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    Dems Mess With Texas

    Hi. Welcome to On Politics, your guide to the day in national politics. I’m Lisa Lerer, your host.

    Sign up here to get On Politics in your inbox every weekday.


    I started writing this newsletter today from the window seat of an airplane, flying over a country that is casting many, many ballots.

    But even stranger than the experience of flying in a pandemic (they haven’t changed the movies since March!) might just be my destination.

    Texas.

    Credit…Ruru Kuo

    Yes, the Texas of George W. Bush, former Gov. Rick Perry and cowboy conservatism. The place that last voted for a Democratic presidential candidate more than four decades ago. Ruby red, Grand Old Party Texas.

    Something is clearly happening in the Lone Star State. The national press has descended — myself included. The state leads the country in early voting, with more than 8.5 million people having already cast ballots — that’s 95 percent of the total number of people who voted in Texas in 2016.

    Democrats have been talking about Texas going blue for years, pointing to political shifts brought by the state’s fast-growing and diversifying population. Donald Trump has supercharged those changes, plunging the traditionally conservative suburbs into open revolt against what many college-educated voters, particularly women, see as a divisive presidency.

    Take a place like Plano, a once-reliably conservative city north of Dallas that has tilted Democratic in the Trump era. After I landed, I went there this afternoon to see Senator John Cornyn fight for his political life.

    “They want to turn Texas into California or New York,” Mr. Cornyn warned at a campaign stop, littering his remarks with attacks on Democrats like Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senator Chuck Schumer. “This is for all the marbles.”

    The shift is happening up and down the ballot. Two years ago, Julie Oliver lost a House race in Texas’ 25th Congressional District, based in suburban Austin, by nine percentage points — a far closer margin than the 20 points that Representative Roger Williams, a Republican, won by in 2016.

    Now, she says, internal polling has her candidacy within single digits. Republicans fear they could lose at least five congressional seats in the state, as well as control of the Texas House of Representatives.

    “I actually think Biden can win Texas. I really do,” said Ms. Oliver, a progressive Democrat. The huge early turnout should bode well for the former vice president, she said: “It’s hard for me to get my head around the idea that people turning out in the numbers they are here in Texas are excited for Trump.”

    I must admit that I don’t share Ms. Oliver’s confidence. Despite a late visit by Senator Kamala Harris, who will campaign across Texas tomorrow, the Biden campaign hasn’t put significant time or money into the state. Frankly, it’s a bad investment for them: Texas has multiple expensive media markets and it’s not an essential stop on their path to 270 electoral votes.

    Some Democrats say that even if Joe Biden doesn’t need Texas, more help from his campaign could have helped them in down-ballot races, delivering a political benefit that could last for years. Others still see a path to victory, arguing that if they can pair record-breaking turnout in the cities with their new strength in the suburbs, all while boosting their margins in the heavily Democratic Rio Grande Valley, they could take command of the state.

    But whether Mr. Biden wins or not, the shift in Texas is emblematic of a broader political realignment. If the suburbs are revolting against the G.O.P. outside of Dallas and Houston, they’re also rebelling outside of Phoenix and Atlanta, Raleigh and Charlotte, areas in states that are even more winnable for Democrats than Texas.

    If Republicans lose across the South and West next week, the Democrats would probably win back control of the Senate. And if Democrats also pick up a number of congressional seats in those regions, they could expand their margin in the House, making it even harder for Republicans to climb back into power.

    Those kinds of losses would force Republicans to grapple with big questions about their ability to win over voters in the country’s fastest-growing and most diverse regions.

    As for Texas? Well, Democrats say it’s only a matter of time.

    “If the president gets another four years and continues down the same road, Texas won’t be blue this time, but it will next time,” said Representative Henry Cuellar, a moderate Democrat from South Texas. “Once Texas is blue, how in the world does a Republican candidate put together a coalition that can win nationwide? You just can’t do it. Not with these kinds of politics.”


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    We want to hear from our readers. Have a question? We’ll try to answer it. Have a comment? We’re all ears. Email us at [email protected].


