Katy Freeway: Texas Data Points from the Week in Politics

A new national poll shined the light once again on the electoral role of non-college educated white folks, even as the spotlight turned to the appearance of a very educated Texas Justice on Donald Trump's short list of US Supreme Court nominees. The U.S. Census Bureau released data confirming what everyone in Texas already pretty much knew -- that the suburbs are growing fast and the Texas 'burbs among them are growing fastest.  It's run off week in Texas, and the Governor -- himself not prone to such indignities -- is promoting his new book and getting some press for the effort, which he pretty much doesn't need but will take anyway.

1.  Broken Hearted People.  A new Fox News Poll shows Donald Trump ahead of Hillary Clinton 45-42 nationally, which probably doesn't mean much at this point. But the data contained an interesting little nugget that showed Trump leading Clinton by 37 points among whites without a college degree.  This group is shaping up to be 2016's soccer moms: they have been heavily focused on as part of Trump’s coalition in the Republican Primary. Back in the February 2016 University of Texas/Texas Tribune Poll, Trump was viewed favorably by 36 percent of these voters and unfavorably by 50 in Texas. For context, at this point in the nomination contest, Ted Cruz was still in the race and would go on to win the Texas primary.  In the midst of a profile-raising national campaign, he was only able to break even in the overall favorability ratings in his home state, with equal portions of Texas voters (40 percent) viewing him favorably and unfavorably. With the nominating contest over (for the Republicans), and an almost certain Trump-Clinton match-up, its seems likely that the national dynamic can be expected to assert itself in the general election.  It’s beyond the pale to think that this block of voters will reject what George Packer recently referred to, in an artful and astute recent piece in The New Yorker, as Trump’s “white identity politics” in favor of Democrat Hillary Clinton:  only 19 percent held a favorable view of Clinton compared with 71 percent holding an unfavorable opinion. Some of the Cruz die hards might stay home, but they seem unlikely to add up to much.

2. He meant that in a nice way. Texas Supreme Court Justice Don Willett made Donald Trump’s short list and Ross Ramsey threw some shade. Lots of people have commented both on Willett’s conservative credentials and his Twitter celebrity. The Texas Tribune's Ross Ramsey jabbed (with his right) at some of his colleagues for their preoccupation with Willett’s tweeting (“People who don’t know these judges — especially (but not exclusively) those who are always in the market for stories about kooky Trump stunts — focused on Willett’s tweets.”) while emphasizing the politics of  Trump’s  messaging to conservatives. The politics of Willett’s inclusion on the list (and the list itself) are clearly the more consequential dimension here, but it’s also hard to imagine Willett's prolific use of Twitter and the way it’s raised his profile among insiders not earning a sidebar to his inclusion on the list. A conservative Texan on the Supreme Court might help with Texas Republicans’ estimation of the Supreme Court, which has really taken a hit after that business with the Affordable Care Act and gay marriage.  We've pointed this out before, yes -- but it's important in a lot of different contexts.

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Very favorable31%21%
Somewhat favorable15%12%
Neither favorable nor unfavorable13%19%
Somewhat unfavorable6%7%
Very unfavorable23%20%
Don't know/no opinion12%21%

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The U.S. Congress, the legislative branch6%9%30%
The President, the executive branch41%8%1%
The U.S. Supreme Court, the judicial branch23%34%23%
Don't know30%49%45%

