How Texas has shifted into a ‘battleground’ going into 2024

Election 2022 Texas Abrupt Exit
Voting stickers are seen at a political event for Texas Democratic gubernatorial candidate Beto O’Rourke, Wednesday, Aug. 17, 2022, in Fredericksburg, Texas. On the brink of November’s midterm elections, both full-time election workers in rural Gillespie County suddenly and stunningly quit this month with less than 70 days before voters start casting ballots. (AP Photo/Eric Gay) Eric Gay/AP

How Texas has shifted into a ‘battleground’ going into 2024

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Texas has long been considered a Republican stronghold, but the GOP is not taking the Lone Star State for granted going into 2024.

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), who nearly lost his seat in 2018 after a strong showing from Democrat Beto O’Rourke, says his campaign is treating his 2024 campaign “deadly serious.”


“Texas is a battleground, and I’ll tell you we are taking this Senate reelections deadly serious. My last reelection, as you noted, six years ago was, at the time, it was the most expensive Senate race in U.S. history. We were outraised, we were outspent 3-to1,” Cruz said at the Texas Tribune Festival in Austin, Texas, on Sept. 23.

As Texas’s population has increased and demographics have continued to change, Democrats have become more competitive in the state throughout the past decade.

Texas’s population has grown from 26.4 million in 2013 to an estimated 30 million in 2022, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. As the population has increased, the percentage of white voters in the state has shrunk. In June, Hispanics and Latinos became the largest racial group in the state.

Democrats traditionally perform better with non-white voters, and along with the changes to Texas’s demographics, people from Democratic stronghold California have poured into the Lone Star State in recent years. As the state’s population has become more favorable to Democrats, statewide elections have been more competitive in the past decade.

In 2012, Cruz won his Senate seat over Democrat Paul Sadler, 56.5%-40.6%. In the presidential race, Republican Mitt Romney beat then-President Barack Obama 57.1%-41.4%. Four years later, in the 2016 presidential election, Republican Donald Trump only beat Democrat Hillary Clinton 52.2%-43.2%.

By 2018, the margin for a statewide race was down to less than 3% in the Senate race between Cruz and O’Rourke, 50.9%-48.3%. The race also set a record for the cycle, with a combined $126 million raised between the two major party candidates.

With the opening created by changing demographics in Texas, Cruz expects Democrats will look to pour money into statewide races in the state in upcoming cycles. When discussing his 2024 race, Cruz said he believes Democrats will look to make the race competitive with massive fundraising regardless of whoever wins the Democratic nomination.

“At the end of the day, I’m not too worried about who wins it because whoever wins it — the Democrats could nominate a ham sandwich and they’re gonna raise $100 million to run against me,” Cruz said at the event.

Republicans have seen losses in Senate races in former strongholds Georgia and Arizona in recent years and are looking to avoid the same fate in Texas. The GOP has looked to make inroads with Hispanic voters, specifically in South Texas congressional districts, among its other voter outreach initiatives.


Since the 2018 election, the Democrats have continued to remain competitive, but the GOP was better prepared in 2020 and 2022. Trump beat Democrat Joe Biden in the 2020 presidential election in Texas, 52.1%-46.5%, while in the 2022 gubernatorial election, Gov. Greg Abbott (R-TX) fended off O’Rourke, 54.8%-43.9%, only four years after the Democrat’s close Senate race against Cruz.

Cruz’s Senate seat is rated as “likely Republican” by the Cook Political Report, making it the most vulnerable Republican seat alongside Sen. Rick Scott’s (R-FL) seat in the Sunshine State, but neither is close to becoming a “toss-up,” according to the outlet. The Cook Political Report also rates Texas as “likely Republican” in the 2024 presidential election after calling it a toss-up before the 2020 election.

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