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Will A Lot Of Democrats In Texas Turn Out For The Red State's Primary?


And I'm Rachel Martin at our member station KERA in Dallas, Texas. The first primary election of the political season is underway here today. And the big question is, who's going to turn out? Because if Democrats show up in a big way in Texas, that could be a sign that they could mobilize enough voters to gain the majority in Congress after elections in the fall. And the early voting numbers have Democratic turnout up 105 percent over 2014. Democrats might sense an opportunity as President Trump is polling worse in Texas than in many other Republican strongholds, even in swing states. NPR's Wade Goodwyn is in Dallas and joins us now.

Hey, Wade.


MARTIN: So if you're a Texas Democrat running for office this year, the fact that your party doubled its early voting numbers from four years ago has got to make you pretty happy, and at the same time might give Republicans some pause?

GOODWYN: Well, maybe they're a little concerned. I mean, 105 percent difference in favor of one party or another, it's a big gap. But, you know. You know that little emoji that runs around in circles waving its arms above its little head in panic? You know that one, Rachel?

MARTIN: Yeah. I totally know that one, Wade. (Laughter).

GOODWYN: There's no panicking among Republican candidates or voters waving their arms in Texas.

MARTIN: All right.

GOODWYN: But what Republican candidates are genuinely worried about is Republican voter overconfidence. You know, we have some really good political writers down here, and Ross Ramsey, he's the executive editor at The Texas Tribune, he's one of them.

ROSS RAMSEY: One of the biggest problems that the Republicans have in Texas is that they have won regularly for a quarter of a century, and their voters get more and more complacent - we're going to win this thing, we don't need to show up. So it becomes a problem for people like Greg Abbott and Ted Cruz and Republicans at the top of the ticket to get their voters ginned up and to turn out.

GOODWYN: In Texas, the Republican Party has been the undisputed champion for a long, long time. But if Republican voters start to think, you know what? We stop the Democrats every time, it's never close, I'm tired, let's go have a beer - that's the attitude, that if it were to manifest, could bite the Texas GOP in the fanny.

MARTIN: Right. OK. So what specifically is behind the Democrats' particular kind of enthusiasm here?

GOODWYN: Well, I think in many ways this election's about President Trump. He enjoys about an 85 percent approval rating among Texas Republicans. So we've had a lot of Republican candidates on TV saying they're the Trump-iest Trump supporter there ever was. And Democrats are happy to let them do that. They want to run against the president rather than their own opponent because the president makes the Democrats mad and fired up the vote. The Me Too movement, DACA, school shooting, all these are issues that are motivating the Democratic base.

MARTIN: Yeah. So one of the races that's gotten a lot of attention is the campaign for Ted Cruz's seat, right? Cruz is the incumbent. He's likely going to face this Democrat Beto O'Rourke, a congressman from El Paso. O'Rourke has been outraising Cruz in a big way. Is that correct?

GOODWYN: Yes. If anything's gotten the political class's attention, it's been Beto O'Rourke's fundraising strength the last two reporting cycles. In the last two months, O'Rourke has raised nearly three times what Ted Cruz has raised. But here's the thing, Rachel. Argentina should not shed any tears for Senator Cruz's empty campaign pockets because he's one of the Koch brothers' favorite politicians that can expect enthusiastic support from their PACs and from many others. The question going forward will be whether O'Rourke can keep up with Cruz's fundraising.

MARTIN: All right. NPR's Wade Goodwyn for us this morning. Thanks, Wade.

GOODWYN: You're quite welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Wade Goodwyn is an NPR National Desk Correspondent covering Texas and the surrounding states.