The midterms officially begin on Tuesday with the primary election in Texas. There are a few key themes to keep an eye on:
What will Democratic turnout be like in the first midterm of Biden’s presidency?
Hispanic voter turnout: Republicans exceeded expectations in garnering their support in 2020. Will that trend continue?
How well will Republican candidates endorsed by Donald Trump fare against equally Trumpy competitors?
In Texas, candidates only win the party nomination if they surpass 50 percent of the primary vote. If nobody reaches 50 percent on Tuesday, the top two vote getters will advance to a runoff on May 24.
For incumbents and high-profile candidates, the question will be who avoids a runoff and by how much. For instance, in the governor’s race, how well Gov. Greg Abbott fares in his Republican primary will be a barometer of his strength before the general election. (For Beto O’Rourke, on the Democratic side, there’s little doubt he’ll sail to the nomination on Tuesday.)
Here’s what we’ll be watching.
Republicans who have declared themselves Trump’s most loyal supporters have been lining up to take on Abbott — though Abbott hasn’t allowed them much room. He’s spent the last year trying to prove his pro-Trump bona fides, and his efforts earned him Trump’s endorsement.
Public polling is limited, but it seems pretty clear that Abbott is the favorite, even if he isn’t guaranteed to avoid a runoff. He hit the 60 percent mark in two recent polls, with his Republican opponents — Don Huffines, a former state senator, and Allen West, a former state party chairman — floundering in the teens or single digits.
Abbot’s margin of victory, or whether he avoids a runoff and gets to start the general election early, could signal the strength of his incumbency.
Beto’s second chance
O’Rourke, the former congressman, is likely to win the Democratic nomination outright. He won’t be the only name on the ballot, but he’s the only candidate who is a household name. The latest batch of polling shows him leading by more than 60 percentage points.
The attorney general’s race
Attorney General Ken Paxton is facing a challenge from Republicans including Representative Louie Gohmert; Eva Guzman, a former Texas Supreme Court justice; and George P. Bush, the grandson of George H.W. Bush.
Like Abbott, Paxton has Trump’s endorsement. Unlike Abbott, Paxton isn’t polling far above and beyond his Republican challengers. This race is likely to go to a runoff.
A Democratic challenger in the House
Jessica Cisneros’ primary challenge to Representative Henry Cuellar might be the most consequential race of the night.
Cisneros, who is backed by progressives, is waging a rematch against Cuellar, a Democrat who has opposed abortion rights, after she fell narrowly short in the 2020 primary runoff. But, as Edgar Sandoval reported, conservative Democrats might have more luck in some parts of South Texas.
When the F.B.I. raided Cuellar’s home and campaign office earlier this year, however, the political calculus shifted. The target of the F.B.I. investigation remains unclear, and national Republican groups are watching to see whether there’s a window for whoever emerges from the G.O.P. primary.
The lone competitive House seat
There’s only one district that’s built to be truly competitive in 2022. But we probably won’t know who’s running in it until the May runoff.
Trump narrowly carried the newly drawn 15th District in 2020. Republicans expect Monica De La Cruz to be their nominee, even if she doesn’t win outright on Tuesday. The Democratic race is more scattered, with multiple credible candidates, and will likely go to a runoff.