Instead, he said, national Democratic leaders have treated Texas like a piggy bank, raising money from donors living there for campaigns in other states. “No one believed Texas could be won, but it’s a different place today,” he said.
Indeed, Republicans’ margins have shrunk or stayed the same in the Texas presidential election over the past decade. In 2012, Republican Senator Mitt Romney won Texas with 57% of the vote. In 2016, Donald J. Trump gained 52%. Last year, Mr. Trump again won 52 percent.
Democratic spending has grown in parallel in recent cycles: while about $ 75 million went to state Democratic candidates in 2016, about $ 213 million went to Democratic candidates in 2020. That figure for 2020 was still overshadowed by the $ 388 million spent on Republican Candidates, according to Open Secrets, which tracks political spending across the country.
Because of the size of Texas, Democrats and Republicans spend more money there than in almost any other state in the country. But the percentage devoted to Democratic candidates is one of the lowest in the country. About 35% of all political spending in Texas goes to Democrats, according to Open Secrets. In Wisconsin, a key state in every election, 49% go to the Democrats.
There have been some high-profile attempts to invest in the state before: Michael R. Bloomberg’s campaign spent several million dollars on Joe Biden in the 2020 presidential primary. In 2014, Battleground Texas, an effort led by former Obama aides, spent millions – just to make every Democrat lose in statewide elections.
Rafael Anchia, a Dallas Democratic state legislator and chairman of the Mexican-American Legislative Group, said Mr. O’Rourke’s campaign was the only statewide Democratic effort in recent memory with a budget large enough to reach the entire state. Mr Anchia said that, like other Democrats in Texas, he had argued with domestic funders that the state could be competitive.
“Texas is no longer considered that fool’s gold,” he said. “It has a demographics similar to California, but it is a low turnout, low voting state.”