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Texas-size primaries mark official start to crucial midterm elections



WASHINGTON — Texas fired 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.

Polls have closed in the most of the state, where voters cast the first ballots in the crucial 2018 midterm campaign.

Tuesday’s races weren’t special elections, like the one in Alabama last year, or off-year elections, like the ones in Virginia in November, but the beginning of a long primary season building up to November.

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 suggested that gap is wide. The state’s 15 largest counties have seen a surge in the Democratic vote that drastically 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 Matt Mackowiak, a Texas-based GOP consultant. “But it likely shows high Democratic enthusiasm, which should be a concern for the GOP for the midterms.”

Some well-known names appeared 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.