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Analysis: Texas Democrats a Minor Philadelphia Story

The Texas Republicans are ignored because they are strong and all but certain to put the state in the red column in November’s election. Texas Democrats are ignored for the same reason.

Signs at the Texas State Democratic convention in San Antonio on June 17, 2016.

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Like their Republican counterparts, Texas Democrats are something of an afterthought at their party’s national convention.

The Republicans came home from Cleveland at the end of last week, as the Democrats were packing for their convention in Philadelphia, which will run Monday through Thursday.

The Texas Republicans are ignored because they are strong and all but certain to put the state in the red column in November’s election. Texas Democrats are ignored because they are electorally weak, unlikely to pull off the kind of upset that would result in their first win in a statewide race since 1994.

The Democrats have one big advantage in this national convention game: They’re going second. They can play off of the speeches and news from the GOP convention without worrying that the same fate will await them.

Texas Democrats don’t have a failed presidential contender like Ted Cruz to cheer in Philadelphia like the Texas Republicans did in Cleveland. They’re missing a local favorite.

They do have some national stars who might attract attention from Democrats who aren’t from Texas. Wendy Davis, the former state senator, gubernatorial candidate, filibusterer and now head of Deeds Not Words, a civic engagement organization, will be there. Julián Castro, secretary of U.S. Housing and Urban Development, former San Antonio mayor and one of the people Hillary Clinton considered as a running mate, will be there.

The state’s delegates will hear from the usual suspects —members of Congress, mayors, legislators. Castro and U.S. Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee of Houston will have speaking parts at the convention.

But there are no Texans among the headliners.

States without headliners can still get attention, but they tend to be the states candidates are most worried about.

National Democrats aren’t worried about Texas. They’d love to get it. Clinton herself has a long history of politicking in Texas and would love to flip Texas into the blue column. But she’s busy working on the red states that are more likely to flip and back-filling in the blue states where Republicans are making an effort.

Even if Texas were a swing state, it would be at the bottom of the list of political targets. It’s a terribly expensive place to run political races. Viewed from the offices of national political parties, electing a U.S. senator from Texas costs a lot more than electing one from a smaller state, where running a statewide race is relatively cheap.

That same sort of math works in the presidential race, where each state is a winner-take-all proposition. Republicans cannot win a presidential race without Texas, but the Democrats can.

If you see either party’s nominee running a lot of commercials in Texas in October and November, you’ll know the odds have shifted in this election year. You’ll know that neither regards Texas as a comfortably red state — that the Republicans feel the need to defend it and that the Democrats think they can pick it off.

Some Texas Democrats are thinking about 2018 — the next round of elections after the current one, and the cycle that will include contests for U.S. Senate, governor, and most of the other statewide offices in Texas.

It’s tough for them out there, but nothing is impossible in politics. It’s a game of ifs.

Aside from the regular chatter about making Texas competitive for their party, the Democrats also have a chance to talk about building the voting and financial networks in Texas that would put them on better footing against the other party.

Unlike the Republicans, the state’s Democrats have to build a bench of candidates willing to take on a slate of incumbent Republicans.

It’s tough for them out there, but nothing is impossible in politics. It’s a game of ifs.

If Ted Cruz actually hurt himself at the end of his presidential ride, he could draw a primary opponent in his 2018 re-election bid.

If Donald Trump wins in November, 2018 might be a tough mid-term election cycle for the new president.

If one of the new Republican statewide officeholders stumbles — Attorney General Ken Paxton, currently facing criminal indictments and civil securities fraud charges, comes to mind — the minority party might have an opening.

Look at the ifs that came true. Bernie Sanders was a real threat to Hillary Clinton. Donald Trump won the Republican nomination. The state’s liberals recorded some victories, like a U.S. Supreme Court win against the state’s 2013 abortion restrictions and a semi-favorable appeals court ruling forcing changes to the state’s restrictive photo voter ID law.

Stranger things have happened.

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