Instead, he said, national Democratic leaders treated Texas like a piggy bank, raising money from donors living there for campaigns in other states. “Nobody believed Texas could be won, but it’s a different place today,” he said.
Indeed, the margin for Republicans in presidential elections in Texas has decreased or remained the same over the past decade. In 2012, Republican Senator Mitt Romney won Texas with 57 percent of the vote. In 2016, Donald J. Trump earned 52 percent. Last year, Mr Trump again won 52 percent.
Democratic spending has increased at the same time over the past several cycles: While about $75 million went to Democratic candidates in the state in 2016, about $213 million went to Democratic candidates in 2020. The 2020 number was still spent at $388 million. Republican candidates, according to Open Secrets, which tracks political spending across the country.
Because of the size of Texas, both Democrats and Republicans spend more money there than almost any other state in the country. But the percentage spent on Democratic candidates is among the lowest in the country. According to Open Secrets, about 35 percent of all political spending in Texas goes to Democrats. In Wisconsin, a major swing state, 49 percent leads Democrats in every election.
There have been some high-profile attempts to invest in the state before: Michael R. Bloomberg’s campaign spent several million dollars for Joe Biden during the 2020 presidential primary. In 2014, Battleground Texas, an effort led by former Obama aides, spent millions—only to lose every Democrat in statewide elections.
Rafael Enchia, a Democratic state legislator from Dallas who chairs the Mexican American Legislative Caucus, said Mr O’Rourke’s campaign was the only statewide Democratic effort in recent memory with a budget sufficient to reach the state. Mr Anchia said that like other Texas Democrats, he has made the case for national funders that the state can be competitive.
“Texas is no longer considered this fool’s gold,” he said. “Its demographics are similar to California’s, but have been a low turnout, low turnout state.”