Joe Biden’s campaign says it wants to flip Texas.
To do that, they have put nominal ad money into the state and publicly emphasized the importance of it. But up through this week, their main digital organizing tool for getting volunteers coordinated there was being hampered by what was chalked up as either a technical mistake or an operational work-in-progress.
Searches for campaign-sanctioned events through the Biden online organizing page in major areas like Houston, San Antonio, Dallas, El Paso, Plano, Corpus Christi, and Lubbock all came up empty this week, with some results directing individuals to virtual events in nearby states like Arkansas.
The issue arose between the Biden campaign and the Texas Democratic Party over which so-called “Mobilize” dashboard—a third party online search tool used by the Biden campaign—should be employed, the state party said. While there were and are virtual events being planned by the Texas Democratic Party in most of the major cities, they weren’t visible through the Biden campaign’s dashboard, only on the state party’s page,
By Thursday afternoon—after The Daily Beast posed questions to the state party and the campaign about searches coming up with no results—select events did begin to appear under some cities. But many cities continued to show no current or future events even when checking on various browsers and with various users.
The general absence of information on events could potentially hurt the campaign’s efforts to bring in volunteers in one of their targeted flip states. Those hoping to get involved in the Biden campaign’s Texas operations are unable to do so through his website—a hurdle that was not apparent when looking for events in other target states like Arizona, Florida and Georgia.
A Biden campaign official said that the “mobilize integration is still taking place in certain places like Texas, but the organizing events listed under the [Texas Democratic Party] are still very much our organizing events” and that “eventually, the events will populate in our mobilize [site] also.”
A spokesman for the Texas Democrartic Party also downplayed the significance of the matter by saying that the party was seeing strong enthusiasm.
“We're doing a lot,” said Abhi Rahman, the Texas Democratic Party’s communications director. “...And we're getting a lot of attendance at all these too. We're not worried about that.”
The possibility of turning Texas blue in the general election has held a certain fascination among Democrats who saw former El Paso Rep. Beto O'Rourke come tantalizingly close to unseating Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) in 2018. Those Democrats are now waiting for Biden to pick up where O’Rourke left off, with even his former rival speculating that the state will be in play on Nov. 3
“Texas will be competitive in [the] presidential race,” Cruz said to a group of reporters on AF1 on Wednesday, according to Bloomberg News. “I think the president will win Texas” he added, before acknowledging that “the hard left is angry.”
The promotional snafu around Biden’s events could complicate the already uphill battle he faces in turning Texas blue. It also could provide another signal that the campaign’s focus on the state is largely ceremonial.
“My sense is Biden campaign has yet to really commit to Texas as a target,” said Keir Murray, a Democratic strategist based in Houston. “It’s big and pricey, and not necessary to win. That said, it is winnable. Maybe they’re taking a wait and see approach?”
The Biden campaign official pointed to several areas where they believe they’ve made significant progress in the state, such as holding “numerous open-press virtual events focused on Texas” with surrogates in recent months, including with O’Rourke. Biden’s wife, Jill Biden, headlined a recent virtual event for Texas on home healthcare, and last week, the campaign launched their first general election ads in the state.
Among Democrats in Texas, however, there is hope that Biden focuses more time and resources there. With 38 electoral votes, Texas offers an insurance policy of sorts that could help boost his pathway towards victory if he falls short in other states.
“If he wants to win Texas he’s going to invest in Texas,” Gilberto Hinojosa, the chair of the Texas Democratic Party, told The Daily Beast. “He’s going to have to show a monetary presence in terms of advertisement, digital advertisement, and funding for organizers to expand what we’re doing. It’s still a close race.”
Publicly, the campaign has emphasized the state’s significance. In an electoral strategy map shared with reporters in May, senior campaign officials listed only three states they were looking to “expand” in November towards the pathway to 270 delegates: Texas, Arizona, and Georgia. The campaign’s rationale to make plays for those states was “based on 2018 trends,” officials said at the time of the briefing.
But recent data on money transferred from the Democratic National Committee, Biden Victory Fund, and Biden for President filed with the Federal Election Commission suggest that other states are being more aggressively targeted than Texas.
The DNC has given $802,743 to the Arizona Democratic Party, while the Biden Victory Fund contributed $10,000. In Georgia, the DNC spent $553,097, with the Biden Victory Fund giving $5,000. In Florida, where Democrats have watched the disarray around the Republican National Convention unfold before Trump eventually withdrew from the planned event, the DNC spent nearly $2 million, while the Biden Victory Fund contributed $10,000 to the state’s Democratic Executive Committee.
Texas shows a smaller investment than Arizona and Florida, but slightly higher than Georgia, which is much smaller in size. Biden for President gave $2,500, Biden Victory Fund contributed $5,000, and the DNC chipped in $576,663, according to the data filed with the FEC.
(The DNC has also provided voter data to Arizona, Florida, Georgia and Texas valued at $340,802, FEC records indicate).
Hinojosa, the highest-ranking Democratic Party official in Texas, said that he has received a promise from the Biden campaign that they will be expanding their physical organizational presence in the near future, including adding a state director, deputy director, and senior advisers. But for now, national party committees, including the DNC, Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, and Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee are doing most of the heavy lifting as part of a “coordinated campaign” for down ballot races.
“There’s already a serious commitment by the national party in Texas,” Hinojosa said. “There is no question that it reduces the amount of investment that the Biden campaign would have to make in Texas, as compared to other states where you have not seen that commitment.”