AUSTIN (AP) — Former aides to President Barack Obama are kicking off a plan to turn reliably red-state Texas blue.
Or as Gov. Rick Perry calls it, "the biggest pipedream I have ever heard."
Spearheaded by organizers of Obama's re-election campaign in 2012 — when Republican nominee Mitt Romney handily carried the Lone Star State — a new push, called "Battleground Texas," officially launched Tuesday with the goal of seizing shifting demographics to make the state eventually winnable for a Democratic presidential candidate.
Organizers are not, however, projecting when that might happen. Nor are they saying how much money they will need to raise and spend to give Democrats a fighting chance in Texas, where the party hasn't won a statewide office since 1994. It hasn't gone for a Democratic presidential candidate since 1976.
Jeremy Bird, a senior adviser to Battleground Texas who served as field director of Obama's re-election bid, acknowledged Tuesday that the effort will take "several million dollars" over the next several years.
"It's going to take significant resources and investments given the size of the state," Bird said in a call with reporters.
He would not commit to whether the effort would get involved — even as a sort of test run— in the 2014 Texas races for governor and Republican U.S. Sen. John Cornyn's seat. No marquee Democratic names have emerged for either of those races, but Bird said they would see who the party puts up and re-emphasized the effort's goal of boosting candidates in local elections.
Lynda Tran, a spokeswoman for 270 Strategies, the firm behind Battleground Texas, said the group is registered with the Federal Election Commission and the Texas Ethics Commission.
About 70 percent of Hispanics nationwide voted for Obama over Romney in November. The booming Texas population is being driven by Hispanic growth — minorities accounted for nearly 9 of every 10 new residents in the past decade— and Democratic organizers believe the changing face of the state will boost their chances.
But Perry, for one, isn't buying that Texas will cease to be a Republican stronghold.
In an interview with the Wall Street Journal last weekend during the National Governors Association meeting in Washington, Perry said the University of Texas would adopt the rival maroon-and-white colors of Texas A&M before the state ever goes blue.
"Democrats are about government getting bigger and bigger and government providing more and more," Perry told the newspaper. "Texans have never been for that, and Texans never will."
State demographers have predicted that Hispanics will make up a plurality of Texans by 2020, and then become the majority between 10 and 20 years later.
For now, even some of the biggest Democratic stars in Texas concede that odds are long in top races for the immediate future.
When a moderator at a Texas Association of Business conference last month joked to U.S. Rep. Joaquin Castro that it could be more likely he would be elected president before Texas governor, Castro laughed and said that it might be true.
"I'm sounding a little pessimistic, but I believe that the Democratic Party can come back," Castro said. "If you look around other states, there has been other periods where Democrats have dominated for 40 years and then it changed, or vice versa. Things will change. What I have said is for Democrats, they're not going to change on their own. Demographics are very powerful, but you have to lay a lot of infrastructure to make that change."
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