Candidates look to Texas for big wins

Texas, the second-most-populous state with nearly 24 million residents, is the biggest prize in Tuesday's presidential contests. USA TODAY takes a look at the Lone Star State's politics.

Polls close:

7 p.m. CT/8 p.m. ET except in the El Paso area, which is one hour behind.

Delegates at stake:

193 for Democrats, 137 for Republicans


Democratic 'super delegates'

Of the state's 35 elected officials and party insiders who get to vote at the national convention, 18 have made endorsements. Hillary Rodham Clinton has lined up the support of party veterans such as former House speaker Jim Wright and key Hispanic lawmakers such as House Intelligence Committee Chairman Silvestre Reyes. Barack Obama's supporters include centrist Democratic Rep. Chet Edwards, whose district includes President Bush's ranch near Crawford, and Rep. Charles Gonzalez, whose father, Rep. Henry B. Gonzalez, was a protégé of President Lyndon Johnson.

Key voting blocs:

Non-Hispanic whites make up 48% of the population, while 36% of Texans are Hispanic and almost 12% are black. Nearly one-third of the Hispanic voters are ages 18-29.

Party registration:

Texans don't register by party, so voters can cast ballots in either the GOP or Democratic contests. President Bush's home state has trended Republican over the past decade, but early voting returns show the Democratic race is drawing the most interest: Through Thursday, 717,469 people had voted in person or by mail in the Democratic primary; 242,197 voted GOP.

Texas two-step:

Democrats can vote twice for president — and do it legally. First, they can vote in the primary, which will allocate 126 delegates. Then, at 7:15p.m. CT on Tuesday, voters who have receipts that prove they cast ballots in the primary can participate in precinct caucuses, which begin the process of awarding 67 more delegates.

The GOP race:

Texas Rep. Ron Paul hasn't campaigned much lately for the White House, so he can fight off a primary challenger in his congressional district. …John McCain has picked up major Texas endorsements since emerging as the GOP front-runner. They include Gov. Rick Perry and both U.S. senators, Kay Bailey Hutchison and John Cornyn. Hutchison has been mentioned as a possible running mate, but she denies interest. Cornyn once got into a heated flap with McCain over immigration policy. …Mike Huckabee, who hails from neighboring Arkansas, is supported by Rep. John Culberson of Houston and state Sen. Dan Patrick, a conservative radio talk-show host.

Historical notes:

The first presidential primary with a direct vote for candidates was in 1980. Jimmy Carter defeated Edward Kennedy on the Democratic side, and Ronald Reagan beat a former Texas congressman named George H.W. Bush on the GOP side. … The most infamous primary victory in Texas history came in 1948, when late-reporting precincts in the South Texas counties of Duval and Jim Wells gave then-congressman Lyndon Johnson the Democratic Senate nomination by 87 votes out of nearly 1 million cast. The results triggered a court case and a Senate investigation, but Johnson prevailed, setting his course for the presidency and earning the nickname "Landslide Lyndon."

Texas and the White House:

Rep. Ron Paul is the latest in a long line of Texans with presidential aspirations — some more successful than others. Most recently, there's President Bush, who grew up in Midland, and his father, former president George H.W. Bush. The first Texas president was Lyndon Johnson, who took office in 1963. In 1980, John Connally ran as a Republican, spending more than $10 million to get one convention delegate. Sixteen years later, Sen. Phil Gramm spent more than $20 million to earn 10 GOP delegates.

Sources: The Associated Press, Texas secretary of State, Texas Democratic Party, Pew Hispanic Center, Means of Ascent by Robert Caro, The Politician by Ronnie Dugger and The Politico. Polling from; average of six Democratic polls Tuesday through Saturday, and average of five Republican polls Feb. 22 through Saturday.