Candidates take aim at Lone Star State

February 7, 2008 6:53:33 AM PST
It's back to work for presidential candidates. They hit the campaign trail again Wednesday after Super Tuesday. And now, they're looking to Texas as the next big prize. We're the largest state left when it comes to the number of delegates. That means Texas will be a big player in the outcome of the primaries.

On March 4, hundreds of delegates will be up for grabs for Democrats and Republicans; 228 for the Democrats and 140 delegates for Republicans. Candidates are now turning their focus here.

Have you ever seen red turn into blue? That's what Democratic leaders in Harris County are predicting will happen next month. Texas is considered a critical battleground. The Lone Star State has the last big chunk of delegates left with the demographics to attract both parties, including a demographic that makes up a third of the population in Harris County.

Sandra Nabil is part of a visible change, an Hispanic woman who owns a growing business. She takes her vote seriously and says it will come down to a matter of recognition.

"I have been to at least three functions for Hillary in the last month that Hillary has been there," she told us. "I have not heard of one that Obama's been here."

Senator Hillary Clinton's popularity here in Harris County is about to be challenged. Texas voters are about to be bombarded with Barack Obama. Local Democratic leaders say Senator Obama's campaign will not underestimate Texas' importance in getting delegate votes.

"Obama has got to be here and introduce himself to the voters in Texas, the Deomcratic voters in Texas. What we see throughout the nation is that when he does that, he scores big time," said Harris County Democratic Chair Gerry Brinberg.

Political experts say Texas has what appeals most to candidates, including a large chunk of delegates. And while Texas and Harris County have a history of being a Republican stronghold, there is a serious chance change could happen.

"What's different this time is whatever happens in November, we're really important in March to settle the Democratic business because Super Tuesday turned out to be an absolute draw," said KTRK Political Analyst Richard Murray. "Nobody got an advantage in votes or delegates and that means the states that are left, and there are three big ones and we're the largest -- Texas, Pennsylvania, and Ohio -- become critically important."

A Texas political strategy is already a focus for local Republican leaders who say historic voting patterns won't change.

"At the end of the day, it's not going to be about gender or race," said Jeff Yates with the Harris County Republican Party. "It's going to be about ideology and I believe Texas and residents of Harris County have overwhelming approved of conservative ideology"

Republicans have won Texas every year since 1976. However, this presidential race is considered historically competitive and provides, say political experts, a viable chance for a red state to turn blue.

Right now, the candidates are counting their delegates while gearing up for the next round of primaries. On the Democrat side, Hillary Clinton has the most delegates so far. ABC News is estimating she now has 1,010 to Barack Obama's 895. A candidate needs 2,025 delegates for the Democratic presidential nomination.

Then on the Republican side, John McCain is leading in the delegate race. He's secured 696. Mitt Romney is next with 257 and Mike Huckabee has pulled in 187. Republicans need 1,1 91 delegates to get their party's nomination.