayed home or cast a protest vote for Republican John Tower, whom they figured they could easily defeat down the road. The same dynamic played out in 1966, and by 1972 Tory Democrats were defecting to the Republican Party, while the Republicans' native base in the suburbs continued to grow.
Today the Republicans have controlled the governorship for 18 straight years, and both Senate seats for 19. The Democratic Party still maintains strength, and may even regain majority party status in the future. Sen. Ted Cruz faces a credible challenge against Democratic Rep. Beto O’Rourke, and the state swung heavily toward Hillary Clinton last fall. The state is also, contrary to many expectations, heavily urban, so a swing toward Democrats in the suburbs could have an outsize effect here. O’Rourke starts as the underdog, but this one is worth watching.