FORT WORTH, Texas — To no one’s surprise, former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney received the final jewel in the crown of his nomination quest on Tuesday — Texas awarded him 97 delegates in Tuesday’s primary.
The tally was enough to give Romney his “magic number” — the 1,144 delegate votes necessary for a first-ballot win at the Republican National Convention, which will be held in August in Tampa, Florida.
Romney gained nearly 70 percent of the vote in the primary, with Texas Congressman Ron Paul receiving a disappointing 12 percent. Paul suspended campaigning weeks ago, but his enthusiastic supporters were hoping for a strong showing in his home state.
Both the Republicans and the Democrats were holding contests on Tuesday, and voting was open. Any registered voter could take whichever ballot he or she desired, regardless of stated party affiliation.
Turnout was low — barely 10 percent of eligible voters bothered to show up for a race that has been all but over for weeks.
But at Oakmont Elementary School, in a newish subdivision of Fort Worth, traffic was brisk at midday. Republicans had to stand in line to receive their ballots, while the occasional Democrat breezed right through.
Barack Obama, though expected to win, was not alone on the ballot — he faced four opponents.
“I am just voting to make sure some convicted felon doesn’t walk away with 40 percent of the vote,” groused one Democrat, a law professor at a Forth Worth university.
But Keith Judd, the Texarkana prison inmate who scored 41 percent of the Democratic vote in West Virginia on May 8, was not one of the names on the Texas ballot. Instead, the president had to compete with Tennessee lawyer John Wolfe, who received 42 percent of the vote in the Arkansas Democratic primary last week. Wolfe did not do so well in Texas though — Obama got well over 80 percent of the votes cast, while Wolfe barely moved the needle with 5 percent.
Part of the problem with the turnout was timing. The Texas primary was postponed for more than two months because of a bitter redistricting feud that went all the way to the US Supreme Court.
Texas, as a state with a history of voter discrimination, must submit all redistricting plans either to the Justice Department or a DC district court. With the state’s rapidly burgeoning population, much of it Hispanic, redistricting is a frequent, and delicate, exercise.
Texas has chosen to go to the court rather than the Justice Department, but a decision has been a long time coming. The vote proceeded on Tuesday even though final approval has not been awarded by the DC court — interim lines have been drawn and will be adhered to until a final decision is handed down.
This will matter less in the general election than in local races; one six-term congressional candidate, Democrat Lloyd Dogget, has served n five different districts during his House tenure. He hasn’t moved, his district has.
Texas is traditionally a red state — meaning that it will likely give its 38 electoral votes to Romney in November.
It will also almost certainly send at least one determined conservative to the Senate: Texas Lieutenant Governor David Dewhurst won over former Solicitor General Ted Cruz, but the two will meet again in a runoff in July. They have been vying for the seat of retiring US Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison, and the campaign has been a nasty one.
Whoever wins the July runoff will almost certainly be elected in November — Texas has not sent a Democrat to the Senate since Lloyd Bentsen in 1988.
In Fort Worth, most voters seemed to be leaning toward the Republicans.
“Oh, praise God that Romney wins,” said Terri S., a fortyish woman from Fort Worth. “We cannot afford another four years of Barack Obama. He is a socialist, and wants to give handouts to everybody. I don’t mind paying my fair share, but why should I give my money to people who don’t work?”
She ran well-manicured fingers through her carefully streaked blond hair.
“This is class warfare,” she said. “Can’t you see that?”