Can Obama Really Win in Texas?

| Wed May 11, 2011 12:04 PM EDT

In 2008, Barack Obama padded his electoral vote total by taking on John McCain in states that had been ignored by previous Democratic presidential candidates. He won Virginia, North Carolina, Indiana, and, for good measure, Nebraska's first congressional district. Now, Glenn Thrush reports, he's set his sights on an even bigger target—Texas:

On the surface, their rationale seems compelling. The state’s population is about 35 percent Hispanic, almost identical to California’s proportion. The voting-age population in Texas is growing faster than almost anywhere else in the U.S. — with an estimated 1.2 million eligible minority voters, most of them Spanish speakers, added to the state’s population between 2008 and 2012, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

Those trends have been emerging for a decade, but Democrats have, by and large, been unable to capitalize on them, owing to the state’s geography and abysmal voter registration and turnout patterns among Latinos. Obama talked enthusiastically about contesting Texas in 2008 but virtually abandoned the state to Arizona GOP Sen. John McCain as Election Day drew near, eventually losing by a million votes and 12 percentage points.

In the right circumstances—facing off against GOP nominee Buddy Roemer, for instance—Obama could probably come pretty close to winning Texas. It's a long-shot, though, and realistically, any electoral scenario in which Obama does pick up the Lone Star State's electoral votes probably has him cruising to reelection pretty easily with or without Texas. If Obama competes in Texas, it'll be an investment in future Democratic candidates—and a sure-fire sign he's confident about winning a second term.