Tuesday's election provided a sweet victory for President Bush in his home state of Texas, where Republicans won all major statewide races. Democrats, who had counted on a large turnout among blacks and Hispanics, were overwhelmed by what is being called the "Bush factor." Most political analysts here in Texas agree that the outcome of the election in this state had a great deal to do with George W. Bush. The president left behind a strong Republican team here and his personal popularity among state voters has grown since he left the governor's office to become president nearly two years ago.
The man who inherited the governor's job, Rick Perry, won handily against Democrat Tony Sanchez even though Mr. Sanchez, a wealthy Hispanic banker, spent over $60 million of his own money on the race. In the senate race, Democrat Ron Kirk, a former Dallas mayor and an African-American, tried to avoid the Bush factor by running a moderate campaign. But his Republican opponent, state Attorney General John Cornyn, edged him out by promising to support President Bush in every way possible in Washington.
Democrats had spoken of Mr. Sanchez and Mr. Kirk as a "dream team," but early analysis of voting patterns indicates that the two men failed to do as well in urban areas and among blacks and Hispanics as they had hoped.
Hispanics currently make up over 30 percent of the Texas population, although the percentage registered to vote is much lower. Tony Sanchez did well in heavily Hispanic south Texas, but overall turnout remained low. University of Texas Political Science professor Gary Keith says many Hispanics remain detached from politics.
"There has traditionally been a lower turnout among Hispanics because, I think, of socioeconomic factors," he said. "The poor do not have as high a turnout as those higher in the socioeconomic scale.
Professor Keith says Republican voters tend to be in higher income brackets and tend to turnout in large numbers on election day. He says recent studies show that a Republican candidate can win by gaining more than 60 percent of the white vote. For Democrats, he says, it is harder.
"For Democrats to win they have to have 90 percent of the black vote, 70 percent of the Hispanic vote and 30 to 40 percent of the white vote. There is definitely a racial split in the south that did not disappear with the strengthening of the civil rights movement, but, in fact, intensified," he said.
But while the Republicans have a solid lock on Texas for now, Mr. Keith sees hope for the Democrats in the decade ahead. He says an increase in the Hispanic population, new efforts to involve Hispanics and other ethnic groups in politics and increasing urbanization will help Democrats.
"I do think demographics will end up changing the political dynamic and that the Democratic party, given that it is down to a smaller and smaller base, will turn to newer leaders and the leaders in the future will be even more like the 'dream team' that did not play out in this election. I think there will be more and more Hispanic candidates and black candidates running as Democratic nominees in the future in Texas," he said.
Gary Keith says one Democrat who is likely to come out this election defeat with a strong base for future races is Ron Kirk. He says Mr. Kirk, who won more than 40 percent of the vote, established himself as a moderate who can appeal to white voters as well as blacks and minorities. He says Mr. Kirk's exposure statewide in this election will help him build an even broader base for the future.