Trump vs Biden – Texas: Should Dems go all out?

By Lee Cleveland, Polls and Trends - November 3, 2020

On October 4, The Washington Post published an op-ed by Congressman Beto O’Rourke and Tory Gavito suggesting that Joe Biden, the current Democratic presidential nominee, allocate significant resources to win Texas, a conservative state that appears to be in play for the upcoming presidential election.

O’Rourke and Gavito insist a Biden win in Texas would clinch the election for him in all realistic scenarios. And they are correct. After all, had Hillary Clinton claimed the state’s 38 electoral votes in the 2016 U.S. Presidential Election, she would have defeated Donald Trump.

Biden is running stronger than Hillary so there’s no arguing the aforementioned theory.

And yes, Texas is not nearly as conservative as it used to be. In the 2000 and 2004 U.S. Presidential Elections, Republican George W. Bush carried the state by over 20 percentage points. And in 2008 and 2012, Republicans John McCain and Mitt Romney earned Lonestar wins over Barack Obama well into double digits.

However, after Donald Trump defeated rival Hillary Clinton there by only 8.8 percentage points in 2016, many started to wonder if the state’s days as a GOP stronghold were numbered.

Moreover, and for the third time in a row, the Republican presidential nominee underperformed by several points versus an aggregate of polling expectations. Hence, Trump was projected to win Texas by at least 12 percentage points, 3.2 points more than actual difference. As a result, those who favor a Democratic incursion into Texas, such as Congressman O’Rourke, believe the state is winnable because the latest polling suggests that a mere 2 to 4 points is all that separates President Trump and former Vice President Biden there.

Also, they correctly contend a Biden win in Texas would make it close to impossible for Trump to contest the election.

O’Rourke and Gavito, in their Washington Post article Joe Biden can end the drama on election night. All he has to do is win Texas, aptly argue:

“But the polls show Biden with a comfortable lead in Pennsylvania, so why focus on Texas?,” Here’s the answer: Pennsylvanians are going to vote by mail in huge numbers, and it will take days, if not weeks, to certify the results there. Biden may very well win that state, but we might not know for sure until it is too late, after Trump has already had time to create election chaos and doubt about the results. The same could be said about the swing states of Michigan, North Carolina, Wisconsin and Florida.

Excellent points, but there are some cold, hard facts they must consider.

The Problems for Democrats in Texas:

  1. Trump is still winning most of the polls there. As of the morning October 6, a Real Clear Politics tally of elite pollsters had the president ahead by a comfortable 3.2 percentage points. Moreover, Trump has defeated Biden there in the last 7 polls by respected pollsters; And a few of the results had the president ahead by 3 or more percentage points. Unlike Arizona, a red state where Biden has consistently owned Trump in the polls, the former continues to come up short against the president in Texas, sans the occasional outliers that give Democrats false hope.
  1. In a hotly contested U.S. Senate race in 2018, Republican incumbent Ted Cruz held on to defeat Beto O’ Rourke, himself, by 2.6 percentage points. It was a high-profile affair and the closest U.S. Senate race in Texas since 1978. O’Rourke, who raised a U.S. Senate record $80 million for the campaign, earned over four million votes, surpassing Hillary Clinton’s total of 3.87 million in the 2016 election and received more votes than any other Democrat in Texas history. They gave a tremendous effort and made fine strides, but it still wasn’t enough.

And that’s a hard fact Democrats must grapple with.

Conversely, in red state Arizona on the same night, Democrat Kyrsten Sinema defeated Trump-backed Republican incumbent Martha McSally by 2.4 percentage points in that state’s U.S. Senate race.

For Team Biden, red state Arizona is worth going after while red state Texas isn’t. The 2018 U.S. Senate races and current polling in both states tell us all we need to know.

Yes, the demographics in Texas are changing and its days as a GOP stronghold seem to be numbered. And yes, Biden will make things interesting in November, but the state remains a stretch for Democrats and is not worth a significant investment.

Even if Biden loses in Texas by a single percentage point, he’ll get no more electoral votes than should he lose by 50 percentage points.

We know, based on relatively recent voting patterns and substantial polling over the last 6 months, a Democratic presidential candidate can win Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin, Florida and Ohio.

We also know, for similar reasons, Arizona is very winnable for Biden. And North Carolina and Iowa are certainly within reach.

So, while we can surmise Texas will be competitive in November, there’s certainly not enough data to suggest a Democratic presidential candidate can win there yet.

Team Biden should focus on the low hanging fruit and leave Texas alone.

Tags: Predictions, U.S. Presidential Race 2020