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What should Joe Biden do in Texas?

“Win” would be my preferred answer, but it’s more complicated than that.

No matter how frequently it happens, it’s always a bit startling.

Ever since February 2019, polls have been coming out indicating that former Vice President Joe Biden is competitive with — sometimes even leading — President Donald Trump in Texas. A June 3 poll by Quinnipiac University gave Trump a 1-percentage-point lead in the state. A recent FiveThirtyEight roundup of “key battleground state” polls taken since May 1 shows Trump up by an average of 1.5 points here.

And every time a survey is released, the same questions arise: Is 2020 the year deep red Texas flips to the Democrats? Is Republican U.S. Sen. John Cornyn in trouble as well?

But for many in politics, the consideration is slightly different: The state is clearly more competitive. But even if Biden can compete here, how seriously will he choose to?

The answer to that question is more complicated. For Biden and his allied groups, making a run for Texas is no simple task and there are strategic considerations beyond looking at the polls. The most immediate objectives for national Democrats in 2020 are to recapture the White House and Senate majority. And Texas is far from necessary for either.

Recent polls have suggested Biden might hold an even stronger position in other states that Trump won in 2016 — Michigan, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, Arizona, Florida, North Carolina, Ohio and even Georgia. And because of its vast size, numerous media markets and massive population, Texas is more expensive to compete in. The paths to victory for Biden are so great in number, it’s hard for many political operatives to imagine a scenario where Texas would flip where it would be anything other than icing on the cake in a much broader national victory.

In other words, the cost of seriously trying to win Texas would almost certainly be high, while there’s a decent chance that the reward would ultimately prove inconsequential.

Below the surface, however, the presidential race in Texas still matters — an underperformance by Trump compared to recent history has the potential to reset Texas politics for the next decade. The central question in the political class every time one of these polls is released five months out from Election Day is: What kind of down-ballot damage could Republicans potentially suffer if Biden has coattails?

You know the polling situation; as of the most recent poll, where Biden led Trump by one point, Trump led in Texas by an average of 2.0 points. That’s a smidge less than the Ted Cruz margin of victory over Beto in 2018, and as disappointed as we all were with that result, we saw the effect downballot. I for one would not mind an encore of that kind of performance. What it all comes down to is two competing factors from Biden’s perspective. One is that he doesn’t need to win Texas to take the Presidency. If Texas is truly winnable for him, then he’s pretty much assured to have enough electoral votes to have won. I mean, if Texas is flipping, then surely Arizona and Florida and North Carolina and maybe even Georgia have gone blue, and the rout is on. Texas is an insanely expensive state to compete in, with something like 27 media markets for ad buys. The bang for your buck is much bigger in the old faithfuls like Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. Boring, but no one wants to take anything for granted.

On the other hand, that same downballot effect is a real thing for Biden to consider. There’s a Senate race here, which is likely going to be roughly as competitive as the Presidential race is. It sure would be nice to have another Dem in the Senate, and that makes Texas a twofer for Biden, which isn’t true for Florida or Pennsylvania or Wisconsin. (North Carolina and Arizona and Georgia and Iowa, on the other hand…) Plus, there are multiple Congressional seats available for pickup, one of which offers the chance to defenestrate Ted Cruz minion Chip Roy. Even the battle for the Texas State House is important, as that would give the Dems some leverage in drawing the next Congressional map. One would hope that Joe Biden learned the lesson of 2010 well enough to consider the advantage of flipping the State House here.

So of course I want Biden to compete here, as seriously as possible. I want Dems to win as many races as possible, and I can’t think of anything that would be a bigger psychological blow to the Republicans, both nationally and here, than seeing Texas go Democratic in a Presidential election. It would sure be a hell of a momentum boost headed into 2022, which for us is an even bigger election. (Another advantage for Biden: The possibility of throwing out the single biggest cause of ridiculous anti-Democratic lawsuits, AG Ken Paxton.) If he has to raise more money to afford it, then get on that. I understand the cost/benefit analysis, but I’m not going to claim to be impartial here. You have a real shot here, Joe Biden. Don’t throw it away.

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11 Comments

  1. blank says:

    The State House combines likelihood and value of winning better than the others. There is no way Texas is the tipping point state in the Presidential race, and the Democrats are likely to comfortably control the House regardless of the results of Texas. The Senate seat would be highly valuable, because Biden could name RBG’s successor without having too many headaches. However, Predictit has this race at about a 1 in 4. By contrast, I would put the likelihood of winning the State House around 40%.

  2. Flypusher says:

    I just saw a Trump ad on Ch13. It’s still June.

    TX-22 & TX-23 are ripe for flipping and the StateHouse is a possibility, link Blank says. If Mike Bloomberg is serious about helping, there’s plenty of opportunity here.

  3. brad says:

    If Biden is thinking of Texas he needs to focus on helping the state house candidates. Redistricting is an important ten year bonus.

    Cornyn’s US Senate seat is too far of a reach in my opinion. If Biden wins the presidency I would prefer a Democratic Senate, but it doesn’t really matter who controls the Senate as he can still nominate whoever he wants. And how bad is it that he would actually have to pick a “moderate/independent/whatever” Supreme Court nominee. Unless you are naked partisan…which regretfully most folks are in this country.

    Maybe that talented jurist Merrick Garland could get re-nominated.

  4. Mainstream says:

    Brad, I agree that Cornyn is safe.

    Flypusher, in view of the nasty primary runoff between Wall and Nehls in CD22, I would expect CD 22 now leans D.

  5. Flypusher says:

    You have to wonder if Wall took a close look at TX-22 before packing her carpetbag. There’s a lot of Asian-Americans here, and those racist ads she previously aired aren’t going to play well with many of us.

    No fan of Nehls, but at least he isn’t polluting the airwaves.

  6. Manny says:

    With Trump on the top of the ticket, I would not think that Mr. Kiss Trump’s behind Cornyn is safe.

    This deal with the Russians paying the Taliban kill American soldiers and Trump knowing and not just failing to do anything, but instead kept insisting the Russia be added to the G-7 group. Even Republicans may get concerned. Trump will take a lot of people down with him.

    But I still believe that Trump will drop out.

  7. brad says:

    Manny,

    Personally I don’t think there is any scenario that Trump voluntarily drops out. Not in his DNA.

    I do see him replacing Pence though.

  8. Christopher Busby says:

    If polling is still showing a 1-2 point race either direction come election day my prediction is that Biden wins as undecideds break heavy for him. Also general election polls have failed to accurately account for the views of the non-english speaking population which makes up a significant vote share in Texas. If Biden wins the state by more than 3 I expect him to pull the US Senate nominee and most/all of the statewide judicial candidates with him. Failing to invest in the state is a big mistake for national democrats but the year might just be so bad for republicans that it could flip anyway.

  9. Manny says:

    Brad it is in his DNA, always has been. But time will tell, personally I hope he stays in as it is good for the Democrats.

    https://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2015/10/donald-trump-2016-quit-business-deals-213264

  10. Bill Daniels says:

    I hope he does come to Texas to campaign. Here he is at an “unscripted” press conference just today, admitting he has a list of reporters to call on for questions. It’s almost like it was all preplanned and rehearsed, or something.

    https://thedonald.win/p/GIEfCjEj/biden-says-he-has-list-of-report/c/

  11. Flypusher says:

    You rag on Biden‘s performance after your boy DonnieDimwit completely whiffed on a T-ball question offered up by fawning sycophant Sean Hannity? That has to rate among the dumbest and most hypocritical things you’ve posted here.

    The levels of pure shamelessness you and your ilk display will keep the psychologists busy for decades to come.

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