Sen. Ted Cruz started raising warnings about his home state of Texas over a year ago.
The conservative senator, who narrowly won reelection in 2018 over then-Democratic Rep. Beto O’Rourke, predicted Texas would be “hotly contested” in the 2020 presidential election.
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And spotlighting the potential challenges President Trump faced in winning the Lone State again, Cruz stressed at the state Republican convention this summer that “this is a real race.”
Fast forward to present day – and it appears to be game on in Texas.
The Cook Report, a leading nonpartisan political handicapper, this week changed its rating of the state from Lean Republican to Toss Up. The most recent polls indicate Trump with a slight edge over Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden that’s within the margin of error.
And even though Texas isn’t a must-win state for the former vice president, on Friday his running mate, Sen. Kamala Harris, campaigns across the state.
It’s been nearly half a century since a Democrat won Texas in a presidential election — you’ve got to go back to then-former Georgia Gov. Jimmy Carter in 1976.
But the longtime ruby red state has become more competitive in recent years.
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Trump won Texas and its whopping 38 electoral votes by nine points in the 2016 election, down from Republican nominee Mitt Romney’s 16-point win over President Obama in the state in 2012. And two years ago, Cruz’s close call with O’Rourke in their Senate battle grabbed national attention.
Harris will team up at a voter mobilization event in the southern Texas city of McAllen with O’Rourke and former San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro, who served as Housing and Urban Development Secretary under President Obama. All three unsuccessfully ran for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination. Harris will also make stops in Houston and Fort Worth. Her trip comes as a Democratic surrogate bus tour this week wraps up after stopping in 14 cities across the state.
O’Rourke took to Twitter this week after the Cook Report revised its rating to stress that “We can win Texas.”
Harris’ trip to Texas comes on the last day of early voting in the state. State officials announced Friday morning that more than 9 million people had already cast a ballot, more than the total turnout in Texas during the entire 2016 election.
While Harris is stopping in Texas, Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden hasn’t visited the state during the general election and isn’t expected in Texas before Election Day. It’s the same story with Trump. And the president’s reelection campaign hasn’t spent any money to run TV commercials in the state.
As the president was departing the White House on Friday to campaign in midwestern battlegrounds, he said things were “looking good” for him in Texas.
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While the Biden campaign’s invested some money in Texas, it’s far short of the cash and resources it’s shelling out in the more traditional battlegrounds. But Biden’s getting some outside help. On Tuesday, billionaire Mike Bloomberg announced that he’d spend $15 million in the last week to go up with ads on behalf of the former vice president in Texas and Ohio.
Longtime Republican Sen. John Cornyn, who’s facing his own difficult reelection this year against Democrat M.J. Hegar, told Fox News this week that the election results in Texas “will be much closer than traditionally it’s been.”
Cornyn, in an interview Tuesday on “The Daily Briefing with Dana Perino,” said Democrats “are getting a little bit of a boost” from the surge of last-minute outside money flooding into the state. Cornyn pointed out that Republicans are “being outspent about two-to-one right now.”
But Trump’s reelection campaign has repeatedly dismissed the possibility that Texas could flip from red to blue. Rick Perry, the former longtime GOP governor of the state who served as Energy secretary in the Trump administration, on Sunday told reporters that Texas was “not a battleground state.”
And Trump campaign communications director Tim Murtaugh told Fox News that “President Trump is going to win Texas again. Amongst votes already cast, the president leads by a very comfortable margin. They are clearly sending Harris to Texas as only a head fake because she loses votes for Biden when she goes into actual swing states.”