Texas Democrats Call for Biden Visit and Say Time is Now to Turn Texas Blue

Julian Castro traces his work to turn Texas blue to 2010, when he was mayor of San Antonio and Bill White ran for governor. The prospect seemed daunting.

For Manny Garcia, the executive director of the Texas Democratic Party, it was 2009, when a 76-74 statehouse deficit for Democrats in 2009 was wiped out by the rise of the Tea Party in 2010.

Others say the dream of turning Texas blue began when former Texas governor George W. Bush was elected president in 2000, or earlier.

But state Democrats say one thing is clear just three weeks before Election Day: The time to turn Texas blue has arrived.

With Joe Biden's campaign pumping millions into the Texas airwaves and the FiveThirtyEight polling average showing President Donald Trump leading Biden by only 1.4 points, Lone Star state Democrats want the campaign to go all in.

Douglas Emhoff did a Texas tour last week and Dr. Jill Biden visited El Paso, Dallas, and Houston Tuesday on the first day of early voting. Now Newsweek has learned that Senator Kamala Harris will also visit Texas, according to two Democrats with knowledge of the plans.

"I'd love to see Biden visit, President Obama here, and Senator Harris, too," Castro, who ran for president during the primary, told Newsweek. "All of them are really respected, have a lot of support, and could excite people throughout Texas. How do you turn it down when the last poll had Biden 49, Trump 48?"

Castro was citing a poll from Democratic firm Public Policy Polling last week. A Morning Consult tracking poll Tuesday found Trump leading 49 percent to 47 percent, with a 1.7 percent margin of error.

Beto O'Rourke, whose own 2018 senate run thrilled Democrats before he fell short by 215,000 votes, told The New York Times Texas is Biden's to lose if he invests now, "and that must include his time and presence in the state," which would deny Trump the chance to declare victory illegally and provide help down-ballot, he argued.

Garcia said its his job to call for more investment and more high-profile visits, including Joe Biden. He told Newsweek the eyes of the nation are now on Texas, watching to see if Biden and Democrats up and down the ticket can overturn the electoral map by winning in Texas and effectively crushing Trump's reelection chances.

Increasingly confident Democrats received another boost Monday, with news that the Texas electorate has reached 16,917,486 voters, equaling nearly two million more registered since November 2016. Garcia said he expects the number to reach 17 million once the data is certified, which is exactly the lofty goal the party set two years ago based on whether it could reach "rockstar voter registration."

The most voters were added in Harris county, which gained 238,698, while Bexar gained 136,889 new registrants, and Travis County 126,155 added new voters, which the Houston Chronicle's Jeremy Wallace noted on Twitter is "a half million more voters in three very blue counties than in 2016."

Despite conventional wisdom that Latinos in Texas are more conservative, Texas Democrats said you don't reach numbers like these without the growth of the Latino vote for Democrats, something they say must continue into November for Biden to win and state house seats across the state to flip Democratic.

"Joe Biden has said we hold the destiny of this country in our hands," Garcia said. "Well, we're seeing a community that understands what is at stake, and overcoming barriers deliberately placed in front of them."

Biden campaign sources said it recognizes Texas will turn blue through a dedicated effort to reach Latinos, and said data from campaign pollster Matt Barreto has shown Biden's strength with Latinos in Texas has the race "neck and neck."

While the campaign touted a $6.3 million ad blitz set to blanket key markets, the ad tracking service Medium Buying found that the buy was scaled back for the week of October 13 to 19, with ads only staying up in the heavily-Latino markets of El Paso and San Antonio, except for spending in multiple markets for the Dallas Cowboys football game against the New York Giants.

The Trump campaign did not respond to a request for comment before publication, but it is banking on a changing Texas retaining enough of the electoral characteristics that have kept the state red for decades. White voters still made up 51 percent of the Texas electorate in 2018, Pew Research Center found, and the campaign is banking on its strength with white evangelical voters to stop the Democratic advance. Other recent polls have shown Trump with slightly larger leads, like a University of Texas/Texas Tribune poll last week that showed Trump up by 5 points.

Democrats have also prepared for months for Republican opposition to making voting easier in Democratic counties, with the Texas Republican Party filing a lawsuit to challenge plans to offer curbside voting and stop drive-thru voting efforts on Monday night, just hours before early voting was set to start.

The Texas Democratic Party said voter protection efforts often start late—in August or September, but this year aided by Stacey Abrams' group Fair Fight Action, the party was able to begin planning its initiative in January, and pilot the program and work out the kinks during the primary.

A blue Texas, toiled for by activists and Democrats doing the unglamorous work cycle after cycle is within reach, Democrats said, and it wouldn't just be about who wins or loses the presidency.

"You take away this idiot Trump and you're sitting here January 20 with a new electoral map where Latinos are at the center of that," Castro said, citing the possibility of not just Texas, but Arizona, North Carolina, and Georgia turning blue as well. "It's not about Texas alone, it would be about the balance of power in politics and in an electoral map that really empowers Latinos."

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DALLAS, TX - MARCH 02: Democratic presidential candidate former Vice President Joe Biden speaks during a campaign event on March 2, 2020 in Dallas, Texas. Biden continues to campaign before the upcoming Super Tuesday Democratic presidential primaries. Ron Jenkins/Getty Images/Getty
Texas Democrats Call for Biden Visit and Say Time is Now to Turn Texas Blue | U.S.