Will Trump Nomination put Texas in Play for the Democrats?

In short: no. 

In the February 2016 University of Texas/Texas Tribune Poll, 41 percent of the Texas GOP expressed an unfavorable opinion of Donald Trump. By comparison, 25 percent of Republican voters held an unfavorable view of Ted Cruz, but traditionally – read: not during a campaign season – this number usually hovers around 14 percent. The high degree of concern that GOP elites are currently expressing at the prospects of a Trump candidacy reflects not only his likelihood of making already Democratic voting groups like Hispanics, young people, and women, more Democratic, but also at the prospect of depressing Republican turnout among traditional GOP voters who feel that they couldn't cast a vote for Trump – for any number of reasons.

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Very favorable5%17%20%
Somewhat favorable7%15%27%
Neither favorable nor unfavorable8%10%10%
Somewhat unfavorable12%15%19%
Very unfavorable65%40%22%
Don't know/no opinion3%4%1%

While these concerns both have merit, the final, but less reasonable, concern is that establishment Republicans, so bewildered by the turn that their party has taken will support Hillary Clinton come November, driving up her margins, and putting states into play that under ordinary circumstances she would have no business in competing. This, however, seems rather unlikely given the Texas GOP's disdain for Clinton. Overall, Clinton was viewed unfavorably by 91 percent of Republicans, and even among those Republicans who view Trump negatively, 92 percent held a negative view of Clinton. Furthermore, 76 percent of Trump hating Republicans think that Hillary Clinton would make a "terrible" president, another 10 percent say she would only be "poor," and 7 percent think she would be merely "average." That leaves 5 percent who think she would be "good" (4 percent) or "great" (1 percent – there's always 1 percent). So it seems rather unlikely that Texas Republicans, any of them, will be jumping ship and voting for Clinton come November.

On the other hand, could a Trump candidacy make things tougher for the Democrats in 2016? Former U.S. Secretary of Education and self-described scold Bill Bennett suggested that Republican elites should cease and desist with the increasingly hysterical attempts to deprive Trump of the nomination and see this as an opportunity to attract white voters. No, really: Bennett is quoted as follows by James Hohmann in the Washington Post's Daily 202

“We’ve been trying to get white working-class people into the party for a long time. Now they’re here in huge numbers because of Trump and we’re going to alienate them? I don’t get it. Too many people are on their high horse."

Maybe Bill Bennett hasn't been paying attention to the racial breakdown of GOP voters lately, but fair enough: in Texas and elsewhere, there are still some white Democrats, but don't look for a lot of defections from Clinton, especially in Texas. Among Texas Democrats who do not view Clinton favorably, 76 percent say that Trump would make a "terrible" president, 12 percent say "poor," 7 percent say "average," and 2 percent say "good." None say that Trump would be a "great" president. So while it's a logical possibility, Trump is unlikely to convert white Democrats to his cause, even those with negative views of Secretary Clinton.

There are just a whole heck of a lot of Republicans in Texas: Greg Abbott won 59 percent of the vote in 2014 and Mitt Romney won 57 percent in 2012. Higher turnout among certain groups (like Hispanics) would narrow this gap, as would lower turnout among other groups (namely Anglos), but it seems unlikely that many of the latter would defect to Clinton. As distasteful as Trump might be to some Republicans in a relative sense, Clinton is distasteful to all Texas Republicans in an absolute sense. The anecdotes of Republicans who say they won't vote for Trump are certainly showing up in news stories and conversations in political circles. It's far from a sure thing that Republicans who can't stand Trump in March will stick by their resolution by the time November rolls around, especially given the partisanship infusing the land. That same intense partisanship seems much more likely to turn them into non-voters than into Clinton supporters.

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Very favorable32%7%1%
Somewhat favorable35%11%3%
Neither favorable nor unfavorable15%18%4%
Somewhat unfavorable9%11%4%
Very unfavorable7%49%87%
Don't know/no opinion2%4%1%

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Great president29%4%1%
Good president35%9%3%
Average president23%26%6%
Poor president5%9%8%
Terrible president4%45%79%
Don't know3%7%3%