How Kamala Harris Can Turn Texas Blue

by | Aug 14, 2020 | 2020 Elections, Politics

After months of speculation and weeks of growing anticipation, former Vice President Joe Biden made it official on Tuesday and selected California Senator Kamala Harris as his running mate.

Harris is a historical selection for a number of reasons, it also marks the first time a woman of color, a Black woman, and an Asian American have joined one of the major party presidential tickets. 

That sense of history has given the Biden campaign the type of jolt they had hoped for: In the 48 hours that followed the campaign’s announcement that Harris would be his running mate, Biden was able to rake in a staggering $48 million. 

The Harris selection has provided a tangible boost of excitement for the former Veep as we head into next week’s Democratic National Convention, and has also raised the ire of Republicans across the country, especially here in Texas.

Republicans like little-known Senator John Cornyn are transparent in their efforts to tear Harris down. Cornyn is locked in a virtual tie with Air Force vet MJ Hegar, and the addition of Harris to the ticket could create real danger in a state where Joe Biden has already led Donald Trump in numerous recent polls.

Here’s how Kamala Harris can help turn Texas blue.

Turnout, turnout, turnout

Texas Democrats are already preparing for historic turnout in November, and Harris can help mobilize several key constituencies that could help flip the state.

An increase in turnout in Black communities across Texas would give Democrats a powerful boost, and Harris is uniquely qualified to energize that base.

Not only is Harris the first Black woman to join a national ticket, but she’s also the first HBCU graduate to achieve that feat. Harris packed a gymnasium at Texas Southern University in Houston in an early 2019 campaign stop that was the first major visit from a 2020 Presidential candidate in Texas. With nine Historically Black Colleges and Universities in the state, Harris could energize a new generation of Texas voters in November. 

Emerging Communities 

As Texas continues to grow, a lot has been written and said about the “sleeping giant,” which is the state’s growing Latinx population. What is sometimes understated is the importance of the growing AAPI vote, and Harris also offers that community their first opportunity to cast a presidential or vice-presidential vote for a member of their own community.

The presence of a South Asian candidate on the ticket could end up paying dividends for Democrats in Texas, where AAPI voters could be decisive in several races. 

Sri Kulkarni, the Democratic nominee in the 22nd Congressional District, celebrated the Harris announcement in a press release and touted the importance of the AAPI community in his suburban swing district. 

It may also help Sima Ladjevardian in her quest to unseat Dan Crenshaw in the Second District, a race that is growing closer by the day and one that insiders tell the Signal could be an incredibly close race on election night. 

While Harris’ impact on congressional races is still hard to gauge, any expansion of turnout among the AAPI community will be helpful statewide in what is likely to be a low single-digit race for the presidency.

The Debate 

While many people argue that the VP candidate is ultimately unimportant in the outcome of the election, recent history suggests that it certainly matters. 

In 2016, Donald Trump was basically forced to select Mike Pence, then Indiana’s governor, to ease the concerns of movement conservatives.

I’m 2008, former President Barack Obama tapped Biden to balance out concerns about his level of experience in a campaign against John McCain. Biden proved to be an effective running mate, turning in a strong debate performance en route to a November victory. 

But it was the 2012 campaign that doubtless reminded Biden of the difference Harris can make on one key night: October 7th, at the Vice Presidential debate.

As an incredibly close 2012 campaign was reaching its conclusion, the Democratic ticket needed a boost. Obama had turned in a flat performance against Mitt Romney in their first debate, which raised the stakes for Biden’s showdown with Paul Ryan, the one day Speaker of the House famous for trying to destroy Social Security.

Biden turned in a virtuoso performance that bounced from folksy to commanding and back, complete with signature hand motions and mentions of malarkey. Ryan had no answer, and it gave Obama just enough time to find his stride and put Romney way down the home stretch.

Biden knows Harris was born for a moment like that. He felt it himself when he faced her on debate stages, and he’s seen it through her performances questioning Brett Kavanaugh and Bill Barr. Harris is a gamer if ever there were one, and she’ll be prepared and on point for the showdown with Pence in October.

Texas is the biggest battleground state, and in close races every little thing that a campaign can do to earn additional votes is crucial. The Harris pick plays into that truism perfectly by creating multiple new paths into the Biden campaign for prospective voters, forcing Trump and the Republicans to play even more defense in a cycle that has found them flat-footed.

Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

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Joe brings over a decade of experience as a political operative and creative strategist to Texas Signal, where he serves as our Senior Advisor and does everything from writing a regular column, Musings, to mentoring our staff and freelancers. Joe was campaign manager for Lina Hidalgo's historic 2018 victory for Harris County Judge and is a passionate sneakerhead.

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