    We asked you how voting was different this year. So many of you responded and told us about voting early — and for the most part, things seem to be going smoothly!

    Bianca Esquivel, Mission, Texas:

    Voting this year felt quieter, daunting and much more isolated. I waited in line for about 15 minutes. Blue X’s on the floor were taped six feet apart to mark where each voter stood, and masks were required, of course. When I approached the volunteer, she asked me to place my ID card in a basket. Once she verified my voter information, another volunteer handed me what looked like an extra-long Q-tip and explained that I needed to use the Q-tip to press on the screen. There was absolutely zero human contact from the moment I walked in the building to the moment I walked out. I was relieved!

    Flip Wood, Seattle:

    I live in Seattle, where all elections are conducted by mail. I filled in my ballot the afternoon it showed up in my mailbox, then walked it — through a beautiful, sun-and-shower Pacific Northwest fall afternoon — to the closest official ballot box and dropped it in. I was taking no chances with the U.S.P.S. and I saw many others walk or drive up to that ballot box in the short time I was there.

    Another big difference this year? I’ve been far more vocal — especially with friends and family in Texas — urging the necessity of voting. And doing so safely, securely and as early as possible.

    George Chave, Fort Worth:

    My wife and I usually take advantage of early voting. It is normally a “walk right in, walk right out” affair with minimal lines and minimal fuss. This year, we pulled into the courthouse parking lot and looked at the line. While there were quite a few cars in the parking lot, the line didn’t look too bad. We walked to what we assumed was going to be the end of the line, then realized the line continued around the side of the building — then around the other side of the building!

    Voting in Texas (especially if you are a Democrat) has seemed rather pointless for the past 30 years, at least when it comes to presidential choices and senatorial choices. Representatives and local politics are somewhat less predictable, and so we remain motivated to participate. However, this year just has a different “feel” to it. Ironically, with one of the least inspiring Democratic candidates at the top of the ticket, there is almost a palpable excitement at the polls.

    Margo Hebald, San Diego:

    My husband and I voted with a mail-in ballot that was electronically followed from the moment it was sent to us, and at each step until it was received by the registrar’s office; and at each step we received a tracking notice of where it was. It was marvelous! This method of mail-in ballot tracking should be mandatory everywhere, with every registered voter automatically receiving a ballot by mail.

    Katlynn Scammon, Pittsburgh:

    I voted by mail for the first time this year, and as a voter who has participated in elections in South Carolina, North Carolina and now Pennsylvania, I am a big fan of the option and will likely always vote this way in the future. It’s easy and doesn’t take me away from work to wait in long lines to vote in person.

    Russell W. Cantrell, Mobile, Ala.:

    Like many others, I voted absentee for the first time. But the biggest difference for me was my first vote along party lines. I’ve always argued against this, wishing people would instead vote for the better candidate in each race regardless of political affiliation. This year, I marked that “straight ticket” bubble I had so often mocked others for blindly filling. The current version of the Republican Party needs the strongest rebuke I can offer.

    Debbie Krygeris, Prospect Heights, Ill.:

    My husband and I requested mail-in ballots for the first time ever this year because of the virus. When the Postal Service fiasco started hitting the news, we decided we would drop them in a ballot box versus mailing them.

    What really surprised us both was that when we went to drop our ballots in the ballot box, it was manned by an election volunteer who was checking that we signed our envelope and that we were dropping in our own ballot. My husband and I were both impressed with the security of our voting experience this year.

    Mary Beth Patten, Florence, Mont.:

    We voted by absentee ballot this year, as we always do. The difference this year is that we took our ballots to a drop box, rather than mailing them. That gave us an added sense of security. It is also worth noting that both my husband and I expressed how very glad we were to have voted, and how grateful we are that we are afforded that privilege. Although I have similar feelings every time I vote, they were magnified this year.

    Compiled by Isabella Grullón Paz. Responses were condensed and edited.


    Parisians: They don’t hold back when it comes to wine, cheese, exaggerated shrugging and traffic. Bof.


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