At a rally Sunday in Las Vegas, Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump paused his usual meditation on the latest polls to direct his crowd's attention to a "great guy on television today."
"His name was Sid Miller from Texas," Trump said, drawing a round of cheers as he invoked the state's agriculture commissioner, known for his cowboy hats and — like Trump — political incorrectness.
"Oh, they know Sid Miller," Trump continued, sounding somewhat surprised. "We create yet another star."
In the home stretch of a zany presidential race, Miller's star has no doubt risen, at least among the many Trump supporters skeptical of the notion that their candidate is headed for defeat. In recent days, Miller has become Trump's go-to guy when it comes to arguing that the presidential race in Texas and elsewhere is not exactly what polls say it is, an on-message ally in Trump's pursuit to convince Americans it ain't over 'til it's over.
"He said, 'Trump is going to win by massive numbers, bigger than anyone’s ever seen,'" Trump said at the Las Vegas rally, paraphrasing Miller's remarks earlier in the day on Fox News. "And he said, ‘So I don’t know what you people are talking about on television, where they’re saying the vote in Texas is going to be very close.’ He said, ‘I don’t know what you people are talking about. You must be talking about a different Texas than the one I’m from.'"
Miller, who sits on Trump's Agricultural Advisory Committee, appears to be reveling in the moment, committing to more media appearances and flooding his social media accounts with pro-Trump messages. And he seems to have seriously caught the attention of the nominee, who has not only shouted him out at multiple rallies but also personally sent him an email thanking him for his help.
"Sid Miller has become Donald Trump’s biggest cheerleader and champion in the state of Texas," said Todd Smith, a spokesman for the agriculture commissioner. "Sid thinks it’s vitally important for not only our nation, but for farmers and ranchers and agricultural producers, to really fight hard this week on behalf of our nominee, and he’s doing that."
Miller's pro-Trump activity stands out in a Texas GOP whose leading figures have not all been enthusiastic in support of the nominee, who bested its favorite son, U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, in the primaries. While many Lone Star State Republicans have since come around to backing Trump, very few are spending the election home stretch vocally campaigning for him, even as polls show the race tighter than ever in traditionally Republican Texas.
It was that very topic that first landed Miller in Trump's spotlight Sunday. In an appearance on Fox News, the agriculture commissioner dismissed the idea that Trump was in danger in Texas, saying polls are not reflecting first-time voters coming out for Trump as well as oversampling Democrats.
"There's really not anybody in Texas that's in the middle of the road," Miller said. "We have a saying here: The only thing you find in Texas in the middle of the road is yellow stripes and dead armadillos. So they're coming out for Trump."
While early voting has seen significant increases across Texas compared to the previous presidential election, it is too soon to tell whether the turnout is favoring Clinton or Trump. The increases are occurring in counties that have previously gone for both Democratic and Republican presidential nominees in recent history.
Trump nonetheless gave Miller a positive review for the Fox News appearance. Afterward, Miller received a laudatory email signed by the nominee himself, simply addressed to "Sid." The message: If all of Trump's surrogates were as good on TV as Miller was, the nominee would be 10 points ahead in the polls.
Hours after the segment on Fox News, Trump praised Miller at the Las Vegas rally, a moment Miller's team has since put in a shareable YouTube clip. Trump brought up Miller again Monday at a rally in Michigan, rehashing the Fox News appearance in detail — "Great guy. Big white cowboy hat." — while echoing Miller's skepticism of the polls.
"He said, 'you're saying it's close in Texas, but you're a bunch of liars. It's not close. It's a total wipeout in Texas,'" Trump said. "And that's what I thought."
Miller, who had a similar appearance Wednesday on Fox News, has turned into something of a celebrity among Trump's most fervent supporters, many of whom are convinced the polls are being cooked in the run-up to Election Day. Among them: Bill Mitchell, an ardent Trump backer with a massive social media following who had Miller on the Friday edition of his podcast.
"Sid came to my attention because I saw him interviewed on Fox News, and I thought, 'Man, this guy is like a brother from a different mother,'" Mitchell said in his introduction of Miller. "I mean, he says the same stuff that I say about polling and everything like that, so we definitely have to get him on the show."
As his pro-Trump profile has risen, Miller has become more active on Twitter, regularly jabbing Clinton with memes and missives, as well as sharing observations on the latest polls and early voting numbers in battleground states. His ramped-up Twitter activity also has landed him in some heated arguments with fellow users, both anti-Trump and pro-Trump.
In one contentious exchange, Miller got into a back-and-forth with a user who called fellow Trump supporter Milo Yiannopoulos — a high-profile figure in the so-called "alt right" — a "subversive Jew." Miller initially responded by saying he doesn't "tolerate Jew haters" and noting he has many Jewish people on his staff. The conversation ultimately turned to liberal megadonor George Soros, whom Miller said is a "self hating Jew who leads the anti Israel forces because Israel is on team USA."
Asked about the exchange, Smith said Miller was standing up to anti-Semitism.
"Commissioner Sid Miller is a modern-day influencer who effectively uses social media, including Facebook and Twitter," Smith said. "Earlier today, Commissioner Miller was called out on Twitter by an anti-Semitic bigot who attacked the commissioner for being 'pro-Jew.' Throughout his public service career, Sid Miller has been one of the most strident defenders of Israel in the Republican Party and he was not about to let attacks against the state of Israel and the Jewish people go unanswered. If anti-Semites want to go to war with Sid Miller about his defense of Israel, they better come ready to rumble because he will not tolerate them."
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