Analysis: Texas in August is a Funny Place for a Trump Rally

Donald Trump, the Republican presidential nominee who is trailing in national polls and in important swing states around the country, is coming to Austin, Texas, for a rally this week. Go figure that one out.

GOP presidential hopeful Donald Trump rallied supporters at Gilley's in Dallas on June 16, 2016
GOP presidential hopeful Donald Trump rallied supporters at Gilley's in Dallas on June 16, 2016  Allison V. Smith for The Texas Tribune

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This political season keeps getting stranger.

U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz made the Republican faithful mad enough with his speech at the GOP’s national convention that donors start chatting up potential rivals, like U.S. Rep. Michael McCaul, R-Austin.

Out-of-state pollsters poked the ant bed, putting Cruz into a hypothetical re-election race against former Gov. Rick Perry and finding that — for now, anyway — Perry would win.

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Now Donald Trump, the Republican presidential nominee who is trailing in national polls and in important swing states around the country, announces that he will come to Austin, Texas, for a rally this week.

Go figure that one out.

Public Policy Polling — the same outfit that raised the periscope on Cruz’s re-election chances — found that Trump is beating Clinton in Texas by six percentage points right now.

That’s closer than Republicans would like for it to be, but Texas is a red state. Mitt Romney beat Barack Obama by almost 16 percentage points in 2012, and John McCain beat Obama here by just under 12 percentage points four years earlier.

Even the Democrats don’t think they’re gonna win a statewide race this time around (though some of them are more hopeful about the down-ballot benefits of having Trump at the top of the Republican ticket). A lot of things would have to go seriously right for the Democrats and seriously wrong for the Republicans to flip Texas into the blue column in any statewide race in November.

Election Day is 11 weeks away. Early voting in Texas is nine weeks away. Time is short.

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At this point on the calendar, it’s customary to find candidates flitting all over the battleground states where they have to do well in order to win the elections. It is especially unusual to find a Republican candidate in one of the few strong Democratic counties in a state he’s expected to win.

Trump has some catching up to do in those swing states, but was also relatively late to the fundraising game, a benefit of his pre-existing notoriety and his ability to generate media coverage. Now that he’s in a general election, he needs good old-fashioned political money.

Texas is one of the best spots to dig. Trump was already on track to raise money in Austin and in Fort Worth; the rally is an add-on, like those he did earlier in the campaign after fundraisers in the state.

At this point on the calendar, it’s customary to find candidates flitting all over the battleground states where they have to do well in order to win the elections. It is especially unusual to find a Republican candidate in one of the few strong Democratic counties in a state he’s expected to win.

Maybe the nominee will turn his Texas stop into part of his apology tour. On Thursday in Charlotte, Trump was unexpectedly contrite. “Sometimes, in the heat of debate and speaking on a multitude of issues, you don't choose the right words or you say the wrong thing,” he said, reading from a teleprompter. “I have done that. And believe it or not, I regret it. And I do regret it, particularly where it may have caused personal pain. Too much is at stake for us to be consumed with these issues.”

Remember why Cruz was so disdainful of the frontrunner at the end of his presidential race? Trump had called Heidi Cruz unattractive on social media and boosted a conspiracy theory that Rafael Cruz, the candidate’s father, was somehow involved in the assassination of John F. Kennedy. Explaining his “vote your conscience” speech at the convention, Cruz told the Texas delegation that he was not going to be a “servile puppy dog” and endorse Trump “for maligning my wife and maligning my father.”

Maybe the Republican nominee wants to patch things up.

Probably not. That’s just an idle attempt to make sense of an unusual stop for public attention on a fundraising trip in a red state at the beginning of the last leg of a very, very odd political cycle.

More on Donald Trump’s presidential campaign:

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