Kamis, 29 Oktober 2020

Joe Biden makes late play for Republican stronghold Texas in election campaign’s final days -

The Biden campaign is officially doing the previously unthinkable, and making a serious play for the traditionally Republican state Texas.

Vice presidential nominee Kamala Harris will travel to three locations in Texas on Friday, US time – Fort Worth, Houston and McAllen.

Meanwhile, billionaire and former Democratic presidential candidate Michael Bloomberg has decided to spend millions of dollars on a late surge of pro-Biden ads in the state.

Winning Texas has long been a pipe dream for the Democrats. It has voted Republican in each of the last 10 presidential elections, and has rarely even been competitive.

Donald Trump won it by a margin of 800,000 votes in 2016, or about 9 per cent of the popular vote.

It might be folly for Joe Biden to throw resources at the state this time as well. But its whopping 38 electoral votes are, it seems, too enticing for him to pass up.

Needless to say, winning Texas would guarantee him victory in the election.

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The current polling average has Mr Trump leading by 2.6 per cent in Texas, though some polls in recent weeks have shown Mr Biden tied or slightly ahead.

Yesterday the Cook Political Report, which tries to forecast the candidates’ chances in each state, moved Texas out of its “lean Republican” category and labelled it a “toss-up”.

“Texas is a state that Biden doesn’t need to win, but it is clear that it’s more competitive than ever,” it wrote, citing the tight polls in the state.

“A huge surge in early vote (as of October 26th, almost half of Texas’ registered voters had already cast a ballot) suggests that we could see record turnout in a state that has added many new residents since 2016. That also adds a level of uncertainty to the equation.

“Statewide and district level polling show Biden running strong in and around metro suburban parts of the state, but underperforming with Latino voters.

“It’s also the case that we don’t have a whole lot of experience with Texas as a battleground state. Neither do national pollsters.”

Dave Wasserman, who oversees the Cook Report’s analysis of congressional races, has noted that polling errors in 2016 and 2018 tended to underestimate the Democrats’ strength in America’s Southwest (and the Republicans’ strength in the Rust Belt).

Any similar error this time would throw the result in Texas very much into doubt.

Other signs adding to the intrigue there include a staggering number of Texans who have decided to cast their ballots early. The state has already received 8.5 million early votes, which is more than 90 per cent of its total turnout in 2016.

A big chunk of that early vote is among people under the age of 30, who are usually the least likely to cast ballots in America’s voluntary voting system.

At the time I’m writing this, about 900,000 young people have already voted in Texas – almost triple the number who had voted at the same point four years ago. Voters in this demographic tend to favour the Democrats by massive margins.

This is also the first time in many years that Democratic congressional candidates in Texas have raised more cash for their campaigns than the Republicans.

On the other hand, Democrats’ hopes have been dashed in Texas countless times before, most recently in 2018, when their much-hyped Senate candidate Beto O’Rourke fell short of ousting the incumbent Republican Ted Cruz.

It was a close race, with Mr Cruz prevailing 51-48. But a defeat is a defeat, whatever the margin, and many Democrats genuinely believed Mr O’Rourke was in contention.

Mr Biden himself has not campaigned in Texas. He will be appearing in the more competitive swing state Florida today.

Earlier this week, he did speak to a local Texas TV station, NBC 5 Dallas-Fort Worth.

“The Lone Star State has a shot of becoming blue again,” Mr Biden told reporter Julie Fine, though he stressed the campaign was “not losing focus on the many pathways to 270”.

“We’re on the air in Texas in English and Spanish, and we’re devoting an awful lot of money into Texas. And I think not only (do) we have a shot, but I think the Democrats are going to win back the House, and we have some really good candidates running as well,” he said.

“So I feel good about Texas.”

Fine brought up his most contentious remark – many would call it a slip-up – at the final presidential debate a week ago, when he said a Biden administration would “transition away” from the oil industry.

That industry has a particularly large presence in Texas.

“A lot of people here in Texas were very concerned when you said that. What do you say to them?” she asked.

“Well they should be concerned, if it was interpreted the way Trump is saying it,” Mr Biden answered.

“The initial discussion was, would I take away the oil subsidies. The oil companies get $40 billion over 10 years in subsidies. They don’t need those subsidies. We should be investing that in research and development.

“The oil companies are not going to go out of business at all. Texas is also one of the largest providers of wind and solar in the world. You’re an energy state, across the board.

“So no, the oil industry is not going to go away. And the oil industry itself, if you notice what it’s doing, it’s branching out beyond oil. So people are not going to lose their jobs. In fact, we’re going to maintain and create millions more jobs.”

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2020-10-29 13:39:20Z

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