Joe Biden’s campaign is expanding its staff in Texas, bringing on 13 more people as the state continues to look competitive with just over seven weeks to go before the November election.
The Democratic nominee’s latest hires, shared first with The Texas Tribune, include several experienced Democratic operatives from the state.
They include Dallas Jones, a Houston political consultant who will serve as Biden’s Texas political director, and Jackie Uresti and Jerry Philips, who will each serve as political advisers to the campaign in Texas.
Uresti was Hillary Clinton’s 2016 state director, while Philips brings deep experience around Texas House politics and previously was executive director of the House Democratic Campaign Committee.
Biden’s campaign has also named Bethanie Olivan as digital organizing director and Terry Bermea as organizing director.
The campaign also said David Gins will serve as state operations director.
Gins is a former U.S. Senate staffer who has since worked for the LGBTQ Victory Fund and the data science company Civis Analytics.
The FiveThirtyEight polling average shows Trump barely leading Biden in Texas, 47.6% to 46.6%.
“The advantage still remains for President Trump, but this is definitely much closer than we’ve seen at any time since 1976,” Jay Aiyer of the University of Houston said.
That’s the last time a Democrat won Texas in a presidential contest.
Democrats do have some reason to be hopeful this time, according to Rebecca Deen, who chairs the political science department at the University of Texas Arlington.
“They seem to be doing the right things with regard to party-building that they’ve not done in previous cycles,” Deen said. “So, they’ve learned from 2018. They have a much more solid ground game, and it appears to be that way across the state.”
In 2018, the last statewide contest, former U.S. Rep. Beto O’Rourke lost to U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz by less than three percentage points.
A new super PAC, Blue Texas PAC, has launched to help Biden win Texas.
“For decades, progressives in Texas have fought to turn Texas blue,” the group’s co-founder, Kim Taylor, said in a statement. “We have never had a better opportunity. Blue Texas has a clear focus: to flip Texas in 2020. We are a Texas born, Texas-bred campaign that intends to raise the funds and communicate with voters to get rid of Donald Trump in November.”
Texas has the second-highest number of eligible Hispanic voters in the US, at 5.6 million, behind California’s 7.9 million.
An August survey of 846 registered voters by the Texas Hispanic Policy Foundation, Rice University’s Baker Institute, and YouGov reported that Latino Texans preferred Biden over Trump in a 47-38 percentage point split.
The same survey also showed Biden winning with Hispanic families which speak Spanish in the home.
Hispanic families which speak English in the home, however, prefer Trump by a small margin.
Winning Texas may still be a longshot for Biden — even with the support of Texas’ large Latino communities.
Decision Desk HQ has Biden’s overall chances of beating Trump at 38.6%.
Jason Villalba, the president of the Texas Hispanic Policy Foundation and a former Republican member of the Texas House of Representatives, told the Houston Public Media that Hispanic support for Trump has risen since Nov. 8, 2016.
“Trump in the last cycle ended up getting about 32% of Hispanics and now we’re seeing his numbers creep up to 37%, 38% — which is better than both McCain and Romney were able to achieve,” said Villalba.
At the very least, Biden’s attention on Texas will force the Trump campaign and Republicans to spend more heavily in a state they must-win as part of their electoral vote strategy.