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Texas-sized primaries mark official start to crucial midterm elections



WASHINGTON — Texas is firing the starting gun on this year’s midterm elections Tuesday with a slate of primaries that will offer some of the first hard data on the mood of the electorate under President Donald Trump.

These aren’t special elections, like the one Alabama last year, or off-year elections, like the ones in Virginia in November, but the first official time voters get a chance to cast ballots in the 2018 midterms.

Both parties will be watching closely to see what’s happening within their base of supporters, and to get a glimpse at the enthusiasm gap that Democrats are hoping to exploit this year.

So far, early voting data suggests that gap is wide. The state’s 15 largest counties have seen a surge in the Democratic vote that dramatically exceeds growth on the Republican side.

“The Texas primary election offers the latest, and perhaps strongest evidence to date of an impending Democratic wave that could reach much further into traditionally red states than previously thought,” said Tom Bonier, the CEO of TargetSmart, a Democratic data firm.

Historically, primary turnout has not necessarily correlated with general election turnout, but the data has nonetheless encouraged Democrats in a deep red state they’ve long dreamed of turning blue.

“We need to see the final numbers to be certain,” said Texas-based GOP consultant Matt Mackowiak. “But it likely shows high Democratic enthusiasm which should be a concern for the GOP for the midterms.”

Some well-known names will appear on the ballot, including Republican Sen. Ted Cruz.

Image: Rep. Beto O'Rourke, D-Texas, offers an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act

Rep. Beto O’Rourke, D-Texas, offers an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act for approval so it can be debated on the floor of the House on July 12, 2017 in Washington.