Democrats Seem Intent on Losing the Texas US Senate Race in 2020

A few weeks ago, I wrote about why MJ Hegar would be a much better candidate than Wendy Davis for the Texas US Senate race in 2020.  Since then, things have shaken up a little bit.  Hegar is becoming a little more interested in challenging Congressman John Carter, who she nearly beat in 2018, a second time.  This largely corresponded with Congressman Joaquin Castro (Former HHS Secretary and current Presidential Candidate Julian Castro’s twin brother) showing more interest in the Senate race.  At the same time, Wendy Davis has still shown an openness to entering the race.

If the Democrats’ main goal is to win the race, Joaquin Castro would be a strong choice.  He is similar to Beto O’Rourke in that while he is progressive, he maintains a willingness to reach out to moderates and voters who aren’t hyper-partisan.  Castro also has an advantage over O’Rourke in that while O’Rourke struggled with Latino voters in his run against Ted Cruz, Castro has done well with that demographic.

EMILY’s List, the Democratic Pro-Choice organization, was not happy with this.  Today, they came out in favor of a Democratic woman representing the Party in this race.  This presumably refers specifically to former Texas State Legislator Wendy Davis, famous for being a pro-choice extremist and for getting trounced by Gov. Greg Abbott in the 2014 Gubernatorial Campaign.

Texas Democrats have a major opportunity in front of them right now.  They just put up their best performance in Statewide elections in several election cycles.  It is very possible that one of their own will be on the Democrats’ Presidential Ticket in 2020.  While Senator Cornyn isn’t as polarizing as Senator Cruz, he is certainly vulnerable under the right circumstances.  Running a candidate most notable for being an abortion extremist and losing by a large margin before is not the right circumstance.  I’m not a Democrat, so it’s not necessarily my skin on the line.  At the same time, though, Texas Democrats (like National Democrats) will have to decide if they want an ideological extremist or a progressive who can win.  In Texas, though, Democrats have a much smaller margin of error, and will have to tread carefully.

Democrats are at risk of blowing the 2020 Texas US Senate Race

Texas Tribune is out with some reporting on the 2020 US Senate race.  MJ Hegar, who had one of the best ads of the cycle last time and nearly defeated John Carter, is contemplating a run.  She may defer to Wendy Davis, though, most famous for being a pro-choice extremist who got crushed by Greg Abbott in 2014.

Wendy Davis would be a horrible mistake for Texas Democrats.  She is an extreme leftist who did nothing to appeal to the middle, and she would lose badly.  Cornyn is already going to be tougher to beat than Cruz (though demographics and probably having Trump on the ballot should help Dems).  Davis would blow all the progress Beto made in 2018, and put Dem House gains in 2018 at risk (hello Lizzie Pannill Fletcher and Colin Allred).

Personally, I tend to think Hegar would not be a bad candidate.  A Texas statewide race is a lot different than a congressional, but she’s a veteran and a political outsider running against a career politician.  She should be able to appeal to Beto voters, particularly with Trump on the top of the ballot.  Another strong choice for Texas Dems would be Beto or Julian Castro if either of them ends up getting out of the Presidential race (or, in Beto’s case, if he passes entirely).  Regardless, if Texas Democrats want to put the Senate seat in play and, in the process, put more Congressional seats in play and maybe even make Texas competitive for a reasonable Presidential candidate, Wendy Davis is the absolute last person they need on the ballot.

2020 Democrats Overrated/Underrated

It’s still a little early to say for sure how the 2020 Democratic Primary will look.  We can make some educated guesses at this point, though:

Joe Biden

OVERRATED: Biden simply has too much material for opponents to work with.  He might be likable now, but if he gets in the race and begins to look even remotely like a threat, he’ll get hit with ads on everything from segregation-era remarks to #MeToo problems to any number of other gaffes from over the years.

Cory Booker

UNDERRATED: Hillary Clinton won many of her delegates in 2016 by running up big margins in predominantly African-American districts.  Booker may very well have the best chance of emulating this path.  He also has a legitimate legislative win to his name in Criminal Justice Reform.  Many of the other US Senators on this list don’t have any accomplishments that major that stand out.

Sherrod Brown

UNDERRATED: He may not be as buzzy as some of the other candidates running, but he has major union support and plays well in swing states.  If electability is a big concern for Democratic primary voters, he will get a lot of looks (especially if Biden stays out or gets in and fades).

Julian Castro

EVEN: He can’t be ruled out completely, and he has a message that may play well.  It’s just hard to see how he will stand out with the primary electorate overall or attract the grassroots dollars of some of the other names on this list.

Kirsten Gillibrand

OVERRATED: She has too many past positions that are completely out of line with the electorate.  Her one area she stands out on is her #MeToo credentials from being one of the first to call on Al Franken’s resignation, but I’m not sure how far that will go in a field that may very easily have at least half-a-dozen female candidates.

Kamala Harris

OVERRATED: A career prosecutor is going to have a hard time going the distance in a Democratic primary in this environment.  She has some major criminal justice reform issues from her time in CA, and that could very well create more room for Booker in particular to consolidate the African-American and youth votes.

Amy Klobuchar

EVEN: She maybe gets some traction if electability becomes a big issue, and she’s shown substantive acumen in big moments such as the Kavanaugh and Barr nomination hearings.  If this electorate is more focused on ideology than electability, though, it’s hard to see a lane for Klobuchar.

Beto O’Rourke

OVERRATED: He had the benefit in 2018 of running against a national bogeyman.  There’s just not much evidence he’ll hold up on a national stage running against other Democrats as of yet.

Bernie Sanders

OVERRATED: Age will be a quiet problem with voters, and too many of his voters will scatter with more options than Hillary Clinton this time around.

Elizabeth Warren

EVEN: She’s put together a serious team and will reap the benefits of an early start.  She’ll be priced in as one of the top contenders, but all indications as of now are that she should be.