from chron.com

Feb. 23, 2008, 7:52PM
Election call: It is Obama

Copyright 2008 Houston Chronicle

Call me a fool, but I’m not waiting until a week from Tuesday.

I’m calling the Texas Democratic primary today.

It’s Barack Obama.

My projection is based on the numbers.

“But the polls have been notoriously off base,” said a colleague.

That’s why I’m not relying on the polls, although they are showing Obama pulling even.

I’m basing my prediction on early voting patterns.

The Texas Secretary of State’s Office has posted the totals for the first three days of early voting in the state’s 15 largest counties.

Turnout is up dramatically across the state compared to the first three days of 2004, especially for Democrats.

But what tells the story is where it is up most dramatically.

Not a bad jump, but . . .
Among the top 15 counties, the ones where Sen. Hillary Clinton is expected to fare the best with the help of older Hispanic voters are:

•El Paso, where the percentage of registered voters voting in the Democratic Party in the first three days was 2.7 times what it was in 2004.
•Hidalgo, the border county where McAllen is the largest city, where the Democratic turnout was 1.6 times that of 2004.
•Nueces County, which includes Corpus Christi, where the turnout was 2.5 times that of 2004.
•Cameron County, including the border city of Brownsville, where for the first two days (I was unable to get the third), the turnout was 3.1 times that of 2004.
So in Clinton country turnout is up 50 percent to 200 percent. Not bad.

Big cities and suburbs
But in the counties that are seen as Obama country the increases ranged from 400 percent all the way up to 870 percent:

•Harris County saw 8.3 times as many people vote in the Democratic primary as in the first three days of 2004.
•Dallas County went up a stunning 9.7 times.
•Tarrant County, including Fort Worth, voted at 7.6 times the 2004 rate.
•And Travis County, home of the People’s Republic of Austin, turned out at 5 times the 2004 rate, which was already one of the highest in the state.
These numbers are particularly striking in light of the assertion by Clinton officials that they are concentrating their efforts on the early vote. It appears they need to concentrate harder.

I ran these numbers by Royal Masset, Austin-based Republican strategist and former political director of the state party, and SMU political scientist Cal Jillson, who is knowledgeable about state and Metroplex politics.

They both agreed that the turnout differential described above boded well for Obama. But both were equally impressed by what is happening in traditionally Republican suburban counties.

In Collin County, which includes the upscale Dallas suburb of Plano, the Democratic turnout was nearly 12 times as much this year as four years ago. In Williamson County, just north of Austin, the turnout was seven times as much.

And in Tom DeLay’s Fort Bend County, the turnout in the Democratic primary was 15 times what it was four years ago.

In all three suburban counties, significantly more Democrats have already voted this year than Republicans — a striking shift from four years ago.

Something new going on
In 2004, 4 times as many Republicans voted in Fort Bend’s first three days as Democrats. This year the Democrats pulled in 5,259 voters to the Republicans’ 4,103.

“That has to be Obama,” said Masset. “Hillary would attract the normal Democratic people. Clearly there is something new going on in these counties.”

One of the things going on is a shift among independents. As exit polls have shown in other parts of the country, Obama does well among independents. And some independents may be going where the action is in the primary but haven’t yet committed for November.

And some Republicans are voting in the Democratic primary.

Houston Republican campaign consultant Mary Jane Smith says a number of her Republican friends tell her they are voting for Obama in the Democratic primary.

“They’ll come home in the fall,” she said.

Smith said she would prefer they vote for Clinton, because Hillary would help some of her clients by turning out more otherwise dispirited Republican voters in the fall.

But her friends are afraid a Democrat might win the White House, and they want to make sure it isn’t Clinton.

But Republican interlopers are likely a small part of these numbers.

One part of the dynamic is a dirty little secret that I’d ask you to keep to yourselves.

Texans have done an excellent job of perpetrating the myth that we are different than the rest of the nation.

We are. But not nearly as much as we’d like to think, or we’d like the rest of the nation to think.

The same factors that carried the last 10 states for Obama will carry Texas.

