Bloomberg launches ad blitz in Texas to help Biden, as Democrats see best chance in a generation to flip the state

Gun Rights

Updated at 2:30 p.m. with Biden campaign bus tour.

WASHINGTON — Media mogul Mike Bloomberg is planning an 11th-hour ad blitz in Texas in hopes of helping to defeat President Donald Trump, which probably means he’ll spend more to help Joe Biden win Texas than the Democrat’s own campaign, an aide said Tuesday.

The former New York mayor will spend $15 million in the final week, split between Texas and Ohio, according to a spokesperson for his Independence USA political action committee. The New York Times first reported the volley, which builds on the $100 million he has poured into Florida to help Biden.

The PAC plans TV ads statewide in Texas and Ohio, starting Wednesday, the aide said. Texas has 20 markets, including some of the most expensive in the country in Dallas, Houston and San Antonio. Ads in Texas will be in English and Spanish and will focus on “Trump’s mismanagement of the COVID-19 crisis.”

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It’s unclear what share of the $15 million will go to Texas. Even half wouldn’t be enough to reach most voters. On the other hand, that would eclipse Biden’s bet.

The former vice president has devoted about $4.8 million to ads in Texas since Labor Day, according to data from the tracking firm Advertising Analytics. That’s more than Democratic nominees have spent in a generation, but with the state at a tipping point politically, top allies have chafed at his refusal to go all in.

“We need some help from the national ticket,” Beto O’Rourke, the former El Paso congressman who nearly toppled Sen. Ted Cruz two years ago, told Texas reporters Thursday on a call organized by the state Democratic Party.

Biden has not stumped in the state, though he is dispatching his running mate, Sen. Kamala Harris, on Friday for her first campaign stops, probably in Houston and Fort Worth. Both of their spouses also have visited Texas in recent weeks.

On Tuesday, NBC News shifted its rating for Texas from “lean Republican” to Toss Up, reflecting recent polls and campaign activity in the state. It’s a rating that Texas Democrats had only dreamed of for two decades.

A Quinnipiac University poll released last Wednesday showed a dead heat in Texas, with Biden and Trump tied at 47%. A Dallas Morning News/University of Texas at Tyler poll released Sunday showed Biden ahead 48-45. That 3-point lead makes Texas the closest battleground in the country. But Texas hasn’t gone for the Democratic nominee since Jimmy Carter won the White House in 1976, and Biden has only dipped his toe.

“This state is theirs to lose‚” O’Rourke said of the Democratic ticket. “They’ve invested close to zero dollars in the state of Texas and they’re doing this well already. Imagine if they invested some real dollars.”

“It’s crunch time,” Julián Castro, the former Obama housing secretary and San Antonio mayor, said on the same call. “It’s now or never.”

The Biden campaign’s Texas team is doing what it can with the hand it’s been dealt by headquarters, for instance announcing a three-day bus tour Tuesday that starts early Wednesday in Amarillo and ends that night in Dallas after stops in Lubbock, Abilene and Fort Worth. Local Democratic leaders will headline each stop, so it’s not exactly a campaign barnstorming tour.

Trump has been bogged down defending Florida, Pennsylvania, North Carolina, Ohio, Wisconsin, Michigan, Nevada and Arizona. He stumped in Midland-Odessa in late July and held a campaign-like event in Dallas in early June to talk about policing and race relations.

Former Gov. Rick Perry, Trump’s former energy secretary, confirmed Sunday that the president wouldn’t be returning to Texas before Election Day, despite the tight polls.

“He’s going to be in battleground states,” Perry said on a campaign call in response to a question from The News. “Texas is not a battleground state; it’s that simple.”

Bloomberg has already invested heavily in Texas this year.

He has personally given $2.6 million to Democrat Chrysta Castañeda’s campaign for the Texas Railroad Commission. which regulates the oil and gas industry. The Dallas energy lawyer faces businessman Jim Wright, who upset incumbent Ryan Sitton in the Republican primary.

Everytown for Gun Safety, a gun control advocacy group that Bloomberg founded, is spending $60 million nationally, including more than $8 million in Texas races as it aims to help Democrats wrest control of the state House and flip some congressional districts. It’s spending heavily in races for two open congressional seats in Texas, one in suburban Houston, the other in the Dallas-area 24th District, where its ads blast former Irving Mayor Beth Van Duyne, a Republican who faces Democrat Candace Valenzuela, for accepting money from the National Rifle Association.

During his own short-lived bid for the Democratic nomination, Bloomberg dumped an astonishing $55 million into ads in Texas ahead of the state’s March 3 primary, according to data from Advertising Analytics. That’s still more than all other candidates and outside groups combined for the entire 2020 presidential race.

He ran third in the primary, with 14% of the vote, behind Biden’s 35% and Sen. Bernie Sanders’ 30%, and dropped out the next day.

The Trump campaign has spent about $8.3 million in Texas, mostly on digital ads during the summer. Biden started October with $177 million in the bank, nearly triple the president’s stash.

Bloomberg decided Monday to boost spending in Texas and Ohio after reviewing polling across the country and identifying those two states as the most ripe to expand the competitive map, his aide said.

The RealClearPolitics average of polls shows a statistical tie in Ohio and Trump leading by 3 points in Texas.

Bloomberg’s PAC has been running ads in all 10 Florida media markets since mid-September and has also invested in get-out-the-vote efforts there.

In 2018, his Independence USA PAC spent $2.8M to help Democrats Colin Allred of Dallas and Lizzie Fletcher in Houston oust longtime GOP incumbents from Congress.

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