2020 Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden once rattled off Texas as an example of a Republican-held state he believed he could flip in the fall.
Yet, with six weeks to go until Election Day, Texas is fading as a so-called reach state, with Georgia, Iowa, and Ohio emerging as better pickup opportunities for Biden on Nov. 3.
The University of Georgia’s Charles Bullock said Biden was performing well in his state. The two-term vice president and 36-year Delaware senator is trailing Trump by single digits, despite not visiting it this general election cycle.
For Bullock, Biden is boosted in Georgia because it’s becoming more diverse and more liberal, or at least moderate. Though some well-educated suburban white women who voted for Trump in 2016 have cooled on the president over issues such as healthcare and his character, he explained.
Bullock predicted a large number of undecided black voters would eventually break for Biden, delivering him Georgia. The state hasn’t supported a Democrat since 1992. Trump won its 16 electoral votes in 2016 by 5 points.
“Trump has done little to expand his opportunities. He plays just to his base,” Bullock told the Washington Examiner of Biden’s broader electoral map.
He added of Georgia’s demographic shift, “Essentially, Republicans are dying, and the grandchildren are voting Democratic.”
Trump, though, is determined to buck the trend, appearing in Georgia on Friday.
“And indeed, watching a lot of television as I do religiously, they are far, far more Trump ads,” Bullock said. “That underscores that the Trump campaign recognizes Georgia’s in play.”
For what it’s worth, Biden’s ads have so far mostly aired in Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Iowa, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Michigan, Nebraska, New Hampshire, Nevada, and Minnesota. One notable exception? Texas.
A similarly tight contest to Georgia is underway in one of those states: Iowa.
Although Iowa has a largely white population, seniors are helping Biden in the state where Trump dominated four years ago by 9 points.
“Biden is poised for victory even though they haven’t come close to matching the Trump spending,” Iowa Democratic strategist Jeff Link wrote in an email. “If he competes financially, Biden can win Iowa.”
Jeff Hewitt, a Democratic strategist based in both Ohio and Texas, disagreed. He said Iowa’s six electoral votes didn’t offer Biden the same return on investment as the other states and that Iowa has a smaller potential pool of liberals.
“Iowa is a bit of a reach, but Ohio is always a solid play in a presidential race. I would never leave Ohio alone. It’s one of those states where if you win Ohio, it’s such a good bellwether,” he said.
Ohio and its 18 electoral votes have a history of picking presidential victors. A Republican has never carried the White House without the state, and Biden’s up in the polls — barely.
In comparison, Texas, with its 38 electoral votes, is also becoming more blue. Hewitt cited the 2018 Senate matchup between former Rep. Beto O’Rourke and incumbent GOP Sen. Ted Cruz.
“Cruz is pretty disliked in Texas, but Trump is even more disliked, so if Beto got within 3 points of Cruz, then I guarantee Biden is going to get even closer than that,” Hewitt said.
Biden is behind Trump in Texas by low single-digits. And Trump’s camp buying air time in the state’s expensive media markets, including San Antonio, indicates they’re “scared,” Hewitt said.
“If it’s this close in Texas and I don’t see many Biden ads, but I do see a lot of Trump ads, if nothing else Trump’s spending resources in a place where he normally traditionally should not have to,” he continued.
For Democratic strategist Matt Angle, Texas wasn’t a Democratic pipe dream, given demographics and Trump himself. Instead, the state poses a logistical rather than political challenge for the party.
“The difficulty in Texas is the expense. Texas is a $50 million-$70 million equation that you’ve got to solve. And so for the cost of playing in Texas, you can play in all three of those other states,” he said.
If Biden clinches either Georgia or Texas, he will “throw a monkey wrench” into Republicans’ “whole reason to exist,” according to Angle.
Acknowledging Biden has deployed limited resources to Texas, Angle encouraged Biden’s campaign to roll out the most effective and efficient strategy for 270 electoral votes.
“The most important thing to Texans is that Joe Biden is the next president of the United States,” he said. “And as much as I want him in Texas, I would rather him win and come close in Texas, then come close in Texas and fall short nationally.”
Biden notches up the necessary 270 electoral votes in FiveThirtyEight models by returning Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin to the Democratic ledger. The election prognosticator describes Arizona, Florida, North Carolina, Ohio, as well as Maine and Nebraska’s 2nd Congressional Districts, as Democratic-leaning targets. It then lists Georgia, Iowa, and Texas next as the least Republican-tilted states, in that order.
FiveThirtyEight’s models are roughly replicated by Priorities USA, Biden’s preferred super PAC, and the nonpartisan Cook Political Report.
Priorities USA is less bullish than its counterparts. The group leaves Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin in its toss-up column, along with Arizona, Florida, North Carolina, Georgia, Iowa, and Nebraska’s 2nd District too. It labels Texas, Ohio, and Maine’s 2nd District as leaning GOP.
Meanwhile, the Cook Political Report puts Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, and Maine’s 2nd District in its toss-up category, designating Iowa, Ohio, and Texas as tilting Republican.