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Is Texas in play?

The last Democratic presidential candidate to carry Texas was Jimmy Carter in 1976. But political analysts now say “it’s only a matter of time before Texas becomes a battleground state.” That’s primarily for two reasons. One, the state is urbanizing; and two, Hispanics soon will be the state’s largest population group.

The trend seems clear; Romney carried the state by 16% in 2012, Trump by a smaller 9% in 2016, and polls conducted this month show Biden trailing by only 2%. A Quinnipiac poll last month showed him 1% ahead.

But is Texas really up for grabs, or is that a mirage?

“Texas is a true battleground state,” the Biden campaign’s Texas state director insists, “with an increasingly young, diverse, and fast-growing population and the potential to change the map for future election cycles.” But Vox (read article here) argues that “money and effort spent in Texas are money and effort not spent in other places,” citing Hillary Clinton’s mistake in 2016 of diverting crucial resources to Arizona, where she lost.

So the Biden campaign has been hesitant to spend there. He doesn’t need Texas, and campaign officials can argue that other states are more important. However, fueled by anger at Trump and Republicans in general, Biden is raising gobs of money; and some of that could be invested in Texas without reducing planned spending elsewhere. So the situation isn’t parallel to 2016.

Beto O’Rourke says winning Texas would give Biden “an unquestionable mandate.” That could be important given Trump will try to undermine the legitimacy of a Biden victory. And even if Biden doesn’t pull it off, competing there would force the cash-strapped Trump campaign to divert resources from other key states.

Texas Democrats want Biden to campaign there. They acknowledge being competitive in Texas takes “serious investment” but “think the state should be given meaningful attention.” That would also help Texas Democrats in down-ballot races.

“Abhi Rahman, a spokesperson for the Texas Democratic Party, said the party sees a clear path to victory in the state that involves holding on to their advantage in major cities and their suburbs, chipping away at Republicans’ margins in rural areas, and targeting the South Texas borderlands, where a little investment can go a long way. Texas voter rolls have grown by 2.1 million people since 2016, 89 percent of whom the party estimates to be Democrats. Texas Democrats have shattered fundraising records” and “we’re getting the money we need,” Rahman says.

To answer the question, “Is Texas in play,” I think the answer right now is no, but the Biden campaign could put it in play if they can spare the resources to campaign there, and it looks like they may be able to. What’s clear and indisputable is there’s no longer any division in the Democratic Party, or any reticence anywhere among Democrats of backing Biden with all they’ve got — money, votes, and determination.

How long ago last spring seems now, when it looked like a progressive candidate might win the Democratic nomination, and many of us wondered if the party would unite behind Biden. I wonder if Republicans comprehend how deeply despised they are by the majority of Americans?

Photo: This is what many Texas voters look like now, and that’s a big problem for Republicans, especially after the way Trump has treated immigrants.

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