Texas should be playing a role in Republican politics this year as big as, well, Texas.

The fast-growing state – the most populous by far in the Republican column – has four new seats in the U.S. House of Representatives, a big U.S. Senate race and more than a 10th of the delegates who will choose the party’s presidential nominee.

But a racially tinged dispute over redrawing its congressional districts has delayed the Texas primary by almost three months, complicated the U.S. Senate and House contests and altered the race for the White House.

A San Antonio court pushed Texas’ primary back to May 29 from March 6 after complaints that a new electoral map drawn by Republicans violated the federal Voting Rights Act by diluting the voting power of blacks and Latinos.

Three of Texas’ four new U.S. House seats were created in areas dominated by whites, even though Hispanics and blacks accounted for 90 percent of Texas’ population growth since 2000.

The battle sets white Republicans, who have firmly established political control in Texas within the past decade, against rising and strongly Democratic Hispanic and black populations, whose leaders argue that they are being unfairly denied an equal voice in state politics.

The stakes are high both for 2012, when the White House and control of the U.S. Congress are up for grabs, and longer term, when a rapidly growing Hispanic population is expected eventually to disadvantage Republicans and benefit Democrats.

“Republicans can work that racial solidarity thing for a while, but in the end, they’ve got to do better than 35 percent of the Hispanic vote or their election prospects are not great,” said Cal Jillson, a political science professor at Southern Methodist University in Dallas.

States with a history of minority voting rights violations must obtain pre-clearance from either the U.S. Department of Justice or the federal court in Washington, D.C., before they can use new maps. The new voter map in Florida, another fast-growing southern state, has also been subject to legal wrangling this year.


Non-Hispanic whites already account for a minority of Texas’ residents, with 45 percent of the population. The state is 38 percent Latino and 12 percent black, numbers expected to continue to rise.

President Barack Obama lost Texas by 11-percentage points in 2008. He got only 26 percent of the white vote, but was backed by 63 percent of Hispanics and 98 percent of blacks, fueling talk that it will not be long before Republican red Texas turns purple, if not Democratic blue.

“We sort of feel like we have the wind at our backs,” said Anthony Gutierrez, deputy executive director of the Texas Democratic Party.

Democrats have won Texas in only three of the last 15 presidential elections. The party has not won a statewide election since 1994, and Republicans cemented their control of the state with huge victories in the 2010 midterms.

But even Republicans acknowledge that changing demographics mean the party must appeal to Hispanics to hold onto power beyond the next few years. Latinos in Texas generally vote Democratic by a 2-to-1 margin, which won’t be helped by a redistricting fight seen as a battle to maintain white control.

“It is obviously a high-risk strategy in a state that is increasingly Hispanic,” said Michael Li, a Dallas-based election law lawyer who runs the blog “Texas Redistricting.” Li is not involved in the redistricting fight.


The redistricting mess has already affected the 2012 presidential race, notably the hopes of Mitt Romney, who may have done well in the Texas primary if it had taken place on Super Tuesday – March 6 – as originally scheduled.

Texas would have been the biggest prize up for grabs on Super Tuesday, when 10 other states held primaries and caucuses.

Romney, with far more money and a bigger campaign organization than rivals Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich, was best placed to compete in so many states at once. Texas alone has 20 media markets, meaning statewide advertising can cost millions.

Winning or putting in a good showing in Texas would have boosted Romney. The state’s 155 delegates, awarded proportionally, are a huge chunk of the 1,144 needed to become the nominee.

A strong performance on Super Tuesday also would have given Romney a badly needed breakthrough in the heart of southern Republican conservatism, weakening Santorum and perhaps cutting short what has become a protracted nomination fight.

Instead, Romney has been a weak front-runner and Santorum, a former Pennsylvania senator best known for strong religious conservatism, has been winning over the party’s right wing.

“It (a March 6 Texas primary) would have changed a lot of things. It would have changed the entire complexion of Super Tuesday,” said Matt Mackowiak, an Austin-based Republican strategist, especially with Santorum and Gingrich both vying for the support of the most conservative Texans.

“I suspect if the field was split and if Santorum and Gingrich hadn’t had $5 million or $3 million to spend, then Romney probably would have won Texas on March 6,” he said.

With Texas now one of the last states to vote, the nominee could be chosen by May 29. Even if it isn’t, Santorum is now considered more likely to take Texas, thanks to improving fund-raising and his solidified position as the conservative alternative to Romney.

