Texas is the Reason

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
April 6 2012 11:50 AM

Texas is the Reason

Mark Murray and Matt Loffman scoop the goings-on in Texas, where some allies of Rick Santorum are trying to change the delegate allocation rules for the much-delayed primary.*

David Weigel David Weigel

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter. 

Texas is set to award its 155 delegates -- on May 29 -- proportionally. But making it winner-take-all could help Santorum narrow Romney’s delegate lead, if Santorum remains in the race (and more importantly, if he remains competitive). Per the Texas GOP’s bylaws, you need 15 members of the executive committee to call such an emergency meeting. And it takes a two-thirds vote at that meeting to propose a rule change -- that would later be sent to the Republican National Committee.

So, it probably can't happen. But why are we so sure that a rule change like this would benefit Santorum? The last poll out of the state, from three weeks ago, put Santorum only 8 points ahead of Romney, 35-27. The assumption, I guess, is that voters fleeing Newt Gingrich will discover the magic that is Santorumentum. After all, it happened in Louisiana! And woe upon you if you predicted that Romney could have actually won Louisiana.

But Texas isn't quite like the Southern states that have gone for Santorum and Gingrich. Let's compare it to Alabama, which also had competitive 2008 and 2012 primaries. In 2008, 77 percent of Alabama primary voters said they were born-again Christians, 58 percent had no college degree, and 92 percent were white. In 2012, these numbers were 80 percent, 56 percent, and 94 percent. In 2008, 35 percent of the vote was rural; in 2012, that went up to 45 percent.

Back to Texas. In 2008, only 60 percent of primary voters said they were born-again or evangelical. Only 51 percent lacked college degrees. Only 87 percent were white. The rural vote made up only 24 percent of the total. Texas, with its big Hispanic population and influx of east coast refugees, looks a bit more like Florida than the deep South states that have shredded Romney. And even when he's lost those states, he's gotten around 29 percent of the vote.

Summary: Barring some event like a Gingrich exit and a newly energized Rick Perry switching his endorsement to Santorum, I think Texas has a lot of Romney potential. Yes, sure, it's the most obvious place for a conservative last stand, but that implies that conservatives have to fight for it.

*The state kept getting its rotten redistricting maps struck down, pushing the contest from March to late May.

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter. 



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