What many Democrats hoped would be a formidable blue wave sputtered out into a small splash. Tuesday’s Election Day results helped keep Texas' Republican legislators in charge, but just barely.
Democrats were motivated to hit the polls, turning out in record numbers and helping to smash the state’s early voting records. But so were Republicans, said Thomas Marshall, a political science professor at the University of Texas at Arlington.
There are certain races — like the one at the top of the ticket — that have yet to be called, but Marshall said Republicans overall came out ahead.
“This would be a major disappointment for Democrats,” he said. “They didn’t seem to move the needle at all.”
Many onlookers were quick to accuse polls as having painted an overly optimistic portrait of the Democrats’ chances. Even Gov. Greg Abbott tweeted his disdain for political pollsters Wednesday morning.
“Biggest losers in this election are the pollsters,” Abbott wrote. “Every election the [sic] get it wrong. They should never be believed again.”
Biggest losers in this election are the pollsters.— Greg Abbott (@GregAbbott_TX) November 4, 2020
Every election the get it wrong.
They should never be believed again.
Yet political science experts say that the polls were mostly accurate when one considers the margin of error. Despite catching considerable flak, the 2016 election’s nationwide polls were also more accurate than many onlookers believe, Marshall said.
It’s easy to overgeneralize poll results by overlooking the margin of error, Marshall said. Polls that put Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden in the lead in Texas will look wrong to voters now that he lost the state, even if the results fell within the margin of error, he said.
Because of that, most polls in 2016 favored then-Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump to lose the election, but they weren’t as far off as many people claimed, Marshall said.
Certain polls may have underestimated Republican gains, in part because some conservatives are more hesitant to participate in polls, Marshall said. Conservatives may perceive pollsters as being part of the liberal mainstream news media, which they distrust, he said.
Since Republicans retained control of the state Legislature, Marshall believes Democrats will face an even greater challenge next time around. This being a census year, Republicans will now get to redraw districts to benefit their party in 2021, he said.
“I just see [Democrats] getting clobbered in the next round of redistricting with very little recourse,” he said.
In Dallas-area state House districts, liberals failed to flip some targeted seats. Republican incumbent state Rep. Morgan Meyer of House District 108 eked out a win against Democratic challenger Joanna Cattanach, KERA reported. Republican incumbent state Rep. Angie Chen Button, HD-112, was slightly ahead of her Democratic opponent, Brandy Chambers, by 3:41 p.m. Wednesday, according to the county’s election website.
National results fared the same. Although Democratic incumbent U.S. Rep. Colin Allred held onto his seat in District 32, senatorial hopeful MJ Hegar lost her bid to unseat Republican U.S. Sen. John Cornyn.
Meanwhile, Texas’ Congressional District 24 is still too close to call. Republican Beth Van Duyne has claimed victory there, but her Democratic opponent Candace Valenzuela had refused to concede by 3:46 p.m. Wednesday as mail-in ballots continued to trickle in.
Wednesday afternoon, the Texas Democratic Party acknowledged their shortcomings but began looking to the future. Chair Gilberto Hinojosa said in a statement that anyone who claims that the Democrats lost Texas isn’t considering the gradual progress the party has made in recent years.
“There is no doubt that Texas Democrats have work to do,” Hinojosa said. “We have tough questions to ask ourselves. There are significant challenges before us and new solutions are required. The future of Texas is at stake.”
Professor Matthew Eshbaugh-Soha, chair of the political science department at the University of North Texas, said that this election’s results could discourage the state’s Democrats from turning out in future elections.
People who were overly optimistic about this Election Day may not understand that moving the needle in the Democrats’ direction could be a “long slog,” he said.
Eshbaugh-Soha said that wresting control from Republicans in a conservative stronghold will be an incremental process.
“It takes time to get what you want,” he said.
Keep the Dallas Observer Free... Since we started the Dallas Observer, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Dallas, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Dallas with no paywalls.