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Anchored by Jake Tapper, The Lead airs at 4 p.m. ET on CNN.

Anchored by Jake Tapper, The Lead airs at 4 p.m. ET on CNN.

On the Next Episode of The Lead

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March 25th, 2013
06:20 PM ET

Could the Red River Valley soon run blue?

The year was 1976. Apple was new on the computing scene. The supersonic Concorde plane had just taken to the skies for the first time. And the Seattle Seahawks suited up for their first football game.

It was also the last time Texans voted to put a Democrat in the White House.

The Lone Star State lent its 26 electoral votes to Jimmy Carter by a three-point margin, a feat which hasn’t been repeated in the nearly four decades since. But some think the state could be on the verge of a political shift.

Among them is Ron Brownstein, the editorial director of National Journal, and CNN’s Senior Political Analyst, who wrote recently that the state’s Republican governor Rick Perry – the one who ran last year for the GOP presidential nomination – could be the one to put that ball in motion.

Brownstein writes Perry’s decision not to accept the Medicaid expansion as part of President Barack Obama’s health reform law means six million low-income people -– the entire population of Mississippi -– will not have access to health care.

When the U.S. Supreme Court ruled Obamacare law constitutional, it said states could not be forced to expand the program.

Since then, at least eight Republican governors have said they would accept it - stressing their opposition to the overall law, but saying they wouldn't disenfranchize their citizens - at least for the first three years, when the federal government picks up the entire tab.

Ramesh Ponnuru, senior editor with the conservative National Review, told CNN’s Jake Tapper on “The Lead” that he thinks “Republican governors are at risk no matter how they handle this.

“The governors who have said they’re going to cooperate with the expansion of Medicaid have gotten pretty serious criticism from Republicans and a lot of the time their legislatures aren’t cooperating,” Ponnuru said. “I suspect if Perry went along with it his legislature wouldn’t.”

In most states, lawmakers can vote whether to accept or not accept the program. In Florida, for example, Republican Gov. Rick Scott’s support for the expansion wasn’t enough to bring around those in the state house.

Several groups, including one founded by former Obama campaign staffers and a separate super PAC, have announced turning Texas for the Democrats as their goal. Obama’s 2012 national field director, Jeremy Bird, told reporters last month the group "Battleground Texas" would “make Texas a battleground state by treating it as one," including launching a major ground effort in many of the state’s 254 counties. But that wouldn't necessarily happen in 2016, he said.

San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro, who built a national profile after speaking at the Democratic National Convention, said the effort “is not just about demographics. ... It's really about getting folks to participate in American democracy.”

Jackie Kucinich, a political reporter with USA Today, pointed out the changing demographics don’t entirely favor Democrats.

“Not all Hispanics in Texas are Democrats,” Kucinich said on “The Lead.” “A lot of them voted for Bush. A lot of them voted for Perry.”

And Cornell Belcher, a Democratic pollster, said on the panel that “Texas is a big, very expensive state” with several media markets, and turning the tide there would require a serious chunk of change.

“Texas is like a country - you would have to come up with a lot more money to put Texas in play,” Belcher said. “So you shift resources from Ohio and Florida to move to Texas? That’s a real risky proposition for Democrats.”

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