A massive surge in early voting across Texas has given Democrats hope that they can flip the historically red state blue.

The Lone Star sate – which has seen a flood of Californians over the last several years, has seen voting records shattered in major cities. From Austin to Houston, polls suggest that Joe Biden may be within striking distance of President Trump – something which hasn’t happened in Texas since 1976.

And according Wednesday’s Cook Political Report, Texas has now moved from “leans Republican” to “toss up” – which comes as Biden running mate Kamala Harris embarks on a tour of Houston, McAllen and Fort Worth this week. 

Almost 8.5 million Texans had cast ballots by Wednesday, representing about 95% of the entire vote in 2016. Rapidly growing and increasingly diverse suburbs are the sites of some of the biggest upticks in early voting, and Democrats point to a surge in female voters as cause for optimism. Unmarried women make up a third of the Texans voting in this election who didn’t cast a ballot in 2016, the party’s state headquarters said earlier this week. –Bloomberg

“We as Democrats are voting like our lives depend on it,” said Cynthia Ginyard, Fort Bend Democratic Party chair, a fast-growing county which includes sprawling Houston suburbs.

Across the country, nearly 80 million early votes have been cast – including 27.5 million in-person votes and 51.3 million mail-in ballots. There are currently 39.6 million mail-in ballots outstanding. Texas, California and Florida have led the charge.

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Graphic via electproject.gitbub.io

In Travis County, TX – which includes Austin and its suburbs, early voting has already exceeded the total of all ballots cast in 2016, while Democratic Dallas County is on track to do the same.

For more than a quarter-century, Texas was firmly conservative, producing gun-toting, church-going politicians like President George W. Bush and Rick Perry, a former governor and U.S. energy secretary. Dallas, Austin, Houston and San Antonio were liberal blips on an expansive red radar. But a population boom driven by immigrants and newcomers has put the state’s politics up for grabs. –Bloomberg

the state’s shift to blue coincides with an influx of outsiders, along with corporations such as Apple and Toyota Motor Corp. In Harris County, the most common surname of in-person voters so far has been Nguyen.

That said, according to liberal pollster Nate Silver, citing an Asian American Voter Survey, Vietnamese voters largely favor Trump.

Former Presidential candidate Mike Bloomberg has spent $15 million to support Biden in Texas and Ohio – with his Texas Independence USA PAC will air TV ads in both English and Spanish slamming Trump over the coronavirus.

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And as Bloomberg notes, “Even if Biden falls short, cinching competitive races for the state House of Representatives could give Democrats a strong hand in redistricting after the census.”

That said, University of Texas professor Jim Henson cautions liberals not to get too excited just yet.

“You have to be impressed by the volume,” said Henson, adding “But at the same time, I think until we see what the actual Election Day numbers look like, it’s not clear whether or how much this is going to carry through.”

Red counties have also seen a spike in early voting, with Denton, in North Texas, reaching 60% turnout as of Wednesday. In suburban Dallas, closely watched Collin County, which has emerged as a battleground even though Trump won it by double digits in 2016, saw turnout of 62%.

After converging to show Trump and Biden as even over the weekend, an updated average of 2020 polls by FiveThirtyEight widened slightly this week, with Trump holding a 1-point lead as of Thursday. And the state’s senior U.S. senator, Republican John Cornyn, is running well ahead of his Democratic challenger, former U.S. Air Force helicopter pilot MJ Hegar. –Bloomberg

Hispanics are key

According to the report, a key decider of whether the state flips blue for Biden are Latinos, which make up 30% of all eligible voters in Texas. Notably, Latino early voting is up double what it was in 2016 on a national level, with the majority expected to vote Democratic. That said, it’s still a toss-up.

“In Texas, the Latino vote has tended to lean Democratic, but that’s exactly it: It leans Democratic,” said Renée Cross, senior director at the Hobby School of Public Affairs at the University of Houston. “I don’t think there’s any doubt that the majority of Hispanics will vote for Biden, but the question is how many of the ones who vote Republican will vote for Trump.”

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Via Zerohedge