Texas 2020 election: Predictions and what’s at stake in in the swing state

·2-min read
Campaigning for Joe Biden in Plano, Texas (AP)
Campaigning for Joe Biden in Plano, Texas (AP)

A keystone of the Republican presidential map, the Lone Star State is within the Democrats’ reach at last.

What’s at stake

If Joe Biden can win Texas and its 38 electoral votes, he will have a very good shot indeed at depriving Donald Trump of a second term. No Democrat has had a serious shot at the state in generations, but competitive statewide elections have shown the Texan electorate trending somewhat bluer, and polls show Mr Biden in striking distance – if not ahead.

Combined with his edge in other former Republican states like Georgia and Arizona, a win for Mr Biden in Texas would destroy the Republicans’ advantage on the southern edge of the electoral map.

Last time around

Hillary Clinton never put Texas close to the top of her target list, but she did run some late-in-the-day TV ads there as polls showed the race tighter than expected. While Mr Trump won by some nine points, that was a remarkably narrow margin of victory for a Republican, and in fact narrower than his victories in some states that Barack Obama had won (Iowa, for instance).

On the ground

The Democrats’ hopes in Texas rely on two main factors: changing demographics that have made the state younger, more urban and more diverse, and a backlash against Donald Trump over the still-unfolding coronavirus pandemic.

While Texas was not hit as hard as some other states early in the coronavirus pandemic, it had a grim summer, as cases and hospitalisations hit new highs following a controversial decision to reopen the state’s economy. Republican governor Greg Abbott came around relatively late to the policy of mandating masks in public spaces, signing an executive order to that effect in July.

The state has now seen more than 18,000 deaths, and its weekly average death toll is creeping up toward 100.

The home stretch

With several days to go before 3 November, Texas voters have already turned out in phenomenal numbers: by the end of Thursday, more ballots had been cast than in the entire 2016 election. What this means for the two candidates is unclear, but among the areas leading the way is Harris County – the third-largest county in the US, and home to the massive (and Democratic-leaning) city of Houston.

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