For Republicans, the concern lies mostly with down-ballot races as well as party support among suburban and female voters, two groups that turned away from the party during the 2018 midterms.
“I expect President Trump to win Texas by 5 percentage points, not 9 points this time,” said Cal Jillson, a political scientist at Southern Methodist University. “There are long-term demographic changes taking place in the state that eat into Republican support. The major cities like Austin, Houston and Dallas are already leaning blue. Plus, his Republican coalition has been destabilized by his own actions and conduct.”
The Trump campaign views Texas as friendly territory — among the handful of states alongside Florida, New York and California where the president can easily raise millions of dollars with a single fundraising event and speak to arenas packed with fans.
“No one comes out for him like they do in Texas,” said one Republican close to the White House. “The Dallas and Fort Worth area is always a slam-dunk for him. If he wanted to, he could stay down there for a whole week and raise $3 million a day.”
Trump on Thursday headlined a luncheon event in Fort Worth, where the top tickets went for $250,000 per couple, according to an invitation obtained by POLITICO.
Taking a photo with the president cost $25,000 per couple, with a single lunch ticket going for $2,800. Event chairs included major Texas names such as the Moncriefs, Marions, Boenkers, Dormans, Kleinheinzs and Dale Rogers.
At a rally Thursday night at the American Airlines Center in Dallas, Trump is expected to stay on message about the Democrats’ impeachment inquiry — further developing his strategy of calling the impeachment inquiry a hoax which the Democrats have wanted to pursue ever since he won the election.
A Republican adviser said Trump will also keep up his aggressive language to talk about his Democratic rival, former Vice President Joe Biden, and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
The events give him a break from a relentless Washington news cycle where he’s facing the Democratic impeachment inquiry and a parade of State Department and diplomatic witnesses testifying on Capitol Hill. At the same time, he is also facing backlash from his own party over his decision to withdraw U.S. troops from the Syrian border and abandoning the U.S.’s longtime allies in the region, the Kurds.
Thursday’s visit offers him a respite. “Trump, throughout the election and the first three years of his presidency, has run a base strategy. Many presidents wouldn’t bother to come to Texas, but he spends a lot of time in Florida, Alabama, Texas and other Southern states revving up the base to make sure that his support does not dissipate,” Jillson said. “If he doesn’t hold his base, he is cooked.”
Republican support in Texas has certainly shifted over the past few years. The state’s vast urban areas surrounding Austin, Houston and Dallas are now predominantly Democratic leaning.
Texas Democrats have seen an uptick since the midterms in turnout among Hispanic voters and migration from the East and West Coasts, only increasing the number of left-leaning voters in the state, said Gilberto Hinojosa, chair of the Texas Democratic Party.
“If Donald Trump thinks he is coming to Dallas because it is the home of the ‘Dallas’ TV show, he’s got something else coming to him. There has not been a Republican countywide elected official in Dallas for some time now. It is very, very blue now,” Hinojosa added.