Joe Biden threw down the gauntlet in the Lone Star state Tuesday, dropping his first campaign ad of the general election in Texas on TV and online.
A Biden campaign spokesperson told TPM that the Texas spot, called “Tough,” is part of a mid-six-figure ad buy to blanket states — including Texas, Arizona, North Carolina and Florida — that are looking increasingly winnable for the Democrat.
The ad, which features Biden assuring Americans of their resilience amid the COVID-19 pandemic and imploring them to wear masks, has been mixed and matched with local images for each state.
The ads are set to run in each state’s top market on local cable and during Sunday cable shows, per the Biden spokesman. Spanish-captioned versions will run in Arizona, Florida and Texas online and on Univision.
Recent polling in those states has been notably rosy for Biden.
In a CBS/YouGov poll released Sunday, Biden was leading Trump by 6 points in Florida, tied in Arizona and only down 1 point in Texas.
The two are virtually tied in Texas, the longtime Republican stronghold. A FiveThirtyEight poll amalgamation shows Trump currently holding a minuscule .1 percent lead.
Josh Blank, research director of the Texas Politics Project at UT-Austin, still considers a Biden win in Texas “something of a long-shot,” given the lack of statewide Democratic success over the past two decades.
Still, he told TPM that the state is trending more competitive, as seen in Beto O’Rourke’s close loss to Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) in 2018. And even if it is a long-shot, Blank said, campaigning there right now is probably good politics anyway.
“At this point, it’s hard to gauge Biden’s seriousness about competing in Texas until we get to the Fall and decisions need to be made over limited resources, but forcing Republicans to defend Texas may be strategy enough, even if winning is something of a pipe dream,” he said. Blank added that “defending Texas is a resource suck for the Republican Party given its six large metropolitan areas and massive population.”
“It’s also a state Republicans can’t afford to lose, given obvious electoral college math,” he said.
The Biden campaign is using the new spot to position the former Vice President opposite to Trump on his handling of the COVID-19 pandemic, an issue on which Trump has been getting dismal marks.
In a voiceover, Biden describes the hardships people in Texas have been facing, specifically pointing out the recent spike in cases that has ravaged the state.
“This virus is tough,” he says straight to camera. “But Texas is tougher.”
He implores people to “step up,” to wash their hands, wear a mask and social distance.
“I want every single American to know: if you’re sick, if you’re struggling, if you’re worried about how you’re going to get through the day, I will not abandon you,” Biden says. “We’re all in this together. We’ll fight this together, and together we’ll emerge from this stronger than we were before we began.”
The ad ends with an image of a mask-clad Biden next to the words “stay safe wear a mask.”
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) recently reversed himself and ordered masks to be worn in public, as COVID-19 infections explode in his state.
Mask-wearing has become a particular bone of contention between Biden and Trump.
Trump, who once mocked Biden’s appearance after he wore a mask in public, donned one for the first time on Saturday during a visit to Walter Reed National Medical Center to uproarious accolades from his campaign staff.
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