In this week's Second Reading podcast, Jim Henson and Joshua Blank discuss the Trump presidential campaign's law and order campaign in the wake of the Republican National Convention and the shootings in Kenosha, Wisconsin, and briefly touch on the Texas Attorney General's efforts to prevent Harris County from sending mail-in voting applications to everyone in the county.
With their parties’ national conventions behind them and the final phase of the presidential campaign set to begin after the Labor Day weekend, both Donald Trump and Joe Biden will seek to reinforce their framing of the campaign this week amidst the backdrop of continued attention to the reckoning with racism in the U.S. after recent events in Kenosha, Wisconsin. Each seeks to mobilize a base that is likely unpersuadable by the other side given the combination of party polarization and the overwhelmingly negative perceptions that partisans hold of the opposing candidate — but which must be turned out in their respective entireties to maintain parity in the closely dividely country. Yet around the edges, these efforts to fire up partisan supporters can’t alienate the thin share of voters who are either undecided partisans, truly independent, or whose partisan inclination might be shaken by the volatile issues at the intersection of race and policing.
Trump’s efforts to paint Biden as a friend of anarchy and himself as the guarantor of law and order will depend little on the details of city budgets and crime rates, relying instead on predispositions and opinions on visceral issues like race, public safety, and stability. Texans’ attitudes at the intersection of race, policing, and the spectrum stretching from public protests to the meme of “civil unrest” illustrate the likely audiences for the coming efforts by both national presidential campaigns’ attempts to frame recent events to their advantage — the advantage resting in their ability to mobilize their bases while also landing appeals among the narrow band of voters whose votes are still up for grabs.
A set of questions in our 2020 polling illustrates the degree to which Texas partisans are polarized in their views of the systemic effects of racism on policing, of police more generally, and of the protests that emerged in the wake of George Floyd’s death while in the custody of the Minneapolis Police Department.
State Senator Pat Fallon’s Senate seat is not only still warm, it’s not even technically vacated, which made Governor Abbott’s thumb-on-the-scale calling of a snap election for his replacement the major political preoccupation inside the Austin beltway (such as it is) this week. We take a look at the district, presumed frontrunner State Rep. Drew Springer’s positioning there, and possible spoiler Shelly Luther’s potential audience among the Texas GOP. Meanwhile, in Charlotte and on several public properties in the Washington, D.C. area, Donald Trump and his political party attempted to rally fervid Trump Republicans while shoring up some key corners where they fear attrition in November, a tricky task, even if you do have the White House as a backdrop. Hurricane Laura came ashore big, though luckily appears to have inflicted less damage than anticipated. Still, some Texas areas adjacent to the major disaster areas in Western Louisiana were hit hard; we gingerly consider the possible political consequences of the disaster in Texas, along with other data points from the week in politics.
Jim Henson and Joshua Blank dig into the House Adminstration Committee survey of members of the Texas House of Represenatives on their attitudes toward how the House and the Capitol should operate under pandemic conditions, and take a quick look at the context of the race to elect a replacement to fill out the term of departing Texas Senator Pat Fallon in Senate District 30.
The Republican National Convention Through the Eyes of Texas Republicans, via the Texas Politics Project Poll Data Archive
In advance of the convention’s effort to mobilize voters behind the top of the ticket while finding the sweet spot between defining and channeling the mood and agenda for GOP campaigns across the country, we’ve gathered public opinion data on Texans’ attitudes. As both the base and the broader electorate spend the week receiving the messages transmitted by the national party via the convention, we’ve focused on Texas Republicans and conservatives, though where appropriate have also included independents, moderates, and the occasional snapshot of the broader electorate.
While national politics focused on Democrats’ virtual convention and how it would promote the Joe Biden-Kamala Harris ticket, the top three figures in Texas state government made a show of promising a dubious means of protecting the police from the depredations of municipal efforts to reduce their budgets. The policy was vague and seemingly hard to deliver, at least as discussed, but the show was understandable given the latest news on the pandemic and on the data supposedly informing those decisions. Meanwhile, we have a very interesting opportunity to look at the views of a key group of policy makers toward how their own workplace should be regulated in response to the pandemic as the political class ponders how to conduct the legislative session that commences in January, courtesy of a survey conducted by the House Administration Committee chaired by Charlie Geren (R-Ft. Worth). We also got some new data on the presidential election in Texas, which we had the opportunity to discuss with our colleague Mark Jones from the Baker Institute at Rice University. Read on for these and more data points from another hot week in Texas politics.
On August 14, the Chairman of the House Administration Committee, State Rep. Charlie Geren (R-Ft. Worth), released the results of a survey of House Members' responses to a range of questions about the operation of the House in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. A copy of the results was published by Harvey Kronberg's Quorum Report the same day. The questionaire was made up of 38 questions, including 13 open-ended items. We've created graphics for most of the responses, including the open-ended responses, which were coded into categories when appropriate. (Some of the questions were simply general inquiries.) Each graphic below includes the question and the number of respondents to that item. Based on the released results, 116 of the 150 House members responded at least partially to the questionnaire, though not all of the respondents answered all 38 questions.
The Second Reading Podcast: A chat with Mark Jones about the THPF/Baker Institute Poll and the 2020 Election in Texas (August 18, 2020)
Jim Henson and Josh Blank talk to Mark Jones of Rice University about the just-released Texas Hispanic Policy Foundation / Baker Institute poll, which survey Texans about the 2020 election with special attention to Texas Hispanics (i.e. an over-sample).
Governor Abbott reiterated benchmarks for suppressing COVID-19 in Texas, and kept the bars closed which is likely to be very unevenly received among some of his constituents, though a majority likely remains on board with the overall effort. New numbers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released sobering data that buttresses Abbott’s cause among the rationally minded. The Texas Black Legislative Caucus unveiled a legislative plan under the title of the George Floyd Act that would introduce some state-level policing reforms, while Donald Trump was admitting pursuing his own checks on some another uniformed public servants, the US Postal Service, in order to impede voting by mail. And there was big news about fall plans for those interested in college football – and public health. Read on for data and discussion related to these happenings from the week in politics.
The consensus of the day-one media response to Kamala Harris as Joe Biden’s vice-presidential running mate has been “historic but safe”: Historic because she is both the first black and first Asian American woman on a major party presidential ticket, and “safe” because of Harris’ more moderate profile relative to the sustained energy among Democratic activists during the Democratic primary that ultimately pitted Biden against more progressive alternatives. Whatever the adjustments required of the progressive cadres in the Democratic primary, in terms of the general election, she makes it harder for the Trump campaign’s already commenced (and sure to continue) red-baiting smears to stick among the increasingly narrow band of undecided voters.
Biden’s selection of Harris rightly is being taken as a sign of a decisive shift in the Democratic Party that has been a long time coming. To the extent that Democrats’ much-discussed efforts to hasten Texas’s transformation into a consistently competitive state rely primarily on mobilizing Democratic voters, there is a lot of Kamala Harris’ demographic profile in the Democratic electorate in Texas.