WASHINGTON — Hours before President Donald Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden meet for their first debate, Beto O’Rourke was ready to declare a winner — of Texas’ 38 electoral votes in November. Texas, O’Rourke said, “is Joe Biden’s to lose.”
“This is a state that perhaps better than any other understands the costs and consequences of Donald Trump,” O’Rourke said during a pre-debate press call hosted by the Texas Democratic Party. “And it’s a state by the way — not unrelated to that — that is Joe Biden’s to lose.”
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No Democrat has won a presidential race in Texas since Jimmy Carter in 1976 and polls show Trump has a lead of at least a few percentage points.
But O’Rourke argued that public polling tends to underestimate Democratic performance in Texas. The former Texas congressman — and a one-time presidential rival of Biden’s — pointed to his own race against U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, which O’Rourke lost by 2.5 percentage points after polling showed him trailing by as many as 8 percentage points in the weeks before the election, as well as the 2016 presidential race, when Clinton similarly outperformed polling in Texas.
“Pollsters have a very hard time locating, tracking and counting the votes of likely Democratic voters,” O’Rourke said. “Even with the polling this tight, I think actually the advantage is to Biden.”
Trump has been clear he’s not worried about losing Texas. Earlier this year he derided “phony polls” showing a tight race in the state.
“Beto, Biden, and Texas Democrats are delusional to think they have a shot at winning the Lone Star State,” said Samantha Cotten, a Trump campaign spokeswoman. “Running on raising taxes, destroying the energy industry, and stripping Second Amendment rights won’t win over voters in Texas. On November 3, Texans will overwhelmingly re-elect President Donald Trump.”
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Also on Tuesday, Julián Castro, the former San Antonio mayor and U.S. Housing and Urban Development secretary, said Biden can at least win Tuesday’s debate if he keeps the focus on the American people and doesn’t get “distracted by what will surely be a lot of personal insults by Donald Trump.”
“Beto and I both saw Joe Biden is able to connect with the American people in these debates,” Castro said. “They believe in his character. They believe he’s always thinking about them and his family. So a win would also be showing that tonight.”