02 Best & Worst State Flags
Washington CNN  — 

When you think of the handful of swing states where the 2020 presidential race will be decided, Texas probably isn’t top of mind.

But a new poll from Quinnipiac University suggests we might need to reassess that view. 

Former Vice President Joe Biden took 48% in the Texas poll as compared to 44% for President Donald Trump. And it’s not just Biden who is running competitively with the president in Texas; the Q poll shows five other potential Democratic nominees – including Bernie Sanders and Kamala Harris – trailing Trump well within the poll’s margin of error.

If this was a lone result with no comparable data to back it up, we could – and probably should – dismiss it. But there is other data that suggests this could be a real thing.

Most notably, Gallup’s state-by-state presidential job approval numbers for 2018. In Texas, 41% approved of how Trump was doing his job while 52% disapproved. Compare that to Trump’s 2018 job approval in so-called swing states like:

  • Ohio (48% approve/48% disapprove)
  • Iowa (45%/51%)
  • Florida (43%/51%)
  • North Carolina (45%/50%)

So, there’s that. And beyond polling, we have actual election results that back up the possibility of Texas as an emerging swing state. In 2018, then-Rep. Beto O’Rourke (D) came within 2.5 points of knocking off Sen. Ted Cruz (R). And two years before that, Trump only won the state by 9 points over Hillary Clinton – a far cry from his 36-point victory in neighboring Oklahoma or even his 28-point margin in Alabama.

This Q poll then is part of a trend. It’s not an anomaly. The question for Democrats – or, more specifically, the eventual 2020 Democratic nominee – is whether it’s worth spending the tens of millions you would need to cover Texas with TV ads when that money could be divvied up among a whole lot of other smaller (and less expensive) swing states. That’s especially true when it’s a near-certainty that both parties will spend heavily in Florida, Michigan, Pennsylvania and (probably) Ohio – all of which are large states where TV time doesn’t come cheap.

The Point: Texas was never as reliably Republican as conventional wisdom suggested in the 2000s.  Its large and growing Hispanic population makes it an emerging swing state. The real question is whether Democrats will go after it in 2020 or wait until 2024?