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Has Texas ever turned blue?

It’s been more than a generation since a Democratic candidate won statewide in Texas

How Texas voted in 2020
How Texas voted in 2020 (KSAT)

The 2020 election has caused anxiety among Americans to remain high as some states are still counting ballots.

While the presidential election in Texas was said to be more competitive this year than in recent memory, President Donald Trump comfortably secured the long-time Republican stronghold by 6 percentage points.

But with more national attention on the Lone Star State this year, there has been a spike in Google searches for “has Texas ever flipped blue” this week. Let us explain.

Generally speaking, “turn blue” doesn’t just refer to the presidential race, though that’s admittedly what’s on most peoples' minds. Really, the question boils down to when will a Democrat win a statewide election in Texas. Those races can range from the president or U.S. Senate to statewide offices like Ag Commissioner and Comptroller.

The last time a Democratic candidate won any statewide election in Texas was 1994. That year, a Democrat won each of the following statewide seats: Lieutenant Governor, Comptroller, State Treasurer, Land Commissioner and Place 1 on the Texas Supreme Court.

To find the last time a Democratic presidential nominee took Texas, you have to go back to 1976, when Jimmy Carter was elected President, beating Republican candidate Gerald Ford.

From there, it gets complicated because the ideologies associated with each party in the modern political era is different than how the political parties identified in the past.

Democratic candidates in the late 19th century and early-to-mid 20th century were much more conservative than what Democrats are considered to be today.

In fact, former Texas Governor Rick Perry - a noted conservative who ran for president as a Republican - started his political career here as a Democrat. He switched to the Republican party around 1990.

With that context, it’s easier to understand the fact that the Lone Star State has actually voted Democrat more times than it has voted Republican.

A major shift happened in the 1980 presidential election in which Republican Ronald Reagan defeated Jimmy Carter to become the 40th U.S. President, according to 270ToWin.com.

So why does it matter that Texas stays red for Republicans? Or, alternatively, turns blue for Democrats? Because of the Electoral College.

There are currently 538 Electoral College votes - broken down it’s 435 U.S. Representatives, 100 U.S. Senators, and three members from the District of Colombia.

Texas has 38 Electoral College votes, the second-most of any state. California comes in first with 55 and New York and Florida tie for third with 29 each.

Texas, like the vast majority of states, is considered a winner-take-all state when it comes to Electoral College votes. Only Nebraska and Maine are exceptions to this rule and electoral votes are allocated proportionally.

If Texas were ever to turn blue in a presidential election - it would be virtually impossible for the Republican presidential nominee to secure enough electoral votes to reach the 270 mark needed to win based on current and historic voting trends of other states.

That’s why most of the presidential campaigning takes place in swing states like Florida, Pennsylvania, Ohio and Michigan - there are only a handful of states that flip each cycle, also known as battleground states.

“The basic contours of the red/blue divide have remained largely consistent, with Florida being the fulcrum that decides success versus failure,” noted an article from Washington Monthly. Trump’s success in Pennsylvania in 2016 allowed a path to the presidency that didn’t make a win in Florida necessary but it left little room for error. “For the Republicans, this has been possible because they could rely on Texas’s 38 Electoral College votes. Without them, there is no realistic scenario where they could win the presidency.”

In the highly unlikely scenario that there is ever a tie in the Electoral College, the 12th Amendment states that the newly elected House of Representatives will choose the next president.

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