In the 2016 primary season, a large swatch of mostly Southern states and Texas will weigh in on the Republican and Democratic presidential contests on March 1 and Texas could make the biggest splash, particularly on the GOP side. Republicans added three southern states — Alabama, Arkansas and delegate-rich Texas — to the March 1, or Super Tuesday, lineup, while subtracting a handful of northern states. The net result is increased nominating power concentrated in Texas and the South at a pivotal point in the primary schedule, soon after the traditional early states of Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina.
Candidates always come and go, but 2015 may go down as a transformative year in American politics. After his disastrous run four years ago, Rick Perry — Texas’ longest-serving governor — vied for a more polished run this go-round, but still ended up being the first GOP candidate to drop out. He partly blamedan indictment hanging over his head, but Perry also faced a changed electorate that appeared at times to view hissignificant governing experience as a liability.
Another Texan, U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, has proven far more formidable, parlaying his short record in the U.S. Senate and earlier career arguing before the Supreme Court into a presidential campaign that paints the candidate as a fighter for evangelicals.
The elephant in the room, so to speak, is Donald Trump. The free-speaking, freewheeling New York billionaire quickly shot to the front of the field over the summer, and proved in the weeks following to have significant staying power.
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Famed neurosurgeon Ben Carson briefly surged into the top tier, but has since faded. Similarly, Austin-born Carly Fiorina, former CEO of Hewlett-Packard, briefly rose and quickly fell.
Former Florida Gov. (and Texas native) Jeb Bush entered the race with boatloads of cash and was widely viewed at first as all but the presumptive nominee — until others joined the race, that is. Several months and tens of millions of dollars later, he’s still in the running, but is now viewed as more of a longshot. A fellow Floridian, U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, has vied to consolidate anti-Trump and anti-Cruz voters behind his campaign. New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and Ohio Gov. Dennis Kasitch have also struggled to gain traction.
The Democrats, meanwhile, have seen their own drama. Former Secretary of State, U.S. Senator and First Lady Hillary Clinton appears to wear the party’s mantle, but, as with Trump on the Republican side, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders’s candidacy reveals significant discontent with establishment candidates. Like Trump, Sanders has managed to draw massive crowds at rallies around the country, while drawing impressive fundraising totals.
Also as with Trump, much may — or may not — come down to campaigns’ ground games. That might be what sets 2016 apart from all previous presidential races: it’s possible, at least, that the fundamentals no longer apply and the path to victory on Nov. 8 has been completely redrawn.
Stay tuned, and check back with us soon and often for the latest developments from a Texas perspective.