3. If I can just get off this Katy Freeway.  The suburbs and their spin-offs are growing, especially in Texas.  According to new U.S. Census figures, Georgetown, New Braunfels, Frisco, and Pearland, TX are 4 of the 10 fastest-growing cities in the U.S. (among cities with populations larger than 50,000) – with Georgetown and New Braunfels actually ranking first and second, respectively. Suburban growth has been a particular pet interest of ours, and something that we plan to write more about in the future as these growing areas continue to fill in with some mixture of urban expansion, but also, and maybe more interestingly, urban rejection and the increasingly political distinct exurbs -- which some of these “suburbs” seem to be more like . In the February 2016 University of Texas/Texas Tribune poll, 47 percent of respondents who indicated that they lived in a suburban area (as opposed to living in an urban or rural one) identified as Republicans, compared to 42 percent of Texas voters overall. Forty-three percent of suburbanites identified as conservative, the same proportion as voters in the rest of the state. When asked about a hypothetical congressional match-up pitting a Democrat, a Republican, and a tea party candidate against each other, 11 percent of suburban voters said they would support the Tea Party candidate, roughly the same as voters statewide. Interestingly, the racial makeup of the population among suburban voters is also roughly equal to their proportions statewide (60 percent white, 14 percent black, and 21 percent Hispanic among suburbanites). Most historical data focuses on the rural-urban divide in residents, and notes the increasingly urban nature of the state – but these areas of suburban growth, particularly where formerly rural areas are being economically and culturally connected to urban Texas, merit close watching and more analysis. Self-identified suburbanites tend to occupy the center right in Texas -- see, for example, how they compare to urban and rural voters on the touchstone issue of immigration.

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Strongly agree22%18%14%
Somewhat agree39%36%26%
Somewhat disagree15%19%20%
Strongly disagree10%15%27%
Don't know/No opinion14%13%13%

4. No, really, I gave at the office.  It’s run-off week in Texas, with Election Day looming next Tuesday.  For watchers of the #txlege, the marquee races are Senate Districts 1 and 24.  On paper, the match-up between different two former House conservatives, iconoclast David Simpson and conservative bannerman and unsuccessful anti-Straus Speaker candidate Bryan Hughes seemed to be the more interesting of the two Senate races. But the insiders in Austin seem much more focused on the race between State Rep. Susan King and Susan Buckingham to replace Troy Fraser in SD-24.  The rumor mill has Buckingham ahead in a race that seems to have gotten personal and got the business lobby in a pretzel like state as they try to duck a fight between a colorful incumbent house member and a first time candidate who is nonetheless well known in political circles after serving on the Texas Medical Association’s Council on Legislation. Turnout in King’s hometown of Abilene (where there is also a Congressional run-off) is a big factor, a difficult thing to assess from afar in a type of election with notoriously low turnout.  The Texas Tribune has a handy guide to all the run-off elections -- other big ones include the seat on the Railroad Commission being vacated by David Porter, as well as the SBOE District 6, where Mary Lou Bruner has been making headlines with her  beliefs about President Obama’s youth, among other things, much to the delight of The New York Times’ “oh those crazy Texans!”  story generating application. (P.S.  If you have polling data to send us on SD-24, we're happy to elevate this from this status of gossip.)

5.  The second most important book in Texas. Governor Greg Abbott has been on a book tour, leading to yet another round of speculation about his presidential ambitions.  Hard to imagine this speculation can hurt, though we’ll believe it when we see it.  But the Texas press can’t resist these stories, so it’s shooting fish in a barrel for the governor and his communications team, who demurely deny the premise while basking in the speculation.  With Ted Cruz still splitting time between Texas and DC (but not INSIDE, heaven forbid) and Lt. Governor Patrick making national headlines with outrage over changes in bathroom policy, the book tour and presidential speculation, however idle, are good for the governor:  the former keeps him in good stead with the conservatives, while the latter keeps his name in front of casual observers of the political process.

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categoryLeaning conservativeSomewhat conservativeExtremely conservative
Approve strongly16%36%52%
Approve somewhat31%37%28%
Neither approve nor disapprove25%17%13%
Disapprove somewhat14%3%3%
Disapprove strongly5%3%2%
Don't know10%3%3%

6.  Speaking of the question of authenticity.  Rest in peace, Guy Clark.  H/t to the Austin American Statesman’s Jonathan Tilove, who did a great First Reading column chock full of great Guy Clark videos but still got around to a skeptical assessment of Ted Cruz’s self-described post-September 11 conversion to country music.  Henson saw Guy Clark with Townes Van Zandt and Robert Earl Keen at the Texas Union Ballroom in 1991, and just wants to mention it.  Blank was six years old at the time (like Guy Clark in the train story in the song below). That’s now Dr. Blank --  The University of Texas at Austin officially awarded him his Ph.D. in Government today, and so he isn’t around to edit this out of the post. Congratulations, pal.