Texas Governors' Race Goes National as Parties Eye Long-Term Gains

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Robert Stein, a professor at Rice University, predicts that Democrats could lose as many as eight seats in the state House, which could spell bad news for Democrats. But a Democratic governor could change the game.

"There is a lot more at stake than just the obvious Democrats versus Republicans," Stein said. "And the Republicans also know that their future here is very much tied to their ability to win Hispanic voters."

The Hispanic population in Texas has surged in recent years. While the group has historically voted Republican, the recent national debate over immigration and the state debate over social sciences curriculum has alienated some Hispanic voters. But that doesn't mean the group is energized enough to turn in favor of Democrats.

Republicans, confident of Perry's fate in Texas, say the hill is too steep for Democrats to climb no matter how much money they pour into the state.

"This is a Republican year in a Republican state, and Republicans are going to win," said Reggie Bashur, a lobbyist and former adviser to George W. Bush.

White will have to drive the attention of independent voters, and that's not an easy task, experts say.

"They have to overcome one of the most durable sense of political identity that voters have -- their party identification," said James Henson, assistant professor of government at University of Texas, Austin. "Voter registration isn't up. So really what you're having to do is swing voters who've been out, which is really difficult."

Nevertheless, for Texas Democrats who are seeing one of the closest gubernatorial fights in the state since 1994 -- when George W. Bush defeated Democrat Ann Richards -- the opportunity is too good to shy away from.

"We need someone who is more of a workhorse than a show horse," said lawyer Beverly Reeves, who has been volunteering and fundraising for Democratic candidates since 1971. "We're really encouraged by the recent polls. It's very telling that there's Perry fatigue in the state. I think Texans want a very fiscally disciplined leader."

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