Texas has not supported the Democratic nominee for president since 1976. Barring a seismic political shift, Texas’ 38 electoral votes will end up in Republican Mitt Romney’s column Tuesday.
Despite the lack of drama at the top, plenty of interest remains in how things shake out farther down the ballot. As the returns come in Tuesday night, here are four questions Texas political observers are eager to see answered:
How many seats will Republicans hold in the state House?
A party switch by state Rep. J.M. Lozano of Kingsville gave Republicans 102 seats in the 150-seat House. Republicans leaders have widely acknowledged that they would not hold that supermajority and are focused on minimizing their losses.
State Rep. Harvey Hilderbran, R-Kerrville, who chairs the state’s Republican Representatives Campaign Committee, predicted his party would end up with 92 to 97 seats.
“I think 95 is our over/under number,” he said. “We’re going to win seats we were not supposed to.”
His Democratic counterpart, state Rep. Jessica Farrar of Houston, does not disagree with his assessment, which would leave Democrats with around 55 House seats.
“We were hoping for more but realistically, we’re expecting mid-50s,” she said.
Can Wendy Davis hold on?
For the state’s Republican leadership, there are few higher priorities than unseating Sen. Wendy Davis, a polarizing Fort Worth Democrat. If Rep. Mark Shelton, a Fort Worth Republican, defeats her, it would bring his party just one vote shy of an unbreakable two-thirds majority in the Senate.
Davis raised her profile last year by filibustering a key budget bill over state cuts to education.
What will Hispanic voters do?
A handful of competitive races this year featuring dueling Hispanic candidates highlights the interest by both major parties to sway the state’s fast-growing Hispanic population.
Drawing the most attention is Republican U.S. Rep. Francisco "Quico" Canseco’s re-election bid against state Rep. Pete Gallego, D-Alpine. Between the campaigns and outside groups, both sides are spending millions of dollars targeting Hispanic voters in the sprawling border district, which stretches from El Paso to San Antonio.
Also of note is Ted Cruz, the Republican competing for an open U.S. Senate seat against Democrat Paul Sadler. Political strategists will study election returns to see how Cruz, the son of a Cuban immigrant and a rising star in the Tea Party, fared with Hispanic voters.
Ultimately, that information may not foretell much about the state’s political future, said Jim Riddlesperger, a political science professor at Texas Christian University.
“The demographics of Texas are changing so quickly that I’m not sure we can use this year’s election to predict two years from now,” he said.
Will Ron Paul’s congressional seat go to a Democrat?
Paul, the iconic 12-term Republican congressman, opted not to seek re-election, focusing instead on his presidential bid.
His Gulf Coast seat is the focus of a spirited race between former U.S. Rep. Nick Lampson, D-Beaumont, and state Rep. Randy Weber, R-Pearland.
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