Election is tough to call
Significantly more voters tend to vote in presidential elections than in non-presidential years, in Texas and elsewhere.
For instance, in the 2006 gubernatorial election, 4,399,116 Texans voted.
But two years earlier, in 2004, when Republican President George W. Bush was running for re-election and expected to cruise to an easy victory in his home state, 7,410,765 Texans voted in the presidential election.
That is 68 percent more than voted in the governor's election two years later.
In 2008, some Texas election officials think turnout could be as much as one-third higher than in 2004 - despite the fact that Republican John McCain is expected to carry the state.
Part of that prediction is based on the enthusiasm among young people and African- Americans for Democrat Barack Obama, and the huge turnout in the Democratic primary earlier this year.
In that hotly contested battle between Obama and Sen. Hillary Clinton, 2,874,986 people voted. That was almost a million more votes than the biggest Democratic vote in the 2006 general election - the 1,877,909 cast for Democratic Supreme Court nominee Bill Moody.
But pollsters reportedly are tearing out their hair trying to figure out how to get accurate numbers.
One question is how many young people, traditionally poor participants in voting, will actually turn out.
Another is while African-American turnout is expected to increase dramatically, will it?
Yet another question in Texas is whether the state's Hispanic voters, most of whom favored Clinton over Obama in the primary, will vote for Obama, switch to McCain, or just stay home. Since most local races in heavily Hispanic areas are decided in the Democratic primary, the question is what incentive there is to vote.
Also, dozens of South Texas Hispanic local officeholders have endorsed Republican U.S. Sen. John Cornyn over Democratic state Rep. Rick Noriega, despite the fact that those local officials, like Noriega, are Democrats and Hispanic.
Another factor that might affect whether the polling predictions are accurate is what has come to be called "The Bradley Factor." That is a reference when Los Angeles Mayor Tom Bradley, an African-American, was the Democratic nominee for governor of California in 1982.
Bradley was ahead by several percent in the polls - even exit polls, after the vote -- but lost by a percentage point. The misreading was attributed to people polled who had said they would vote for Bradley, but once the voting curtain was closed, couldn't bring themselves to vote for a black man.
The same pattern occurred later when L. Douglas Wilder ran for governor of Virginia in 1989, and David Dinkins for mayor of New York, later that same year. Both were several points ahead in the polls, but narrowly squeaked to victory.
Democrats and Republicans in Texas running for offices further down the ballot have a vested interest in whether voters will just vote in the presidential race and not in other races, or whether they might vote a straight ticket.
Another interesting ingredient is the Libertarian Party candidates running in a large number of races. While their vote is not expected to be large in most races, they nonetheless have demonstrated several times that they can pull off enough votes - mostly from Republican candidates - to change the outcome of the election.
John Hill Remembered . . . . The Texas Supreme Court took a break from its routine Tuesday to honor the memory of one of its former chief justices, John L. Hill.
Hill, whose family was sitting in the front row of the court chamber facing the nine justices, had served from 1973 to 1979 as attorney general. He lost a squeaker race for governor in 1978 to Republican Bill Clements.
Hill died July 9, 2007, of a heart condition. He was 83.
While lauded for his actions as Texas secretary of state, attorney general, and chief justice, Hill was also remembered for his folksy sayings from his upbringing in East Texas - that caused one of his assistant attorneys general, Larry York of Austin, to compile a booklet of "The Sayings of Chairman John."
The reason, said former Justice Raul Gonzalez, who served with Hill on the high court, was "so the staff would know what Gen. Hill was saying."
Among them were "We may have to bite that bullet," which means making an unwanted choice; "We may get another kiss at the pig," which meant that an unwanted verdict might have another chance to be redeemed, and "Anybody with a head as big as a grape knows that," which probably needs no interpretation.
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