Last night, the TX-06 special election occurred. That race was previously narrowed down to two Republicans, locking out Democrats from even being on the final ballot. At the time, it was a good sign for Republicans, as the partisan shifts in the district were substantial compared to the prior election.
Turnout was abysmal for the final round, and in the end, Jake Ellzey defeated Susan Wright, whose husband previously held the seat before his death. And while a Republican beating a Republican normally wouldn’t be noteworthy, what has some celebrating is that Wright was endorsed by Donald Trump.
Here’s Henry Olsen, opinion writer for The Washington Post, getting way too excited.
Trump LOSES his first big test at the ballot box on a abysmally low turnout. Not only couldn't he persuade Repubs to back Wright, he couldn't get people enthused enough to vote at all. His influence is a mile wide and an inch deep.
— Henry Olsen (@henryolsenEPPC) July 28, 2021
Yeah, color me extremely skeptical about the conclusions Olsen draws, and it’s no secret I’m big on Ron DeSantis in 2024 so my analysis is not coming from a place of singular support of Trump. Instead, I’m looking at the dynamics of the election in question and making a reasoned judgment.
Take the turnout issue, for example. This was a very unique situation because it was a Republican lockout. That means that voters were able to sit at home with the knowledge that a Republican was going to win the seat no matter what. I’ll be honest, unless there were serious differences policy-wise between the candidates (and there really weren’t here), I probably would have found something better to do as well. The lower turnout goes in any race, the more skewed the results typically become. Was Trump unable to rally the troops via his endorsement? Or were the troops just not that concerned about a seat a Republican was going to win regardless?
Further, how impactful was Trump’s endorsement of Wright even expected to be? It’s not like he went and did a rally for her or went on Fox News to say go vote for her. This was such a unique race, with two Republicans running against each other, that Trump’s endorsement boiled down to a released statement. How many were even paying attention? Ellzey also had a lot going for him because he’s a known commodity in Texas politics. He was a strong candidate with a good track record.
To parlay last night’s results into Trump’s “influence is a mile wide and an inch deep” seems silly and overwrought to me, and that’s purely an analytical opinion on my part. I do not care one way or another how influential Donald Trump remains at this point, but I think his detractors are desperately grasping at straws in this case. More so, I think they are setting themselves up for disappointment.
The real test of Trump’s influence will come in 2022. Will his heavy involvement in that election cycle help or hurt overall Republican gains (or even lead to overall losses)? When we have that data, then sure, you might be able to make a reasoned argument on what Trump does or doesn’t mean to the party at that point. But using TX-06 as that barometer to make a definitive statement? I just don’t buy it.