Other Voices

Texas is unlike other early primary states

Sen. Ted Cruz won in Iowa last week with 51,666 votes. He won his Senate seat in 2012 with 631,812 Texas votes.
Sen. Ted Cruz won in Iowa last week with 51,666 votes. He won his Senate seat in 2012 with 631,812 Texas votes. AP

When you talk about early primary states, remember that you’re sitting in one of them. Texans start voting in the presidential election in eight days.

Iowa is out of the way. New Hampshire voters add their voices Tuesday. And two more states — South Carolina and Nevada — will vote later this month.

But Texans start the early voting for the March 1 primaries next Tuesday, and many voters here will cast their ballots before the results in those states are known.

The presidential field is shrinking, but the nominations won’t be decided until Texans have spoken. It’s partly a matter of timing and partly a matter of size.

Iowa and New Hampshire are important, if only as cutting contests that narrow the number of candidates to a meaningful few.

They don’t decide who gets the nomination — that happens when Texas and the rest of the states weigh in. But they separate those who can from those who can’t.

Several governors at the bottom of the Republican pile are hoping for that kind of resuscitation Tuesday in New Hampshire, and for the kind of financial infusion that might make them viable in Texas and the other Super Tuesday states.

Four contenders checked out after the Iowa numbers were in. More will probably drop this week.

It’s kind of weird that two states with a combined 10 votes in the electoral college would have this kind of clout.

Here’s how many people voted in the Republican caucuses in Iowa: 186,000. And the number of Democratic caucus-goers the same night: 171,000.

In 2012 — a year when Texas wasn’t really instrumental in the nomination races — 2 million people voted in the party primaries. With neither nomination set this year, the competition might increase that turnout.

A decisive win here would really count. Size matters.

Ted Cruz won the Iowa GOP caucus with 51,666 votes.

A candidate with as many votes as Cruz got in Iowa would have been on the losing side in 28 of Texas’ 31 senate districts.

In the mid-summer 2012 GOP runoff that put him in the Senate, Cruz got 631,812 votes.

A candidate coming in third or fourth place in Texas this year could easily win more delegates to the national convention than the Iowa and New Hampshire frontrunners combined.

But timing matters, too. Running in small states is more forgiving to shoestring budgets. Good early performances can attract money.

Starting a presidential election in a state like Texas could give rich candidates all of the advantages.

The presidential candidates get here with one of their problems solved: The voters know their names.

Those same voters have early results to look at, too, giving them a read on which campaigns have a little momentum, who’s acting like a loser or a winner, who ought to get the nod.

Many of the names on the Texas ballot — which has 13 Republicans and eight Democrats on it — won’t really be in the race by the time voters make their choices.

That’s the clout of the early little states like New Hampshire: They get to tell the big states like Texas who’s still in the running.

Ross Ramsey is executive editor and co-founder of The Texas Tribune.