Recently the DCCC released its list of targets for 2018 (I have some initial thoughts here). Some of the targets on the list raised eyebrows such as eight districts that voted for Trump by an eye popping 20 points or more. But, while the list also featured some perennial targets (VA-10, CO-6, FL-26) it also had some interesting newcomers.
None seem more interesting than TX-32 and TX-7. Pete Session’s 32nd district in Texas, anchored in the Dallas suburbs, swung 17 percent to Clinton. But, while this was happening, Pete Sessions won reelection 71 percent to 19 percent (against a 3rd party libertarian candidate).
Meanwhile, the 7th district, based in the Houston exurbs, also swung wildly to Clinton. Republican John Culberson won reelection but by a mere 13 points (compared to Sessions). Romney won the district by over 20 points four years earlier.
Democrats have made it a point to build infrastructure and compete in districts they ignored last year. The party has already hired 20 full-time staffers in GOP districts across the nation including the two districts above. Democrats even went so far as to hold a training for elected officials on how to talk to rural voters.
But, if one wants to look at how Democrats fared in the past in these districts consider 2014 and 2012 in both districts. Sessions won reelection in 2012 by 19 percent and in 2014 by 27 percent. Culberson won in 2012 by 24 percent and in 2014 by 28 percent.
There will probably be a lot of talk in the coming months about upscale GOP districts being on the table due to Trump and moderate, highly educated Republicans abandoning him. But, remember, the same was said of more moderate, swing districts last year. In many cases a large majority of these districts stayed Republican.
Democrats in traditionally moderate, highly educated swing districts at least have infrastructure and a plan to compete in these districts. Many of those districts sit in demographically fast changing places like California, Virginia, Florida and Colorado.
But suburban, Texas seats are another matter. Seats such as these, and other Southern suburban or rural Republican seats are in places where Democrats have not competed in a decade or more. The party lacks infrastructure, messaging and even a local on the ground presence.
This leaves Democrats scrambling to try and make these seats competitive. Yet, in a horrible year for Republicans last November, down-ballot Republicans easily resisted the Trump drag. Likewise, many conventional Republicans in Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and North Carolina outran Trump. One could even argue in many strongly Republican seats voters behaved the way they did knowing Trump would still win their state.
Democrats are already trying to steal a suburban, Southern district in Georgia (Tom Price’s soon to be old seat) that swung from a 20 point Romney victory to a one point edge for Trump. Price still won reelection by over 20 points last fall.
Democrats lack a compelling message and the aforementioned campaign infrastructure. Suburban Republicans might not like Trump but he is not on the ballot and Democrats making that case will need a lot of help from the Donald himself. Despite his early blunders, Trump does not seem to be obliging them.