Texas Democrats have come to the conclusion that they fell short of their expectations in the 2020 election largely because Republicans beat them in the battle to turn out voters, according to a newly released party report.
The Texas Democratic Party laid the blame in part on their inability to campaign in person, particularly by knocking on doors, during an unusual election cycle dominated by the coronavirus pandemic.
The party also said its voter turnout system was inefficient. It contacted reliably Democratic voters too often and failed to reach enough “turnout targets” — people who were inclined to support Democrats, but weren’t as certain to actually show up at the polls.
“Despite record turnout, our collective [get out the vote] turnout operation failed to activate voters to the same extent Republicans were able to,” according to the “2020 Retrospective” report, which was authored by Hudson Cavanagh, the party’s director of data science, and was first obtained by The Washington Post and The Dallas Morning News.
Texas Democrats did manage to register and turn out voters in record numbers in 2020, but Republicans likewise beat expectations — enough to erase any gains made by Democrats and stave off what some hoped would be a “blue wave.”
Democrats had high hopes for Texas in 2020. Public polling had indicated that Democratic nominee Joe Biden had a chance to flip the state. And the party was hopeful that it could also flip control of the Texas House and unseat some Republican members in the U.S. House. But Biden ended up losing by nearly 6 percentage points and Democrats didn’t make any net gains in the Texas House or in the Texas congressional delegation.
Campaigns across the country were forced to scrap in-person campaigning early on in the election year as the threat of COVID-19 grew more serious. While some Democrats resumed door knocking as the election neared, such as Houston’s state Rep. Jon Rosenthal, many remained cautious in what resulted in a costly move.
Just months into the pandemic, however, Republicans again began to campaign in person and by fall had built a robust door-knocking operation. While Democrats had outpaced Republicans in registering voters, their willingness to campaign in person netted a late surge in new Republican voters.
The report described the party’s voter targeting efforts as “inefficient,” saying it didn’t have reliable contact information for some of its highest priority targets.