August 10, 2019

Warnings over Texodus as Republicans flee after mass shooting
Democrats are targeting Texas in the 2020 election as a "Texodus" of Republican members of Congress deciding not to stand again is already underway. It has long been anticipated that the changing demographics of Texas, a Republican bastion with a quickly rising Hispanic population, could turn the state "blue". But the process may be accelerated by reaction to the mass shooting in El Paso that claimed 22 lives, and injured dozens more, on Aug 3. On Saturday it emerged that the gunman, Patrick Crusius, 21 told police he was "targeting Mexicans". He carried out the shooting a a Walmart store popular with Hispanic families. Ahead of the 2020 presidential race there has been much focus on whether Democrats can retake "rust belt" states like Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan, and Wisconsin, that Donald Trump won in 2016. Trump came under attack for consoling the family of a baby who lost both his parents in the shooting, which many say was inspired by Trump's rhtoric Credit: FLOTUS/WHITE HOUSE But if the Democrat nominee won Texas they could take the White House without any of those rust belt states. Texas has 38 of the 270 Electoral College votes needed to win, the second largest of any state. It has not voted for a Democrat presidential candidate since 1976. Mr Trump's margin of victory was down to nine points in 2016, despite little Democrat campaigning. Current polls put both Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders, the two leading Democrat contenders, slightly ahead of Mr Trump. In the last two weeks four Republican members of Congress announced they will not seek re-election in 2020, when congressional elections happen on the same day as the presidential vote. That brought the total stepping down to 11, a third of the entire Texas congressional delegation. Further announcements are expected. Those standing down include Will Hurd, 41, the only black Republican congressman in America. He faced losing his district, which has a majority Hispanic population. The latest congressman to stand down was Kenny Marchant, whose precipitous decline in the Dallas suburbs has alarmed Republican strategists. In 2014 he won by 33 points, but that was down to just three points in the 2018 midterm elections. In presidential votes the district voted for Mitt Romney by 22 points in 2012, but for Mr Trump by only six points in 2016. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee has ramped up its efforts, establishing offices in Texas, gleefully mocking the "Texodus," and vowing to submit Republicans to a “long and expensive 15 months." Zac McCrary, a Democratic pollster, said: "Trump has really turned out to be an accelerant for energising young voters, and voters of colour. At the same time Trump has so deeply alienated suburban white voters in numbers that are mind-boggling." Amid the doubts among moderates in the Texas suburbs Republicans are gearing up for a fight. Glen Bolger, a Republcian pollster, said: "You can win suburban seats in Texas as a Republican, you can win suburban seats anywhere as a Republican. It’s just harder and you have to be better prepared, raise more money and be more aggressive. These are no longer handed to you on a silver platter." However, the exploding Hispanic population, traditionally Democrat, presents a perhaps even greater problem. There are 29 million people in Texas. Last year it added nine Hispanic people for every white one. At current estimates Hispanics, of whom there are currently 11.4 million, will overtake whites as the largest demographic group in 2022. Voting enthusiasm is also intensifying, and in parts of Texas the Hispanic vote was up over 100 per cent in the 2018 midterm elections. El Paso, the scene of the  mass shooting, is a city of 700,000 people which is 80 per cent Hispanic. Beto O'Rourke, the Democrat presidential candidate who is from El Paso, stayed there this week, rather than joining other candidates campaigning in Iowa. Mr O'Rourke has been vocal this week calling Mr Trump a "white supremacist" and declaring that the country has "never been more divided or more highly polarised." Cal Jillson, a political science professor at Southern Methodist University, said: " Trump has roiled the political waters all over the country, and in Texas, he has destabilised the traditional Republican majority in Texas."  Mr Trump traveled to El Paso on Wednesday where he met with staff at the hospital treating the injured. A photograph was later released of Melania Trump, the first lady, holding Paul Anchondo, a two-month-old baby orphaned in the attack. In the image Mr Trump gave a thumbs up sign, which his opponents on social media criticised. However, Tito Anchondo, the baby's uncle, who was also in the photograph, defended the president, and said he "definitely" felt consoled after speaking to him. Mr Anchondo said: "I think people are misconstruing President Trump’s ideas. My brother was very supportive of Trump. He was just there as a human being, consoling us and giving his condolences."
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