NPR Promotes Liberals' Push to Turn Texas Purple in Future Elections

NPR's Scott Horsley filed an unashamedly slanted report on Thursday's Morning Edition about the former national field director for Obama's reelection campaign trying to boost voter turnout among Hispanics in Texas as a means of helping Democratic candidates. The only talking heads that Horsley featured during the segment were the former Obama campaign official, Jeremy Bird, and a fellow of the left-wing Center for American Progress.

The correspondent mentioned only in passing that "some Texas Republicans are skeptical that Democrats will be competitive in their state anytime soon."

Host David Greene noted during his lead-in for Horsley's report that "President Obama travels to Texas today. It's his second trip to Texas in two weeks....Obama lost Texas by more than a million votes in last year's election, but Democrats believe their fortunes in the Lone Star State may soon be changing."

The NPR journalist first outlined that "new numbers from the Census Bureau highlight the rising political power of Latinos in the United States – 1.4 million more Latinos voted in the 2012 presidential election than did four years earlier, while the number of non-Hispanic white voters shrank by more than two million." He then played his first sound bite from Ruy Teixeira, a senior fellow at the "left-leaning Center for American Progress", who stated that "there's a lot of upside potential for the Latino vote."

Before playing his clip from Teixeira, Horsley spotlighted that "turnout among Latinos who were eligible to vote last year was just 48 percent, 14 points lower than the turnout for non-Hispanic whites. Latino turnout was considerably higher in swing states though...52 percent of Latinos turned out to vote in Colorado; 62 percent in Florida; and 67 percent in Virginia, all states where the Obama campaign invested heavily in Latino mobilization and won by narrow margins."

The correspondent soon turned to Bird's strategy in Texas, noting that "Latinos account for nearly 40 percent of the population, second only to California. But voter turnout among Texas Latinos is even lower than in the rest of the country. Bird says his team knows how to change that. He's kicked off a long-term effort dubbed 'Battleground Texas'."

Near the end of the segment, Horsley touted that "last year [2012], black turnout actually topped non-Hispanic whites for the first time on record. If the fast-growing Latino population shows anything like that kind of improvement in turnout, and if Democrats manage to hold onto many of those new voters, Teixeira says it won't be a question of whether Texas turns purple, only a question of when."

This isn't the first time that the NPR journalist has filed such a report. On the July 13, 2012 edition of Morning Edition, Horsley played up how apparently, "the demographics are shifting in the Democrats' direction" in Virginia, and lined up three supporters of President Obama versus only one Republican.

The full transcript of Scott Horsley's report from Thursday's Morning Edition:


DAVID GREENE: President Obama travels to Texas today. It's his second trip to Texas in two weeks. He'll be talking about job training and economic opportunity. But the President might have a political agenda here as well. Obama lost Texas by more than a million votes in last year's election, but Democrats believe their fortunes in the Lone Star State may soon be changing. Here's NPR's Scott Horsley.

SCOTT HORSLEY: New numbers from the Census Bureau highlight the rising political power of Latinos in the United States – 1.4 million more Latinos voted in the 2012 presidential election than did four years earlier, while the number of non-Hispanic white voters shrank by more than two million.

Political demographer Ruy Teixeira of the left-leaning Center for American Progress says Latinos' voting power would be even stronger if more of those who were eligible to vote actually did so.

RUY TEIXEIRA, CENTER FOR AMERICAN PROGRESS: There's a lot of upside potential for the Latino vote. There are just going to be more of them; and second, there's a lot of room for improvement, in terms of turnout rates.

HORSLEY: According to the Census figures released yesterday, turnout among Latinos who were eligible to vote last year was just 48 percent, 14 points lower than the turnout for non-Hispanic whites. Latino turnout was considerably higher in swing states though. These numbers aren't as precise, because of smaller sample sizes, but the trend is clear: 52 percent of Latinos turned out to vote in Colorado; 62 percent in Florida; and 67 percent in Virginia, all states where the Obama campaign invested heavily in Latino mobilization and won by narrow margins. Ruy Teixeira.

TEIXEIRA: I think it tells you, you get what you pay for. We know there's this sleeping giant of the Hispanic electorate. So, if you don't do anything, or you just do the average amount, you'll get your average turnout. But there's a potential there to put more effort; more mobilization; more money; more time into getting the Hispanic voters to the poll, and it should produce an increment in their vote.

HORSLEY: Jeremy Bird was the national field director for Obama's re-election campaign. In a video message to volunteers this winter, Bird said their job is not finished.

JEREMY BIRD, FORMER OBAMA CAMPAIGN NATIONAL FIELD DIRECTOR: Where do we go from here? Well, one of the answers to that is Texas, a state at a political crossroads.

HORSLEY: In Texas, Latinos account for nearly 40 percent of the population, second only to California. But voter turnout among Texas Latinos is even lower than in the rest of the country. Bird says his team knows how to change that. He's kicked off a long-term effort dubbed 'Battleground Texas'.

BIRD: Over the next several years, in every single community; in every single neighborhood; our team of volunteers and organizers will be knocking on doors, registering voters, and engaging Texans to make sure that they not only turn out to vote on Election Day, but they become more politically active in the day-to-day electoral process.

HORSLEY: Some Texas Republicans are skeptical that Democrats will be competitive in their state anytime soon. Governor Rick Perry called it the biggest pipe dream he's ever heard of. No Democrat has won statewide office in Texas since 1994, and Democrats fare even worse among non-Hispanic white voters in the state than in many other parts of the country.

Still, the census data does show, over time, big changes are possible. Back in 1996, turnout among African-Americans nationwide trailed white turnout by nearly 8 percentage points. Blacks began to close that gap even before the first African-American President was elected. Last year, black turnout actually topped non-Hispanic whites for the first time on record. If the fast-growing Latino population shows anything like that kind of improvement in turnout, and if Democrats manage to hold onto many of those new voters, Teixeira says it won't be a question of whether Texas turns purple, only a question of when.

TEIXEIRA: 2016, my guess, is probably a bit too soon. 2020, I think, it starts to look a lot more doable.

HORSLEY: By 2020, Latinos are expected to outnumber non-Hispanic whites in Texas, a growing prize neither political party can afford to take for granted. Scott Horsley, NPR News, Washington.

Matthew Balan
Matthew Balan
Matthew Balan is a news analyst at Media Research Center