As Latinos tilt Democratic, can Texas stay ‘red’?

SMU Political Scientist Cal Jillson talks about the change in the nature of Texas politics between when President Bush was governor and now, largely because of the growing influence of the Latino vote.

By Michael B. Farrell
Christian Science Monitor Staff Writer

When President Bush says so long to Washington on Jan. 20, he’ll return to a much different Lone Star State from the one he left eight years ago.

Pickup trucks, Big Oil, and barbecue brisket still reign supreme, but this red state that helped deliver the presidency to Mr. Bush twice and his father once, and that catapulted GOP strategist Karl Rove to the national stage, is suddenly spotted with big pockets of blue.

Dallas is controlled by Democrats; Houston is in their hands, too. It’s all largely because of the state’s growing Hispanic population, which overwhelmingly sided with Democrats this year.

“The tide of demography in Texas is moving against the Republicans,” says Cal Jillson, a political scientist at Southern Methodist University in Dallas. “All the major cities are Democratic and are likely to become more so over time.”

The Pew Hispanic Center reports that Latino voters sided with President-elect Obama over Sen. John McCain by a margin of more than 2 to 1, helping Democrats win crucial states such as Florida, Virginia, Nevada, and Colorado. While the overall Hispanic turnout did not rise much – it accounted for 9 percent of the vote this year and 8 percent in 2004 – Latino support for the GOP dropped nine percentage points, according to Pew.

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