Texas Democrats rally around Joe Biden as he announces reelection bid
Texas Democrats are hopeful Biden can run a competitive race in the historically red state — especially if the GOP nominee is Donald Trump again.
Sign up for The Brief, The Texas Tribune’s daily newsletter that keeps readers up to speed on the most essential Texas news.
President Joe Biden formally launched his reelection bid Tuesday, naming U.S. Rep. Veronica Escobar, D-El Paso, to his campaign leadership and quickly gaining support from most other Democrats in the Texas congressional delegation.
Escobar will serve as one of seven national co-chairs of the campaign, giving Biden a top surrogate not only in Texas but also from the U.S.-Mexico border. The other national co-chairs include some of Biden’s closest allies in office, like U.S. Rep. Jim Clyburn of South Carolina.
Escobar is one of 13 Texas Democrats in Congress. Ten others expressed support Tuesday for Biden’s reelection campaign, ranging from progressive freshman U.S. Rep. Greg Casar of Austin to South Texas centrist U.S. Rep. Henry Cuellar of Laredo.
“I will be supporting the president, and I say that without reservation, hesitation or equivocation,” U.S. Rep. Al Green, D-Houston, said in an interview. He added that Biden has “done things that no other president has done,” such as shepherding the country through the coronavirus pandemic and appointing the first Black woman to the U.S. Supreme Court.
Biden nonetheless faces headwinds nationally and in Texas, where he remains unpopular in polling and was a political liability for Beto O’Rourke in his unsuccessful gubernatorial campaign last year. Still, Texas Democrats are hopeful Biden can run a competitive race in the historically red state — especially if the GOP nominee is Donald Trump again.
Trump has been working to shore up his support in Texas as he prepares for a likely primary battle against Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis. Biden, meanwhile, faces a pair of long-shot primary opponents in Marianne Williamson, the self-help author who also ran in 2020, and Robert F. Kennedy Jr., the prominent vaccine skeptic and nephew of former President John F. Kennedy.
The head of the Texas Democratic Party, Gilberto Hinojosa, was quick to release a statement cheering on Biden’s reelection campaign.
“We’re ecstatic that President Biden has announced that he’ll be running for re-election — and we look forward to working like hell to ensure he has four more years in the White House fighting for hardworking Texas families,” Hinojosa said.
While Biden has not attracted any serious primary opposition, an NBC News poll released Sunday found that 51% of Democrats nationally do not want him to run again. Age has fueled some of the resistance — he will be nearly 82 years old at the time of the November 2024 election.
One of Biden’s reelection supporters, U.S. Rep. Joaquin Castro of San Antonio, addressed the polling numbers in a CNN interview Sunday.
“The president and his team may look at those numbers and yeah, they’re unflattering numbers, and I wish they were better and wish that it was higher,” Castro said. “But at the end of the day, I don’t believe the American people are going to choose Donald Trump over Joe Biden. I don’t believe that they would choose Ron DeSantis … over Joe Biden.”
Castro is friends with Julie Chávez Rodríguez, the senior White House official who Biden named as his campaign manager Tuesday. Chávez Rodríguez is the granddaughter of labor icon César Chávez and attended his namesake march in San Antonio last month.
Among the Texas politicians greeting Biden’s announcement Tuesday was the state’s top Republican, Gov. Greg Abbott, who lobbed criticism squarely focused on Biden’s handling of the Texas-Mexico border.
“Texans — and Americans — can’t afford 4 more years of Biden’s open border policies,” Abbott said in a tweet.
The governor has not ruled out a run for president himself in 2024. He is expected to make a decision after the current legislative session, which ends late next month.
With Republicans like Abbott assailing Biden as weak on the border, Escobar could serve as a local counterweight. She joined him in El Paso in January when he made the first visit to the border of his presidency, long a demand of his GOP critics.
In a Facebook post, Escobar said Biden personally called her this week to ask her to be a national co-chair of the campaign.
Biden also nodded at Texas Democrats in his Tuesday morning announcement video, which featured a brief shot of Texas House Democrats when they decamped to Washington, D.C., in 2021 to lobby for voting-rights legislation. State Rep. Trey Martinez Fischer of San Antonio, the chair of the House Democratic Caucus, applauded Biden for including the lawmakers, saying Texas is “ground-zero for the fight to protect and preserve our democracy.”
Biden and his vice president, Kamala Harris, have generally enjoyed good relations with Texas Democrats, though there have been occasional tensions with party members from South Texas. Cuellar, D-Laredo, for example, has repeatedly suggested that the Biden administration has not taken the border seriously enough, although he joined Biden on his border visit in January and has been less vocal recently.
“I support President Biden’s re-election campaign,” Cuellar said in a statement Tuesday.
It remains to be seen how hard Biden will compete in Texas, a traditionally red state that his campaign nonetheless devoted some attention to in 2020. Biden ended up losing the state to Trump by 6 percentage points, the closest a Democrat has come to winning Texas since 1996.
Green, the Houston Democrat, said he is “cautiously optimistic” that Biden can at least narrow his 2020 margin in Texas.
“I do believe that this election cycle does provide the possibility of having a good shot at getting it done,” Green said of flipping the state. “It will take a lot of hard work.”
The other marquee race in the state is the reelection campaign of Ted Cruz, the state’s junior Republican senator. One of the Democrats in the Texas delegation, U.S. Rep. Colin Allred of Dallas, is considering running against Cruz and was a key Biden endorser in the 2020 primary. Allred’s campaign said Tuesday he supports Biden for reelection.
Other Texans in the U.S. House who expressed support for another Biden campaign were U.S. Reps. Sylvia Garcia of Houston, Lizzie Fletcher of Houston, Sheila Jackson Lee of Houston, Marc Veasey of Fort Worth and Jasmine Crockett of Dallas. The two who did not respond Tuesday were U.S. Reps. Lloyd Doggett of Austin and Vicente Gonzalez of McAllen, whose reelection race is again being targeted by national Republicans.
In a statement, Crockett echoed the promise that Biden made in his announcement video.
“From health care to the gun crisis to jobs, President Biden delivers,” Crockett said. “But there’s still more work to do. It’s time to FINISH THE JOB!”
We can’t wait to welcome you Sept. 21-23 to the 2023 Texas Tribune Festival, our multiday celebration of big, bold ideas about politics, public policy and the day’s news — all taking place just steps away from the Texas Capitol. When tickets go on sale in May, Tribune members will save big. Donate to join or renew today.
Quality journalism doesn't come free
Perhaps it goes without saying — but producing quality journalism isn't cheap. At a time when newsroom resources and revenue across the country are declining, The Texas Tribune remains committed to sustaining our mission: creating a more engaged and informed Texas with every story we cover, every event we convene and every newsletter we send. As a nonprofit newsroom, we rely on members to help keep our stories free and our events open to the public. Do you value our journalism? Show us with your support.Yes, I'll donate today