If you needed any more proof that Texas is a permanent fixture in the klieg lights of presidential politics in 2020, look at what’s happening in these first weeks of January.
Last weekend, Michael Bloomberg, one of the nation’s most prominent climate change advocates, visited Austin, San Antonio, and Dallas on a “Get It Done Express” bus tour. His campaign is expected to hire 150 staffers for his Texas operation—by far the largest among those vying for the Democratic nomination.
Elizabeth Warren, whom political star Julián Castro endorsed, has hired almost two dozen staffers and is opening a Houston office on Friday. Bernie Sanders is just five points behind Trump in the state and is popular, at least nationally, among Hispanics. (Respected analyst Ronald Brownstein notes “there are signs Hispanics may prove a kind of secret weapon for Sanders.) Pete Buttigieg has made 24 stops in Texas mostly for fundraising purposes, according to the Dallas Morning News candidate tracker.
And Joe Biden, who’s touching down in Dallas and Houston this week, sees Texas “as crucial to securing the nomination…the real difference-maker for him” in winning the primary, according to Reuters.
The flurry of activity among Democratic presidential candidates isn’t normal. Candidates make a few one-off fundraising trips here every four years, but this year is different in terms of frequency and depth of campaign operation.
As telling, if not more, as to Texas’ swing state status is what the Trump campaign is doing.
Per Bully Pulpit Interactive, Team Trump has spent $1.6 million on Facebook ads in Texas over the past year (Bloomberg and Exxon Mobil aren’t far behind his level of Facebook spending in the state). Beyond where his campaign is putting their money, Team Trump is repeatedly putting the candidate in the state. He or his family has made nine trips here during this election cycle. On Sunday, he is scheduled to speak at the American Farm Bureau’s annual convention in Austin.
(Farmers, the way, have been hammered economically by Trump’s reckless trade policy. The trade war he started has affected agricultural exports, including nearly half a billion dollars in cotton exports to China.)
We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again: You don’t spend time and money in states you’re confident in. Several polls show he’s doing poorly in Texas, traditionally a hotbed of red. Republicans, by their own admission, are getting killed in the suburbs – because of the president.
Trump may win Texas by 3 to 5 points, a smaller margin than the 9 percentage points in 2016. What may also happen is that he barely loses the state, given the intensity and financial resources on the Democratic side. Much of it will depend on who the Democratic nominee is. The Texas primary is March 3.
Photo: Loren Elliott/Getty Image