As you read the rest of this chapter, keep in mind that the predominant factor "on the ground" in Texas electoral politics today is the surge in the Republican Party's success and whether they can hold onto their gains going forward. In 2002, Republican candidates swept all statewide races and took control of both houses of the Texas Legislature, effectively taking over the institutions of state government. The following year the Legislature revisited the apportionment of districts for the U.S. House of Representatives and effectively set the stage for a final Republican offensive on Texas' representation in that body. The success of that offensive can be seen in the changes in the delegation that are illustrated in the feature The Texas Delegation to the United States House of Representatives 1845-2011.
After a series of battles over redistricting legislation in 2003, Republicans succeeded in passing a bill implementing a congressional district map that promised to level the last institutional stronghold held by Democrats. In 2003 the Democrats still managed to retain a 17-15 advantage in the state's U.S. House delegation, an advantage the new electoral map was designed to undo.
The 2004 election subsequently served as the completion of a long cycle of Republican ascendancy. Texas' presidential electoral votes were all but guaranteed to go to native son George W. Bush. Yet, candidates for the U.S. House fought pitched and expensive battles in the newly redrawn congressional districts - particularly in those districts drawn to put incumbent Democrats on the defensive. By election's end, four Democratic incumbents were defeated, and Republicans held a 21-11 seat advantage. Only two of the six districts targeted by Republicans were retained by Democrats. The Republican advantage in the Texas congressional delegation was maintained in the 2006 election at 19-13. In 2008 Texas seemed to be moving back to a more competitive electoral environment in which the Republicans still enjoyed a majority, but within the context of a much stronger and more competitive Democratic party. In the 2008 election, while Republicans lost some ground in state races, they gained a seat in the Congressional delegation and sent 20 Republicans to Washington, DC in 2009 out of a 32 member delegation. With the decennial census, Texas added four representatives to its House delegation starting in 2013. The Republicans gained one seat in each of the 2010 and 2012 elections, bringing their overall number to 24 of the state's 36 representatives.
The Republicans' hold on government and the Democrats' determination to regain lost ground reveal how far the state has come since the days of Democratic Party hegemony. In 2004, both parties exhorted the faithful to get out the vote through time-honored grassroots organizing on the local and precinct levels, while simultaneously utilizing new technologies and techniques to maximize partisan mobilization. As a direct result, in many parts of the state, turnout soared above historic averages.