‘Texodus’ trend bodes badly for Republicans

George F. Will

WASHINGTON — “I am a classically trained engineer,” says Rep. Will Hurd, a Texas Republican, “and I firmly believe in regression to the mean.”

Applying a concept from statistics to the randomness of today’s politics is problematic. In any case, Hurd, 42, is not waiting for the regression of our politics from the extreme ends of the ideological spectrum to something like temperate normality. He is leaving Congress at the end of this, his third term. And he sees portents that his blinkered party would be prudent to notice.

Hurd is one of six Texas Republican congressman who has decided not to seek reelection next year. Until this year, none of them had, since 2011, experienced the purgatory of being in the House minority. In the 2018 “Texodus,” five Texas Republican representatives retired (a sixth resigned) and two were defeated. Of the 241 Republicans in the House when Donald Trump was inaugurated, almost 40 percent are gone or going. See a trend?

Hurd, who is not foreswearing public life, insists, “I’m just getting started.” Might he come back to electoral politics? “For sure.” His “passion” is “the nexus between technology and national security.” He is, however, saying goodbye to the rigors of the “DC to DQ” tours that have regularly taken him to the far reaches of his district.

For you effete coastal residents who are unfamiliar with the delights of flyover country, DQ means Dairy Queen. Hurd meets gatherings of constituents at DQs because “every town has one and everyone knows where they are.”

In 2018, he was one of just three Republicans to win a district carried by Hillary Clinton. (She won his by 3 points.) His House race was the nation’s fourth-most competitive: He won by 926 votes. But, then, his largest victory, in 2016, was by just 3,051 votes.

His district, which includes 23 percent of Texas’s land and extends from San Antonio’s fringe to New Mexico’s border, is the state’s largest, encompassing all or parts of 29 counties and 820 miles of the U.S./Mexico border. It is 58,000 square miles — almost as big as Georgia and larger than Illinois and 25 other states. It is 69 percent Hispanic, and just 4 percent African American.

Hurd, an articulate, assertive 6’4” former CIA operative, and the only African-American Republican in the House, thinks voting trends “are moving so fast” that 2020 “has nothing to do with 2016.” Just as “U.S. economic and military dominance are no longer guaranteed,” neither is Republican dominance in Texas, a state that is hardly immune to national trends.

In the 2016 U.S House of Representatives elections, no Republican incumbent from Texas lost and only one was elected with less than 55 percent. In 2018, two lost and 10 received less than 55 percent. In 2016, four incumbent Republicans in Texas’s House were defeated and only four won with majorities under 55 percent.

In 2018, there were eight loses and 16 won with less than 55 percent. John Cornyn, who recently stepped down as the second-highest Republican leader (majority whip) in the U.S. Senate, has won three terms with majorities of 55.3 percent, 54.8 percent and 61.6 percent but seems headed for a more competitive race next year. No wonder Rep. Cheri Bustos of Illinois, chair of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, says Texas is “ground zero” for Democratic attempts to strengthen their hold on the House.

Nationally, Republicans are decreasingly strong where two generations ago they were especially robust — in suburbs. Texas ranks high among the states in terms of the percentage of the population that is suburban. And statewide, whites are a minority.

In 2008, with the Great Recession under way, John McCain carried Texas by 12 points. In 2012, Mitt Romney carried it by 16. In 2016, Trump (whom Hurd did not endorse) won by nine points. In Texas’s most important 2018 contest for a federal office, incumbent Republican Sen. Ted Cruz won by just 3. See a trend?

If the Democratic Party can collect Texas’ electoral votes — 38 today, perhaps 41 after the 2020 census — as well as California’s 55, it will reap 35.5 percent of a winning 270 from just two states. Then the GOP will have almost no plausible path to 270, and Democrats who are currently hot to abolish the Electoral College will suddenly say: Oh, never mind.

And Hurd will repeat what he says today: Texas is “already purple.” Republicans “have to get out of our own way” because “if the Republican Party in Texas does not start looking like Texas there will not be a Republican Party in Texas.”

George F. Will’s email address is georgewill@washpost.com. © 2019 Washington Post Writers Group.

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(7) comments

Holmes

Read the author and the title, didn't read the article....

hermit thrush

a perfect display of republicans' inability to take in information with an open mind.

Airball55

Please rephrase your comment. Maybe the one person who made the comment but I am quite sure republicans and democrats all over this great nation are taking in info. from all sources. This labeling tactic is not good. It's all too common though.

hermit thrush

the republican base writ large has a serious problem taking in information that does not conform to their partisan/ideological predilections. the democratic base isn't perfect in this regard either, but there is a huge difference between the two. this is why there is no fox news of the left.

rdsouth

I don't think the movement to abolish the electoral college is going away just because somebody benefits from it in once instance. We want democracy. It's in the name.

Airball55

But the electoral college ensures democracy. Thank god...it gives ALL people a voice. It ensures urban populations who vote in blocks don't get to overrun the whole country. If not, then lets just have NYC, LA and Chicago determine the elections. Then, we can have national leaders in homelessness, violence, public dependence and other areas that places like this struggle determine policy for those who don't have these issues. Big cities have a ton of say, I don't think they necessarily deserve more. I find it interesting too that these places, which lean heavy democrat fail in areas that they shout about. This is why I left the party. I don't think for one second that Barack Obama cares about gun violence when it is the worst in his city. These issues don't move celebrity or politicians needles unless it means votes. I also don't believe most high level republicans in DC care about the middle class except when it comes time to vote. They all are the problems. It isn't the electoral college.

hermit thrush

But the electoral college ensures democracy.... it gives ALL people a voice.

literally the opposite is true. the electoral college only gives a voice to the lucky ducks who happen to live in swing states. the vast majority of the country is effectively disenfranchised in presidential elections by the ec.

It ensures urban populations who vote in blocks don't get to overrun the whole country.

yes, this explains why texas, florida, and georgia are dominated by democrats.

(i mean, weren't you just crowing yesterday about having a minor in political science? good grief.)

Then, we can have national leaders in homelessness, violence, public dependence and other areas that places like this struggle determine policy for those who don't have these issues.

rural poverty is every bit as big a problem. the reality is that on net cities subsidize rural areas, not the other way around.

I don't think for one second that Barack Obama cares about gun violence

i think that's completely ridiculous. he would have gladly passed gun laws but he was thwarted at every turn by republicans.

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