Here’s something you won’t find in Texas: presidential races that are politically competitive in its congressional districts.
The margins by which either President Barack Obama or Republican challenger Mitt Romney carried the state’s 36 districts in the 2012 election was greater than 15 percentage points in 35 of them, according to calculations by the Texas Legislative Council in Austin. Romney won 24 of those districts, by margins ranging from 16 to 62 points; Obama won the other 11 by spreads of 16 to 60 points. Overall, Romney carried Texas by 16 points, 57 percent to 41 percent.
The division of Texas into strongly Democratic and strongly Republican districts owes partly to demographics and where people choose to live.
Democrats do well in urban areas that often include blacks and Hispanics, as well as in areas of south Texas near Mexico that are Hispanic-majority. Republicans dominate in most suburbs, exurbs and rural areas. Romney won 80 percent in Representative Mac Thornberry’s 13th District in northern Texas, almost certainly his best showing among the 435 districts nationwide.
The only Texas district that was remotely competitive was the 23rd, a Hispanic-majority area hugging the Rio Grande River as it spans from San Antonio to El Paso. Romney carried it by three points, 51 percent to 48 percent, and winning Republican Senate candidate Ted Cruz won it by more than six points, even as in the House race Democrat Pete Gallego unseated one-term Republican Representative Francisco “Quico” Canseco.
Gallego’s win made the district the only one in Texas where voters elected a House member of one party while supporting a presidential nominee of the opposite party. A generation ago, Texas voters routinely elected Democrats to Congress while voting Republican for president.
The 2012 Texas congressional map was an interim document drawn by a federal court after redistricting by the Republican-controlled legislature was put on hold by a federal court in Washington in November 2011 over concerns the map abridged minority voting rights.