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5 things to watch in today's Texas primary elections

Conservative Review

Today, Tuesday, March 6, 2018, the first 2018 midterm primary elections in the country will be held in the state of Texas. IT'S OFFICIALLY ELECTION TIME, PEOPLE! Here are five things Conservative Review is watching for in today's primary elections:

1. Who voted early?

Early voting results are bad for predicting the outcome of elections. We saw this in 2016 when Hillary Clinton touted the early voting results to show an advantage over Donald Trump headed into the November general election. We all know what happened.

But early voting can be good for showing trends. Early voting in the Texas primary started on February 20 and concluded on March 2. The results from the Texas Secretary of State website are showing a significant enthusiasm gap between Republican and Democratic voters. Compared with the 2014 early vote totals, more than twice as many Democrats voted early in the primaries in 2018, while Republican early voting only went up by 15 percent.

Enthusiasm advantage: Democrats.

2. What will turnout look like on election day? 

It's pretty typical for Democrats to vote early and for Republicans to show up on election day, so this doesn't mean more Democrats are voting — yet. But if Republican turnout is down this year while Democrats are fired up, Nancy Pelosi may seize the speaker's gavel once again. San Antonio's progressive former mayor, Julian Castro, a potential 2020 presidential contender, is predicting "a tremendous amount of Democratic enthusiasm" Tuesday.

We'll be watching to see how many Republicans and Democrats turned out to vote compared to past election years. Since this is not a presidential election year, we expect voter turnout to be lower than in 2016. But the question is, by how much and for which party?

3. How many Sandernista Democrats beat establishment incumbents? 

Democrats are touting a record number of women and minority candidates running for election this year. In Texas, a record 50 women are running for Congress in primaries. The media is labeling this swarm of Democratic candidates a "pink wave," but what's important to watch is for establishment or incumbent Democrats to lose primary challenges.

The Bernie Sanders wing of the Democratic Party is backing candidates like Laura Moser, whose progressive ideology is well outside the mainstream. Recognizing this, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) dropped opposition research they had on Moser a few weeks ago in an attempt to keep her from winning the primary because she's too liberal to win a general election in Texas.

Will the Democratic establishment be able to fend off ultra-progressive candidates?

4. How many conservatives beat establishment Republicans? 

We're asking the same question for Republicans. Several longtime members of the Texas Republican House delegation are not running for re-election this year, leaving six Republican-held House seats open. These races are drawing dozens of Republican challengers and turning each race into a free-for-all.

In Texas' 21st congressional district, for example, Chip Roy, the former chief of staff to Senator Ted Cruz, R-Texas, is running against 17 other Republicans to replace retiring Rep. Lamar Smith, R-Texas. Another former Cruz staffer, Jason Wright, is running in Texas' 5th congressional district against seven other Republicans.

For both Republicans and Democrats running in Texas primaries, it's important to remember that if no one earns over 50 percent of the vote, a runoff election is triggered between the top two vote-getters. The primary runoff elections will be held on Tuesday, May 22, 2018. Early voting will start on May 14 and end on May 18.

5. Will Ted Cruz crush his primary opponents by a a big margin or a YUGE margin?

Senator Ted Cruz, R-Texas, is up for his first re-election campaign as a member of the United States Senate, and he's facing a handful of primary challengers. His most notable challenger, Stefano de Stefano, is running as a moderate Republican, and his "shoestring" campaign doesn't have the resources to offer a serious challenge to Cruz.

The question is not whether or not Sen. Cruz will win as much as it is "by how much?" If Cruz crushes his primary challengers, that will be a good sign that his campaign is ready to take on the Democratic challenger, likely Rep. Beto O'Rourke, D-Texas, in November. If Cruz has a weaker-than-expected showing in the primary, it could signal weak Republican enthusiasm. That would be troubling news for the Cruz campaign, which is trailing O'Rourke in fundraising by $1.5 million as of mid-February.

Could weak Republican voter enthusiasm plus a fundraising gap spell a Democrat upset? That's not likely in deep-red Texas. But anything is possible in politics, and that's why we'll be paying special attention to today's primary election.

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