Should Biden give up on Texas?

That’s a burning question on the occasion of him dropping half a million bucks or thereabouts to run a new TV ad in the Lone Star state. He’d have to be a sucker to waste money on Texas this year when there are so many more promising targets on the map, argues Sarah Longwell. I think that’s right and I suspect Team Biden agrees. The new ad buy is probably more of a “psy op” aimed at encouraging the media narrative that Biden has Trump on the run even in red states than it is the beginning of an earnest play to win the state. Longwell:


We went through this exercise with Beto O’Rourke and the Senate race in 2018. Beto out-raised Ted Cruz an unthinkable $70 million to $33 million and Cruz still won by more than 2 percentage points. And it’s not like Cruz is popular in the state. Cruz’s approval rating in June of 2018 was a dismal 39 percent…

Looking at total fundraising for the campaigns and the largest outside groups, Politifact reported on July 8 that Biden had raised $491 million to Trump’s $726 million. Biden is sitting with the small stack, which means that he needs to play his hand accordingly. There’s no reason for him to push that many chips into the center of the table to take a run at a state that Trump won by 9 points and where a Democrat presidential candidate hasn’t won since 1976.

That’s just a bad bet, pure and simple.

If Biden had a $250 million advantage on Trump instead of vice versa then, sure, spend a little of that windfall on Texas to try to expand the map. A poll out this past weekend showed him leading by five in the state, an almost unthinkable development at the start of the year. It’s certainly competitive, and there are enough electoral votes at stake there — 38 — that it could singlehandedly hand Biden the election. Really! Give him all the Hillary states from 2016 plus Texas and it’s 270-268 for Sleepy Joe.

Hard to resist a prize like that, but he should resist it for a simple reason. As Longwell says, there are plenty of bluer states that went for Trump four years ago that are ripe for the plucking and every dollar spent on Texas is a dollar that can’t be spent elsewhere. Although the poll that had him up five in TX was encouraging for Democrats, it was also an outlier. No other survey taken there since February has had Biden ahead by more than a point. Contrast that with Arizona, where he leads by an average of 2.8; North Carolina, where it’s 3.3. points; or, most importantly, Florida, where it’s 6.0.


Florida’s an attractive target for Dems because Biden has overperformed with senior citizens in polls and because it may be primed for a backlash to Trump given the scale of its recent outbreak. But it’s also expensive to compete there because of the pricey media markets. Forced to choose between spending in Florida and Texas — and he is, essentially, forced to choose — why would Biden choose the latter over the former?

Here’s another reason why a reddish-purple state is a worse bet for him than a true purple one. As he’s come around towards embracing some ideas championed by the left, views of Biden’s politics have begun to shift left too:

He’s now just about as far from the “ideal candidate” ideologically as Trump is.

Still, it’s worth spending something in Texas just to remind voters there occasionally that they have his attention, even if they don’t have much of it. Here’s the generic version of the ad he’s planning to run there; according to CNN, it’ll be tweaked with a customized line about how the virus may be tough but Texas is tougher. Watch, then read on.

A COVID-themed ad is wise, and not just for the obvious reasons that it’s the top subject of voter interest right now and an issue on which there’s destined to be less partisan and ideological disagreement between left and right than there usually is, which is a sound way for a Democrat to introduce himself to mostly Republican Texas voters. It’s also smart because there’s a backlash in progress against Republican governors over coronavirus. Doug Ducey is seeing it most dramatically in the hot-spot state of Arizona…


…but it’s actually true across the board, according to Gallup:

The numbers for Democratic governors, by comparison, were stable since early June.

I think that may end up accounting for most of Biden’s “strategy” towards high-hanging electoral fruit like Texas and South Carolina, red states that won’t be at risk of turning blue unless he’s already romping across the rest of the country towards an easy victory. He may run ads there from time to time exclusively about coronavirus in order to communicate empathy and to try to leverage Americans’ existing frustration with federal and state governments about the state of the pandemic. Call it the “Message: I care” ad offensive. Just a little something now and then to say, “Boy, this virus is out of control, huh? What a disaster. Wouldn’t you rather have someone competent in charge?” That’s probably not enough to win him a red state but it might be enough to make it close. And if it’s close in Texas, it probably won’t be all that close in Florida.

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