The Voters Democrats Say Are Crucial to Flipping Texas

Instead, he said, national Democratic leaders treated Texas like a piggy bank, raising money from donors who lived there for campaigns in other states. “Nobody believed Texas could be won, but it is a different place today,” he said.

Indeed, the margins for Republicans have shrunk or stayed the same in presidential elections in Texas over the last decade. In 2012, Republican Senator Mitt Romney won Texas with 57 percent of the vote. In 2016, Donald J. Trump earned 52 percent. Last year, Mr. Trump again won 52 percent.

Democratic spending has at the same time grown over the last several cycles: While about $75 million went to Democratic candidates in the state in 2016, roughly $213 million went to Democratic candidates in 2020. That 2020 number was still dwarfed by the $388 million spent on Republican candidates, according to Open Secrets, which tracks political spending across the country.

Because of Texas’ size, both Democrats and Republicans spend more money there than in nearly any other state in the country. But the percentage spent on Democratic candidates is one of the lowest in the country. Roughly 35 percent of all political spending in Texas goes toward Democrats, according to Open Secrets. In Wisconsin, a key swing state in every election, 49 percent goes toward Democrats.

There have been some high-profile attempts at investing in the state before: Michael R. Bloomberg’s campaign spent several million dollars for Joe Biden during the 2020 presidential primary. In 2014, Battleground Texas, an effort led by former Obama aides, spent millions — only to have every Democrat lose in statewide elections.

Rafael Anchia, a Democratic state lawmaker from Dallas who is the chairman of the Mexican American Legislative Caucus, said Mr. O’Rourke’s campaign was the only statewide Democratic effort in recent memory with a large enough budget to reach across the state. Mr. Anchia said that like other Texas Democrats, he has made the case to national funders that the state could be competitive.

“No longer is Texas considered this fool’s gold,” he said. “It has demographics similar to California’s but has been a low-turnout, low-voting state.”

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