The first $100 million campaign ad?

Nah, not quite. It doesn’t have a Michael Bay budget, just a facsimile of one, but it’s fun and potentially a smart way to raise the name recognition of, and a little cash for, the five non-Crenshaw candidates here. (How many persuadable voters will sit through a four-minute ad is a separate question.) The less fun part of the ad is the fact that it’s necessary in the first place. Texas is no longer a Republican lock, as Ted Cruz has been reminding everyone following his political near-death experience in 2018. Even Crenshaw isn’t a sure thing this fall despite his high profile. His district is rated as “likely Republican” by the Cook Political Report even though he’s raised big money. Democrats think he’s a bit exposed on how Trump, and he, have handled the pandemic, but they know beating him is a longshot.

The lesser-known candidates beside him in the ad face stiffer challenges. Wesley Hunt and Genevieve Collins are running against Democratic incumbents who were swept into office in the Democrats’ 2018 blue wave. Those seats are favored to stay blue. Democrats are also favored in TX-23, where Tony Gonzales is running. That’s Will Hurd’s old seat, which broke for Hillary by three points in 2016 and then for Beto O’Rourke by five in 2018. Beth Van Duyne has a better shot in TX-24, which O’Rourke won by 3.5 points two years ago but which remained controlled by House Republicans. That’s because the incumbent, Kenny Marchant, had represented the district since 2005. He’s retiring, leaving the novice Van Duyne to try to hold the seat. Dems think they have a shot there if the national picture turns gloomy for Trump: “If more sitting U.S. House Republicans get into trouble around the country, the national outside groups may have to pull back toward a defensive posture focused on incumbent protection.” That would leave Van Duyne to fend for herself.

As for August Pfluger, I’m not sure why he’s featured. Retiring incumbent Mike Conaway won the district he’s running in, TX-11, with 62 percent of the vote two years ago. It’s not even considered a competitive race by Cook. Maybe Pfluger just thought the ad was a fun idea and wanted in.

The bigger picture in Texas is brightening for Republicans, by the way. Things looked dodgy there at the start of August but Trump has begun to inch away from Biden:

Since early July, Biden has led in exactly one poll of the state. That was Quinnipiac’s survey conducted later that month. Quinnipiac published updated numbers just this morning and now finds Trump ahead by five, 50/45. He’s winning nearly 20 percent of the black vote and has narrowed Biden’s advantage among Latinos to 51/43. He even leads by two on whom Texans trust more to handle the response to COVID. Biden’s under no financial pressure, but you wonder if he’s watching the drift in Texas and thinking that his money is better spent elsewhere.

And you also wonder, given Trump’s upward trend in Texas and in Florida recently, whether battlegrounds with large Latino minorities are going to prove difficult for Biden to win. He has a lot of paths potentially to 270, but if Florida is floating away and Texas isn’t there for an election-clinching pick-up and Arizona seems a little wobbly of late, suddenly his paths are much fewer. It’s basically the Rust Belt or bust. The Democrat is relying on white voters this year.

Here’s Crenshaw and his team.