“Romney starts with a significant disadvantage in terms of public opinion,” said Jim Henson, director of the Texas Politics Project at the University of Texas at Austin, although he added that Romney’s big campaign war chest means that he could spend heavily in Texas to target clusters of mainstream conservatives in major media markets.

A Wilson Perkins Allen Opinion Research poll last week showed Santorum eight percentage points ahead of Romney among likely Republican primary voters in Texas. Santorum was at 35 percent to 27 percent for Romney.

Gingrich was at 20 percent and Ron Paul, a Texas congressman lagging in most polls, was at 8 percent.

The redistricting mess is affecting races down the ticket as well, with many voters not sure where they are registered and many candidates unsure of where they should run or raise money while the court fight has continued.

“I can look around the state and see the confusion in the eyes of the average voter,” said Chris Elam, communications director for the state Republican party. Some 100 Republicans alone have applied to run for the 36 House seats, he said.

The interim map is expected to stand, but there is a chance it could be changed again by the Washington court.

The May 29 date is after schools close for the summer, leading to worries that turnout will be low, which often leads to unpredictable results.

The race to replace retiring Republican Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison has been most affected by the upheaval. Lieutenant Governor David Dewhurst has been favored to replace Hutchison, because of his statewide name recognition and fundraising prowess.

But the long delay has given opponents, especially Tea Party favorite Ted Cruz, time to raise money and their profiles. Former Dallas Mayor Tom Leppert and Craig James, a one-time television sports analyst, are also in the race.

If no one wins a majority on May 29, state law mandates a runoff vote on July 31, the heart of the hot Texas summer when an even smaller turnout would be expected.

On Monday, the Republican Party of Texas received a letter from the U.S. Department of Justice thatconfirmed federal pre-clearance of the temporary and emergency changes to the RPT rules that were adopted on February 29 at the emergency meeting of the State Republican Executive Committee.

As was reported in previous redistricting updates, during the February redistricting trial, the three-judge federal panel in San Antonio indicated to Chairman Munisteri that the RPT needed to obtain USDOJ pre-clearance on the party’s convention process. The DOJ attorney at the trial testified that his office would expedite the review of the changes and could reduce the approval time from a couple of months to a couple of weeks. The rules changes made by the SREC were submitted to the USDOJ on March 5, 2012 and this week the RPT received a letter verifying that the pre-clearance had indeed been expedited and approved.

Thus, the final legal obstacle has been overcome in the 2012 Republican Party of Texas convention process. The county and district conventions are moving forward on the dates of April 14 or April 21 (will vary by county), and the State Convention will be held on June 7-9 in Fort Worth. For a full list of RPT Rules governing the 2012 Election Cycle, you can visit and view the updated document.





Mitt Romney Pulls Ahead on Super Tuesday But Faces Challenges

Mitt Romney secured a decisive advantage on Super Tuesday but also suffered several defeats, highlighting the frontrunner’s inability to unite the Republican Party behind his nomination.

Romney had a home-state win in Massachusetts to go with victories in Vermont and in Virginia, where neither Santorum nor Newt Gingrich qualified for the ballot. He also led in early Idaho caucus returns and — most important — padded his lead for delegates to the Republican National Convention.

But a resurgent Santorum broke through in primaries in Oklahoma and Tennessee and in the North Dakota caucuses, while Newt Gingrich scored a home-field win in Georgia — fresh evidence that they retain the ability to outpace the former Massachusetts senator in parts of the country despite his huge organizational and financial advantages.

Texas Rep. Ron Paul pinned his hopes on Alaska as he scratched for his first victory of the campaign season.

The most contentious electoral battlefield was Ohio, where Romney trailed for much of the night before forging ahead. With 96 percent of the ballots counted, Romney led by only 12,000 of the 1.1 million votes cast — a one percentage point advantage.

Likely Latino voters favor Mitt Romney for the GOP nomination with 35 percent support, compared to Texas Rep. Ron Paul’s 13 percent, former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich’s 12 percent, and former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum‘s 9 percent, according to a Fox News Latino poll released Monday.

None of the Republican candidates inspire Hispanic voters much, however. No GOP hopeful earned more than 14 percent support in head-to-head matches against Obama, the poll found.

Romney’s expected victories in Massachusetts, Virginia and Vermont, coupled with his struggle against Rick Santorum in Ohio, will not change GOP operatives’ conviction that he is the likeliest nominee. He still has the most delegates, money, organization and experience. And his opposition is still divided among three rivals.

