Politics Twitter was shocked last week to see a Quinnipiac poll of Texas, at State Trump won 9 points in 2016, as a tossup, with a one point Trump lead. While many people couldn’t believe the result, it’s right in line with what the LeanTossup model has in Texas, and confirms our broader theory of the election: Biden has drawn back some amount of white non-College voters back to the party, and is at historic levels of White College and Hispanic votes (and with somewhat increased African American turnout). However, this article isn’t about electoral trends, or about the national environment. It’s simply an article about why the Trump (and the GOP at large) can’t spend money to defend Texas.
The argument against it is simple really. Trump needs Texas to be firmly in his column to even have a decent shot at the presidency. A close race in Texas isn’t just a close race in Texas, since Texas still (and for many years after 2020) will still vote to the right of the national lean. A close race in Texas means Trump is losing almost every other battleground on the map. The Midwest would be completely gone, with razor thin margins in Iowa and Ohio. Florida, Arizona and North Carolina would be assuredly Biden wins, with the strong possibility that Georgia has also flipped to Biden as well. The bottom line is that a close Texas is unsustainable to Trump’s re-election chances. In this way, losing Texas isn’t even the problem, it’s losing everything else. To use another analogy, it’s death by a thousand cuts, but in this case Texas is cut 9,999, in which case the Presidency was lost long before Texas would be called for Biden.
So what’s the answer to Trump’s problem? It’s actually simple: ignore Texas. Don’t spend any money in Texas and possibly even Georgia at all. Trump’s only hope of winning is the Midwest, with wins in Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin, Ohio, Iowa, and possibly even Minnesota (to make up for other losses elsewhere). Additionally, Trump needs to win North Carolina and Florida to continue to have a chance to win the election. In this way, with so many other needed targets, the Trump campaign can’t afford to spend money in Texas at all, as that money would be much better spent in the Midwest or Florida instead.
If the Trump campaign went all out, and immediately started spending money in Texas today, they would probably keep Texas in the GOP column in November. However, that alone represents such a low bar, and would effectively concede the election to Biden. Every phrase Trump speaks, every policy he announces needs to be aimed at winning back White Non-College voters in the Midwest, not attempting to appeal to business owners in Fort Worth. If Trump can (through what would look to be a miracle at this point) win back all of the states he won in 2016, and flip Minnesota, then he can actually safely lose Texas. However, that’s the entire point. When your house is on fire, the first thing you do isn’t rush to put out the deck, you let it burn and hope that part of the fire will burn itself out. With so many other problem areas, Trump needs a focused, sustained campaign on winning back those crucial swing states, and by spending money in Texas, an expensive state which he cannot afford to lose, he would effectively gift Biden the Midwest, and the Electoral College votes he needs to win the White House in November.
Robert Martin is founder and CEO of LeanTossUp.ca and a contributor to Decision Desk HQ.