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It’s great that the presidential candidates are converging on Texas, but it’s like nobody told some of them that the election has been underway for almost two weeks, and that a lot of the people they’re talking to have already voted.
That’s the normal pattern here. Local get-out-the-vote efforts — the turnout operations that make or break local and regional campaigns and can spell the difference in statewide races — are staggered throughout the early voting period. And national candidates rely more on the media attention that goes to a presidential race than on touching every voter in huge states like Texas.
The Democrats vying for their party’s presidential nomination have been busy in other states, no doubt about that. And a couple of them had enough money to get on television here, even to excess.
But their Texas visits in these last few days before Super Tuesday are window dressing.
Texas is a wholesale political state, not a retail one. The door-to-door stuff looks good on the news, but getting votes here for candidates in the big races isn’t like getting votes in places like New Hampshire and Iowa. Voters in those places want to see the candidates, talk to them, shake their hands, watch them eat corn dogs.
The retail races are the ones you already know about — if they’re happening in your area and if you or someone in your house is on some candidate’s list of active voters. Campaigns use those lists to figure out which doors to knock on. Candidates on the ballot below the national candidates are starving for attention, trying to win enough voters to their causes to either win a nomination or get them into a runoff in May.
For weeks now, down-ballot candidates with tight budgets have been stuffing mailboxes, hanging literature on doors and talking to voters, trying to put together the backing that will advance them to the next round.
Even if you throw out the ubiquitous mailers and ads from Michael Bloomberg, who has been a dream candidate for television stations and for commercial printers, and from other presidential candidates, the presidential race has dominated the political conversation. It gets national news coverage. It’s the marquee contest, even when voters are faced with deciding dozens of congressional, legislative and local races.
Most Texas voters only see the national candidates on TV, where it doesn’t really matter if they’re in Fort Worth or Las Vegas, Manchester or Des Moines. And even with that, they see those candidates far more than most of the state and local contestants.
Still, the timing of these visits, the local appearances of the political animals we’ve been watching from afar, is a reminder that Tuesday is election day.
Everybody knows about the importance of early voting in Texas, but the national candidates aren’t dipping into Texas to persuade anyone to come to their side. They’re here to close the sale, to get late voters to the polls no matter what those voters have heard about results and momentum. Today’s the last day of early voting. And this is the last chance for candidates to make one last push before election day.
After Tuesday, you won’t see most of them for a good while unless you’re the sort of person who gives a lot of money to campaigns. Most of the national candidates will be out of the race soon enough, and the winners won’t be back until it’s time to raise money and support in advance of the November general elections.
Enjoy it while it lasts.