You can write to Rick Casey at P.O. Box 4260, Houston, TX 77210, or e-mail him at rick.casey@chron.com

Most recent comments
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RealityChecker wrote:
NonLAfan, if you want to speak of experience in general, then you have a point. Richardson blows away all the rest by a mile in terms of experience…and yet he wasn’t close to having a shot as the nominee. If you’re comparing Obama to Clinton for experience, then that’s completely laughable. Her managerial “experience” as First Lady is a joke, and if she tries that on on McCain he will eat her alive. Her voting record is even thinner than Obama’s, and she voted for this insane war in Iraq (and never repudiated it). At best she’s said, “If I knew then what I know now…” but over 20 senators voted against that resolution – which begs the question what did they know that she didn’t. After her vote to give Shrub carte blanche the only place you could find her for 3 years was on the side of a milk carton.
Either Clinton or Obama will do far better than a third term of Bush executed under then name of President McCain. Few people realize one of the most important issues is the Supreme Court, and if there will be some semblance of balance, or most become Scalia clones – which will hit every American for decades to come.
But just remember it takes more than experience alone — Cheney, Rummy, Wolfowitz and the gang have decades of experience, and it has run this nation off of a cliff.
2/25/2008 11:31 PM CST
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hhusky wrote:
The republicans screwed up their primary nomination, now their going to screew up the democratic primary.

What can we expect, look who they voted for in the last two presidential elections.
2/25/2008 9:14 PM CST
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Fusernames wrote:
Comparing McGovern and Obama is like comparing LaRouche and Bill Clinton. Furthermore, anyone who thinks Obama can be swiftboated isnt paying attention. He’s above and beyond that bs.
2/25/2008 4:23 PM CST
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Whizzer wrote:
I think the criticisms miss the point. This was a straight forward election analysis editorial pointing out the obvious – that this election is different. It is pulling new people into the process and old line democratic constituencies are also voting in larger numbers. These trends favor Obama because he is the guy creating the majority of the excitement. It isn’t by itself anti-Clinton. I think it is telling that Clinton people ,like their hero, take anything other than talk of her imminent coronation as unfair criticism. She has that Nixonesque personality that makes me wonder if she has an enemies list. Instead of Agnew’s “nattering nabobs of negativity” she has the “vast right wing conspiracy”. Grow up people.

As far as Repubs voting in the primary, I saw an early poll that found 22% of the total that stated they were going to vote in the dem primary were self-declared independents or republicans. Even if you figure 1/2 of those are repubs, I think it highly unlikely that they are all looking to throw their vote away simply to cause problems. People just don’t do that with voting. Most of them are probably truly interested in one of the dems, either Clinton for being a hawk or Obama for being someone who can break lobbyist power. Based on the poll I think the number of republicans looking to cause mischief is probably less than 2% of the total – that’s if one in five are looking to throw away a vote to be a jerk. Plus there are a lot of important down ballot races for repubs to be interested in, especially Texas house races that will determine the fate of speaker Craddick.
2/25/2008 11:51 AM CST
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dmmoran wrote:
I am finding it hard to believe that all of the independents and Republicans voting for Obama would stick with him in the general election. Except for health care, on issues like energy, he is to the left of Hillary, since only she also advocates more domestic drilling in the Gulf of Mexico with new environmentally sensitive technology IN ADDITION to aggressively supporting green alternative energy solutions. My father is a petroleum geologist, and although he has preached conservation as long as I can remember, he says that in the short term, additional supplies of domestic oil are also needed to reduce our dependence on the 11 million barrels of foreign oil a day we import. This is one area of difference voters need to know about.

It makes me feel incredibly proud that the Democratic party has put up two historic candidacies, but for right now, I lean toward Hillary in terms of her overall positions. I do like Obama’s general premise that talking with the right tone can help solve problems, but I do not think it will turn out to be the panacea Americans hope for. Too many issues are just plain emotional for people. If Obama wins the nomination, I will heartily support him, but I am more worried that he can be more easily defeated by John McCain, even though that does not look like the case in the poll numbers.
2/25/2008 11:34 AM CST

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