Texas could be a political kingmaker this campaign season. Such a position wasn’t expected until the first Super Tuesday on Feb. 5.
Virtually every election year, states leapfrog each other’s political primary and caucus dates in hopes of exerting more influence on the presidential races. This year the movement was more extreme than usual, with some states’ officials even considering moving their party selection process into the year before the general election.
The benefit of earlier primaries is that some states’ voters are visited and heavily courted by more candidates, since the votes are held before those who capture the fewest delegates start to drop out of the race.
Texas chose to sit pat, keeping its primaries on the first Tuesday of March. That leaves Texas as the largest state that hasn’t already conducted its primaries. That places Texas in perhaps its most influential position in recent memory, even though this is only the second presidential election in three decades in which a Texan is not a major candidate on either major party’s ticket.
(Of course, that could change if presumed Republican nominee John McCain were to choose Ron Paul as his running mate. Currently, however, Paul is in third place among GOP candidates still running, but has raised only single-digit support among voters so far.)
Democrats Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama remain in a tight race, however, and the results of Texas polling could be the deciding factor in which of the two makes the November ballot.
Analysts have pointed to the Hispanic vote as the deciding factor in many states’ primaries and caucuses, although the voting hasn’t been entirely consistent. In some states the Hispanic vote has pushed Clinton to victory, while in others Obama has enjoyed Latino support and won those states’ delegates.
Even among the Republicans, Hispanic sentiment over the stances of the candidates — and of the party in general — could affect the voting, even with McCain’s moderate stance on the issue and his virtual lock on the nomination. Texas Hispanics could be so alienated that many conservative Latinos will simply vote Democrat. That could affect not only the national results, but lose votes for less conservative GOP candidates in state races.
Candidates have been paying close attention to Texas, even the Panhandle, in recent weeks. Bill Clinton has recently visited Lubbock and Amarillo, while Hillary Clinton has opened an office in Lubbock.
With the opportunities to learn more about the candidates — and more at stake in this election than in the past — it is even more important for Panhandle residents to participate in this year’s balloting, both in the primaries and in the November general election.
It’s too late to register to vote in the primaries, but those who don’t have cards should register regardless, in order to be ready in November.
As always, the best vote is an informed vote. We encourage all voters, and all Texas Panhandle residents, to follow the campaigns in this paper and other sources, and learn as much as possible before casting a ballot. Preparation before the vote helps reduce the chance of an unpleasant surprise after someone’s been elected.