US elections: Is Trump in trouble in Texas?
Polls show a swing towards Democratic candidate Joe Biden in a state that has voted Republican for four decades
When Ted Cruz, a US senator, addressed the Republican Party of Texas’s annual convention this month, he said something few Texans would have thought possible only a few years earlier. “The last five Texas polls in a row have shown President Trump and Joe Biden in a virtual tie,” he said. “This is a real race.”
Texas, far from considered a swing state in recent history, has given its 38 electoral college votes to Republican candidates in every presidential race since 1980. During the 2016 election, Donald Trump bested Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton by 9 per cent in the state.
Yet the Republican Party is worried their electoral reign over Texas may well be coming to an end. Mr Cruz himself narrowly held on to his US Senate seat during midterm elections in 2018, with progressive Democrat Beto O’Rourke losing by less than three percentage points.
With the polls tightening in the southern state, Mr Cruz issued a rallying cry to Republican voters. “The left is not going to stop at anything to come after Texas and come after this country, and we’ve got four months to stop a blue wave from destroying the great state of Texas,” he said.
Abhi Rahman, a communications director for the Texas Democrats, said changing demographics in the state, the Republican leadership’s response to the coronavirus pandemic and a “general disdain for Trump” are changing the way Texans plan to vote.
“There’s really never been a better time to be a Texas Democrat,” he told The National. “We think we are going to win across the state in November.”
A Quinnipiac University poll published last Wednesday put former vice president and Democratic presidential hopeful Joe Biden at 45 per cent and Mr Trump at 44 per cent in Texas.
That marks a shift from a poll a month earlier, when Mr Trump enjoyed a 44 per cent support rating among Texan voters and Mr Biden sat at 43 per cent.
The most recent Quinnipiac poll also found that more than half of the voters in Texas disapproved of Mr Trump’s job performance, while 45 per cent approved.
Campaign finance reports filed this month suggest the Democratic Party also believes Texas is an important investment. Those reports found that Democratic US House candidates in eight of the state’s most competitive districts have set aside $13.9 million (Dh51m), nearly twice as much as their Republican counterparts.
Meanwhile, Covid-19 cases continue to soar across Texas, leaving fewer voters satisfied with how the state’s Republican governor, Greg Abbott, has handled the pandemic.
But the pandemic also prompted concerns over how Texas will approach mail-in ballots. This month, the US Supreme Court said it would not expedite a lawsuit filed by Democrats requesting that all voters be allowed to send their vote in by mail. The case is now in a lower court and could return to the Supreme Court before election day in November.
Not all polls put Mr Biden ahead of Mr Trump, but most recent surveys suggest a much tighter race than in past election years. On July 16, a Spry Strategies poll found that Mr Trump had 49 per cent support in Texas and Mr Biden had 45 per cent, while The Cook Political Report said the state would “lean Republican”.
Greg Crawford, 36, is from the Dallas area and has voted Democrat his entire adult life. “Republicans are running a lot of political ads here and that’s a telltale sign [of trouble] in and of itself,” he told The National.
“In spite of Texas’s Republican branding, we still are a more majority moral people. There are Republicans here who are moral and don’t like what Trump is doing.”
Although Texas has produced politicians such as former president George W Bush, Mr Crawford also points out that the state has voted in leaders such as Ann Richards, the state’s second female governor and a Democrat who held the office from 1991 to 1995.
But not everyone who disapproves of Mr Trump plans on giving their vote to the Democrats. Renato Albieri, 33, from the city of Plano, is considering voting for a third party in November.
“We are always under this divisive climate of left and right, red and blue,” Mr Albieri told The National. “How is everyone supposed to fit into one of these two parties?”
At time of publication, the media office for the Republican Party of Texas had not replied to The National’s request for comment.
With a population of 29 million, Texas has the second largest share of electoral college votes in the country, behind California’s 55.
While the shift may seem sudden to many voters and observers, some analysts and advocacy groups have for years predicted that Texas would become an important battleground state in US elections.
The Latino-led advocacy group Jolt Action says Latinos will make up the majority of the state’s electorate by 2022. As the Trump administration continues to crack down on immigration and migrant communities, the group expects the number of Latinos taking to the polls to continue to increase across Texas.
“Texas has a huge Latinx population,” Carmen Ayala, culture and events manager at Jolt, told The National. “More and more young Latinos are voting [because] we have witnessed and experienced the brutality of the Trump administration’s policies on our community.”
Ms Ayala, who is also the former executive director of the Dallas County Democratic Party, said that Texas would only become more of a “battleground state” moving forward.
Before primary runoff elections this month, Jolt sent out more than 10,000 text messages to Latino voters in the state, encouraging people to take to the ballot box. “Young people are moved by social injustice and I think they are paying attention,” Ms Ayala said.
Yet even as polls show Texas turning into a swing state, Republican voters are still hopeful that their party will hang on to it.
Kyle Roan, 33, from McKinney, said he planned to cast his vote for Mr Trump in November.
“The urban areas are always going to go blue, but the thing about Texas is it’s mainly still rural,” he told The National. “Texas is a red state … and I think it’s going to stay red for the foreseeable future.”
Updated: July 26, 2020 04:35 PM