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Politics Can Democrats flip Texas? Kamala Harris visits Lone Star state as early voting there smashes record

17:40  31 october  2020
17:40  31 october  2020 Source:   usatoday.com

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FORT WORTH – In a last-ditch effort to pick Donald Trump's pocket in the nation's largest Republican state, Democratic vice presidential nominee Kamala Harris came to Texas to lay the blame for coronavirus at the president's feet.

"What people might have done to better prepare," Harris told a friendly audience of about 300 outside First St. John's Cathedral, an African American church on Fort Worth's east side, after accusing Trump of hiding the true dangers of the pandemic from the American people early this year.

That message was part of an overarching call for Democrats to vote by Nov. 3 as the ticket led by former Vice President Joe Biden seeks to wrest Texas from the Republican's 40-year grip in presidential elections.

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Unprecedented levels of early voting in Texas have boosted Democratic hopes.

This week, early votes cast in the state surpassed the total number of ballots cast four years ago. According to the Texas Secretary of State office, 8,969,226 out of 15,101,087 registered voters cast ballots in the entire 2016 general election. The official vote count in Texas through Thursday hit 9,009,850 – two days before the end of early voting.

Kamala Harris holding a sign: Democratic vice presidential candidate Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., speaks at a campaign event Friday, Oct. 30, 2020, in Fort Worth, Texas. © LM Otero, AP Democratic vice presidential candidate Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., speaks at a campaign event Friday, Oct. 30, 2020, in Fort Worth, Texas.

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The Fort Worth stop was part of three-city swing by the Democratic vice president contender, who also visited the border city of McAllen and Houston, the state's largest city. Fort Worth is largest city in Tarrant County, the only urban county in Texas that hasn't gone fully Democratic over the past several cycles.

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Two years ago, Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Beto O'Rourke narrowly won Tarrant County as he came within 2.6 percentage points of upsetting Republican incumbent Ted Cruz.

That showing, plus the fevered efforts by Texas Democrats to wrest control of the state House for the first time in 20 years, made the state a target for Biden as the campaign headed toward its final weekend.

And that's why Harris, speaking in jeans and sneakers in front of a giant Texas flag under a cloudless  sky, made an emotional appeal for Democrats to vote.

"Honor the ancestors," the first Black woman placed on a major-party presidential ticket said as she invoked the name of the late Congressman John Lewis, a pioneer of the civl rights movement of the 1960s.

And, as if acknowledging not on the importance of the Black vote in the Democratic coalition but also the women vote, Harris made an addition to her appeal.

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"This year we celebrate the 100th anniversary of the 19th Amendment," she said of the measure that guaranteed women's right to vote. "The ancestors. The suffragettes. It's important to honor those who fought for this precious right."

The Texas Republican Party, meanwhile, used Harris' visit as an opportunity to fire up the GOP base as polls have consistently shown Trump and Biden separated by just single digits with the lead changing hands several times. And GOP used the visit to make a pitch for campaign cash.

"Radical Democrats from across the country are pouring emergency funding into Texas – and they will stop at nothing to dismantle our Texan way of life," the state party said in a fundraising email. "This is our now-or-never moment and the line in the sand has been drawn. Which side do you stand on?"

Added Trump spokeswoman Samantha Cotten: “Texans aren’t fooled by phony politicians like Kamala Harris who is making a last ditch effort in the Lone Star State and come November, voters will reject the Democrats' radical agenda of eliminating the oil and gas industry, hiking our taxes, and taking away our Second Amendment rights in favor of four more years of President Trump."

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Harris' 30-minute speech without notes hit on all the themes important to Democrats: Protecting Obamacare and coverage for pre-existing conditions, addressing climate change, protecting immigrants and more federal assistance for higher education and home ownership.

Harris' visit also provided something of a bookend in Texas for the Biden camp. Jill Biden, the nominee's wife, visited El Paso, Dallas and Houston when early voting in the state opened Oct. 13. Harris visit to the state came on the final day of early voting.

“There’s no doubt that Texas is in play," said Democratic Congresswoman Veronica Escobar of El Paso. "In my view, we are on the verge on turning the state blue and the visits by Dr. Biden and Senator Harris are a clear recognition of that fact. Make no mistake — Biden will win Texas.”

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Harris' stop in Fort Worth was significant because of its location in the last remaining urban county that is not considered a lock for the Democrats. In 2016, Trump won Tarrant County with a cushion of more than 8.5 percentage points. But two years later, Democratic U.S. Senate nominee Beto O'Rourke captured the county by seven-tenths of a point and the party managed to flip a state Senate seat in a district anchored by Fort Worth.

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a group of people on a baseball field: Supporters listen as Democratic vice presidential nominee, Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) speaks during a campaign event at First Saint John Cathedral on October 30, 2020 in Fort Worth, Texas. Harris homestretch visit comes at a time where polls indicate Texas could be a swing state in this election. © Montinique Monroe, Getty Images Supporters listen as Democratic vice presidential nominee, Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) speaks during a campaign event at First Saint John Cathedral on October 30, 2020 in Fort Worth, Texas. Harris homestretch visit comes at a time where polls indicate Texas could be a swing state in this election.

The Trump camp has said Texas will remain in the red column again this year in no small measure because of the president's overwhelming advantage in the state's sprawling rural regions, and the GOP's built-in get-out-the-vote advantage that's been in place for cycle after cycle since the the middle 1990s.

Sharron Spriggs, who was among those sitting on socially distanced folding lawn chairs on the church grounds, said she was energized by Harris' visit and touched by her remarks about the pandemic.

"I buried two in my family from the virus this week," Spriggs said.

Harris' stop in McAllen, the second-largest city in the lower Rio Grande Valley, is seen as an effort to boost enthusiasm in one of the most reliable Democratic regions of Texas – but also one with traditionally anemic voter turnout.

While early voting turnout in nearly every section of the state was topping 50%, counties along the border have failed to keep pace. Turnout in Hidalgo County, where McAllen is the largest city, was just 42% through Wednesday. Neighboring Cameron County's turnout was even lower at 38%.

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The big prize in Texas is Houston, Harris County's seat where nearly 2.5 million of the state's 17 million registered voters live. Like Tarrant County, which shares a border with Dallas, Houston's media market is massive.

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In Fort Worth, Harris ended her remarks sensing Texas Democrats' weariness after four years under Trump.

"This moment will pass. And years from now our children, our grandchildren, and others –they will look at us – each one of us – and they will look in the eye and ask us 'where were you at this moment,'" Harris said. "And we will tell them so much more than what we felt, Fort Worth. We will tell them what we did."

John C. Moritz covers Texas government and politics for the USA Today Network in Austin. Contact him at jmoritz@gannett.com and follow him on Twitter @JohnnieMo.

Contributing: Rebecca Morin and William Cummings of USA TODAY

This article originally appeared on Corpus Christi Caller Times: Can Democrats flip Texas? Kamala Harris visits Lone Star state as early voting there smashes record

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usr: 1
This is interesting!