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Thanks to Trump, Texas could go blue for the first time in 40 years

Women and Hispanics are Trump’s Achilles heel in the state. His persistent slide in the polls could end in the first Republican defeat in Texas since 1976.
25 Oct 2016 – 12:53 PM EDT
Donald Trump campaigns in Houston, Texas on Sept. 15, 2016. Crédito: Tom Pennington/Getty Images

HOUSTON, Texas –As the election draws closer, Donald Trump’s lead over Hillary Clinton is eroding in Texas, a state considered the southern jewel of the Republican Party.

This is deeply conservative territory where Republicans have easily dominated in presidential elections since 1976. But now, all that could change, just as early voting in Texas began Monday and continues through November 4.

Poll aggregator Real Clear Politics shows Trump an average of 4.6 points ahead from September 1 to October 21 (44.2% to 39.6%).

That’s because the polls have been shifting: a CBS News/YouGov survey gave Trump 46% to Clinton’s 43%, and a University of Houston poll showed Trump at 41% with 39% for Clinton. The numbers have fallen even though Trump visited the state several times in August and September.

Trump's challenge

The weight of history is on Trump’s shoulders and, in this case, it’s huge. In 2012, Mitt Romney won Texas’s 38 electoral votes with a 15.8-point margin. In 2008, John McCain was 11.8 points ahead and, in 2004, George W. Bush won by 22.9 points.

Trump will have a "very low-margin victory,” predicts Mark Jones, a political scientist at Rice University in Houston. “That’s because Republicans in the state don’t view him as presidential. They don’t see him having the character or temperament to lead the country," he said.

Texas is the birthplace and residence of the Bushes, who have refused to support Trump from the outset. George H. W. Bush even said in a private meeting he would vote for Hillary Clinton while his sons George W. Bush and Jeb Bush have criticized Trump’s style and campaign.

Losing among women and Latinos

An October University of Houston poll looked at the candidates’ performance among different segments of voters in Harris County, the state’s most populous with more than 4 million people.

Clinton received 51% among registered women voters. Just one in four favored Trump.

The magnate’s performance among women has gone from bad to worse following multiple allegations of abuse and recordings of him using derogatory terms about how to treat women.

Among Latinos, the results were even worse. Clinton was the preferred candidate for 57% of Latinos among while barely 17% supported Trump.

The Hispanic population in Texas is the second largest in the nation. About 10.4 million Hispanics reside in Texas, around 19% of all Hispanics in the United States. Texas’s population is 39% Hispanic, the third largest Hispanic statewide population share nationally.

There are 4.8 million Hispanic eligible voters in Texas—the second largest Hispanic statewide eligible voter population nationally. California ranks first with 6.9 million. Some 28% of Texas eligible voters are Hispanic, the second largest Hispanic statewide eligible voter share nationally. New Mexico ranks first with 40%.

The one area Trump continues to have a strong base is among white men. In the survey, he had 40% support compared with 33% for Clinton.

How Trump could affect down-ballot races

Texas has a straight-ticket system, which allows voters to choose all of a party’s candidates on the ballot -- from the presidential candidate all the way down to school board members.

"Republicans in Texas will suffer collateral damage from having Trump on the ballot,” said Jones. “In previous elections, many of them have benefited from the straight-ticket system. But now, conservatives who usually went for that option, won’t so as not to vote for Trump.”

One issue is the length of the ballots. "There will probably be many voters who won’t get to the end,” Jones added. “And others may vote Democrat on the way down once they have the opportunity to compare. That is something that doesn’t happen with a straight-ticket vote.”

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