Texas Democrats Reached More Voters Than Ever—That Could Be Good News for Biden

As an election during a pandemic continues to unfold, Texas Democrats touted a new record Monday: Two million voter contacts this past weekend alone.

Direct contact is the key to voter turnout.

The news comes as Joe Biden has put renewed emphasis into doing something once seen as unthinkable—turning Texas blue.

"Local organizers have helped us build a foundation necessary to help us win in Texas," Cristobal Alex, a Biden senior advisor, told Newsweek.

The Biden campaign included Texas in its $280 million television and digital ad buy, among a dozen of states it considers to be fall battlegrounds, which will focus on President Donald Trump's response to the pandemic and the economic crisis the country must claw out of.

Of more than 2 million Texans contacted, more than half were sent texts and 615,881 were called. The majority of those reached were voters of color. The state Democratic Party said Latinos—who make up 40 percent of the state's population, and African-Americans, more of whom call Texas home than any other state—are not just part of a short-lived niche program, they are the program. During the last week of July, the party launched Black Voters Matter, a week of action with a commitment to contact every eligible African-American voter in Texas, which led to 1.5 million contacts in one week.

"We lost in 2018 by 215,000 voters, but 2.4 million Black, Latinx, and Asian voters were registered but didn't vote," said Manny Garcia, executive director of the Texas Democratic Party. "Add in new registrants since then, and that's why Texas is a toss up."

Since 2018, two million voters have registered in the state, a majority being people of color and 1.6 million being under 35-years-old.

"We are building multiple paths to victory and know that Texas, especially Latino voters in Texas can help us across the finish line," Alex said.

With a state as unwieldy as Texas, small progress for Democrats has been overshadowed by high-stakes losses like Hillary Clinton's in 2016 by 9 points, and Beto O'Rourke's in 2018, who lost to Senator Ted Cruz by 2 percent and only 215,000 votes. Despite O'Rourke's loss, Democrats flipped 12 state House seats, leaving the number needed to take control at nine seats in 2020.

Polls have shown the race in Texas is a dead heat, with a CBS News/YouGov poll in July showing Trump up 1 percent, and a Quinnipiac poll a week later showing Biden up by 1 percent.

While the demographics and voter engagement is there, President Donald Trump's reelection campaign isn't ceding the state in any way. It told Newsweek that Texas Trump Victory has held nearly 600 trainings with close to 5,500 attendees and nearly 500 MAGA Meet-Ups with around 7,000 attendees, including over 3.2 million voter contacts this cycle.

"Democrats like to pretend Texas is on the table, but they know that's a joke—just ask Governor Wendy Davis, Senator Beto O'Rourke, and President Hillary Clinton," deputy national press secretary Samantha Zager said, sardonically.

But Democrats say the climate to flip Texas has only worsened for Republicans in light of chaos and mismanagement around the coronavirus outbreak in the state, which has included more than half a million cases and 9,000 deaths. The blame, they say, falls squarely on Trump and Texas Governor Greg Abbott.

"In many parts of the state, people know someone who has coronavirus, but a lot of people in South Texas know someone who has died of coronavirus," said a source close to the campaign, who asked for anonymity because they weren't authorized to speak publicly on the matter. "This was utter failure by Trump and how he has failed to lead the country during this pandemic."

In Harris County at the end of July, for example, 65 percent of hospitalizations due to COVID-19 were of Latinos, while only 44 percent of the population is Hispanic.

Voter engagement has changed in the times of coronavirus. In a place like Texas, which has dealt with disasters like Hurricane Harvey—where members of local county political parties literally saved people in danger—the virus led to a sort of mutual aid society on Slack created by the Texas Democratic Party. It boasts thousands of volunteers and activists. "It was a loneliness epidemic," Garcia told Newsweek of the early days of the crisis. "So we built community. You have to represent for people, you have to fight for people.

The virus represents another way Texas has changed in 2020, as it has continued its march towards truly becoming a battleground state.

"We can't think of elections without the impact of coronavirus, it would be irresponsible," said Mary Gonzalez, a state house representative, who said Texas has long had enough voters to turn blue, but not the engagement necessary.

"The difference is now we not only have the voters but we also have the issues to make them realize politics is going to impact your life, your health, and your safety," she told Newsweek. "You can no longer be on the sideline. Schools reopening, if you're working, combo of not just having the voters but also issues that are very real to people are creating this moment.

texas voters
Jonathan Lucero and Valeria Gutierrez prepare to receive ballots and polling equipment near the end of poll closures at the El Paso County Courthouse during the presidential primary in El Paso, Texas on Super Tuesday, March 3, 2020. PAUL RATJE/AFP/Getty