“This is a process of gathering enough delegates to become the nominee, and I think we’re on track to have that happen,” Romney told reporters as he arrived home in Massachusetts to vote in the primary.

Later, he told supporters, “I’m going to get this nomination.”

Romney picked up at least 129 delegates during the evening, Santorum 47, Gingrich 42 and Paul at least 10.

That gave the former Massachusetts governor 332, more than all his rivals combined, a total that included endorsements from members of the Republican National Committee who automatically attend the convention and can support any candidate they choose. Santorum had 139 delegates, Gingrich 75 and Paul 35. It takes 1,144 delegates to win the nomination at the Republican National Convention in Tampa, Fla., this summer.

Santorum waited until Oklahoma and Tennessee fell into his column before speaking to cheering supporters in Ohio.

“We’re going to win a few. We’re going to lose a few. But as it looks right now, we’re going to get a couple of gold medals and a whole passel of silver,” he said.

Santorum’s recent rise has translated into campaign receipts of $9 million in February, his aides announced last week.

Even so, Romney and Restore our Future, the super PAC supporting him, outspent the other candidates and their supporters on television in the key Super Tuesday states.

In Ohio, Romney’s campaign purchased about $1.5 million for television advertisements, and Restore Our Future spent $2.3 million. Santorum and Red, White and Blue, a super PAC that supports him, countered with about $1 million combined, according to information on file with the Federal Election Commission, a disadvantage of nearly four to one.

In Tennessee, where Romney did not purchase television time, Restore Our Future spent more than $1 million to help him. Santorum paid for a little over $225,000, and Winning our Future, a super PAC that backs Gingrich, nearly $470,000.

In Georgia, where Gingrich acknowledged he must win, the pro-Romney super PAC spent about $1.5 million in hopes of holding the former House speaker below 50 percent of the vote, the threshold needed to maximize his delegate take.

In all, there were primaries in Virginia, Vermont, Ohio, Massachusetts, Georgia, Tennessee and Oklahoma. Caucuses in North Dakota, Idaho and Alaska rounded out the calendar.

Some 419 delegates were at stake in the 10 states.

Based on reporting by the Associated Press

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On GOP‘s Super Tuesday, Obama Talks Immigration Reform

President Barack Obama acknowledged Tuesday that his administration was unable to pass comprehensive immigration reform, a promise he made during his 2008 campaign, but said that was because immigration had become a partisan issue.

“When I came into office I said ‘I’m going to push to get this done.’ We didn’t get it done,” Obama said during a press conference at the White House. “The reason we haven’t got it done is because what used to be a bipartisan issue, agreement that we should fix this, ended up becoming a partisan issue.”

Obama was responding to a question about recent polls showing the president holding a favorable lead among Latinos against the GOP candidates in the run-up to November’s elections, despite growing disappointment among the community about the failure of any immigration reform.

A Fox News Latino/Latin Insights poll released Monday of likely Latino voters indicated that 73 percent of them approved of Obama’s performance in office, with over half those questioned looking favorably upon his handling of the healthcare debate and the economy, at 66 percent and 58 percent respectively.

More than half of the poll’s respondents, however, said they felt U.S. immigration policy was too strict and an overwhelming majority – 85 percent – would like to see undocumented immigrants have a chance to legalize their status. A huge percentage, 82 percent, believe undocumented immigrants do work that Americans will not do. They feel the undocumented workers help expand the economy.

“My hope is that after this election the Latino community will have sent a strong message that they want a bipartisan effort to pass comprehensive immigration reform that involves making sure that we got tough border security, and this administration has done more for border security than just about anybody,” Obama said, adding that immigration reform also needed to include making sure companies don’t take advantage of undocumented workers and that there was a clear path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants.

An overwhelming majority of those polled –nine out of ten– support the DREAM Act, which would allow undocumented immigrants brought as children to gain legal U.S. residency if they attend college or join the military.

Obama praised former President George W. Bush and his advisors for saying that immigration reform should not be something that just the Democrats support. “That was good advice then, it’s good advice now,” Obama said.

The president continued on to say that Congress needs to unify under this matter if any progress is going to be made toward passing immigration reform.

“Ultimately I can’t vote for Republicans. They’re going to have to come to the conclusion that this is good for the country and that this is something that they themselves think is important,” Obama said. “Depending on how Congress turns out, we’ll see how many Republican votes we’ll need to get it done.”

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