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5 Reasons Texas Matters More For The GOP Nomination Than Iowa Or N.H.

Big Tex at the State Fair of Texas in Dallas.
Patricia Marroquin
Moment Editorial/Getty Images
Big Tex at the State Fair of Texas in Dallas.

Presidential candidates may be camping out this month in Iowa and New Hampshire, but Texans know that the Lone Star State is the real prize in the 2016 Republican primaries.

It may sound like Texan bragging, but no matter how you slice it, Texas matters — big.

"Texas has an outsize impact on the GOP nomination," said Ted Delisi, a Republican strategist who's worked for Texas Sen. John Cornyn and former Gov. Rick Perry.

1. Delegates, Delegates, Delegates

To become the party's presidential nominee, candidates need to win a majority of the delegates to the Republican National Convention.

On March 1, 12 states will hold primaries with the single greatest number of delegates up for grabs on any one day. Win five of them — Alaska, Arkansas, Colorado, Minnesota and Vermont — and you just might walk away with as many delegates as you get by winning some share of the 155 delegates from Texas.

"That's an eighth — 12-and-a-half percent all the way toward the nomination, and if a campaign does really well in Texas, it is obviously the crown jewel of what's at stake on March 1st," said Delisi.

2. It's Home Field For Plenty Of Candidates

Sen. Ted Cruz may represent Texas in the Senate, but plenty of other candidates have Texas ties.

Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee went to college in Texas. Former Sen. Rick Santorum is involved with EchoLight Studios, which used to be based in the state. Former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush were both born in the state. Bush's brother, George W., was governor of Texas, and Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul grew up in Texas, and his father represented a congressional district there for years.

3. The Campaigns Are Already On The Ground In Texas

Paul opened a campaign office in Austin way back in March and brought former Texas GOP chairman Steve Munisteri onto his campaign. Fiorina recently hired Rick Perry's campaign manager and Bush's last name alone connects him to lots of wealthy donors.

In a state this big and complicated, these are important connections.

"I think the campaigns that have momentum, have resources, and can most exploit those places to pick up delegates...have the potential to do very well," said GOP strategist Delisi.

4. Texas Is Ground Zero For The GOP's Top Priorities

Republicans love to tout how the state's business-friendly economy has outpaced the rest of the country in terms of job growth. Texas has one of the most restrictive abortion laws in the country, a law that's heading to the Supreme Court in 2016. And while candidates can talk about securing the border in Iowa, it sounds and looks better when you're on the border — like when Donald Trump visited Laredo this summer.

5. Will The GOP Field Be Winnowed In Texas?

In past elections, there's usually a major winnowing of presidential candidates after Iowa and New Hampshire. But with Texas and other Super Tuesday states coming less than a month later, Delisi argues that more candidates than usual may make a stand in Texas.

"They're still focused on Iowa and New Hampshire. But they understand that as the process gets going they need to have infrastructure here. So that when they catch their moment, they want to be ready for it here," Delisi said.

So enjoy the caucuses and have fun in New Hampshire. But pay attention to what happens in Texas.

Copyright 2016 KUT 90.5

Ben Philpott covers politics and policy for KUT 90.5 FM. He has been covering state politics and dozens of other topics for the station since 2002. He's been recognized for outstanding radio journalism by the Radio and Television News Directors Association, Public Radio News Directors Incorporated, the Texas Associated Press Broadcasters and twice by the Houston Press Club as Radio Journalist of the Year. Before moving to Texas, he worked in public radio in Birmingham and Tuscaloosa, Ala., and at several television stations in Alabama and Tennessee. Born in New York City and raised in Chattanooga, Tenn., Philpott graduated from the University of Alabama with a degree in broadcast journalism.

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