Democratic presidential candidates flocked to South by Southwest in Texas to speak to young people and mobilize a portion of the electorate that sat out during the 2018 midterm elections, according to The Wall Street Journal.
“The one potential comparative advantage between now and the general election as Democrats is that we have a chance to build a grassroots army,” said Democratic Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren at SXSW on Saturday.
Despite being dominated by Democratic members, individuals from both sides of the aisle traveled to Austin in an effort to capitalize on the growing urban and Hispanic populations in Texas, according to The Wall Street Journal.
Six of 13 announced Democratic presidential hopefuls made an appearance at SXSW, as well as independent presidential hopeful Howard Schultz.
Among major Republicans in attendance were former Republican Massachusetts Gov. Bill Weld, former Republican Ohio Gov. John Kasich and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy. Both Weld and Kasich are strongly considering 2020 presidential runs.
The 2020 democratic presidential candidates took to SXSW to discuss a number of issues, including big tech and the Green New Deal, but also used it as a moment to spark criticism against their fellow democratic opponents.
Democratic Washington Gov. Jay Inslee said Sunday that Schultz “needs to stay in private business,” while former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julian Castro targeted Independent Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders for not being committed enough to reparations for black Americans.
“Why wouldn’t we be bold on reparations?” Castro asked.
Democrats have sought out success in Texas for decades with not much luck, however, following former Democratic Texas Rep. Beto O’Rourke’s near victory over Republican Texas Sen. Ted Cruz in 2018, Democrats now see an emerging opportunity to build off their momentum in Texas to defeat the president in 2020, according to The Wall Street Journal. (RELATED: Reuters: Beto O’Rourke Wins Even If He Loses)
Forty-five percent of voters said they would definitely vote for someone else other than President Donald Trump if the 2020 election were held today, according to a survey conducted by the University of Texas and the Texas Tribune.
Democratic National Committee Chairman Tom Perez said the DNC believes there are millions of voters still up for grabs in Texas who sat out during last year’s election, according to the Wall Street Journal.
“You get a tenth of those to get out and vote, we can flip Texas,” he said in an interview to the WSJ. “The trend data is in our direction.”
As of February, party disapproval rates were almost even between Republicans and Democrats in Texas, according to the UT/Texas Tribune report, but at the same time President Trump also has a 49 percent approval rating, which is four percentage points greater than his disapproval rating there.
GOP Chairman James Dickey believes Republican’s risk of losing Texas is real. “Democrats improved their numbers down-ballot and awakened Republicans countrywide to the risk that Texas faces in 2020 unless we devote the resources and energy we must.”
This fear has led democratic hopefuls like Warren, to focus on campaigning in Texas.
“I’m looking for some blue Texans,” Warren told an audience of 700 in Dallas on Sunday, following her appearance at SXSW on Saturday, according to the WSJ.
Democrats are also eyeing six GOP-held House seats in Texas, which according to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi are “ground-zero for us in the next election.”
The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee is also preparing to send field organizers to the Houston, Dallas, Austin, and San Antonio suburbs, according to the WSJ, in their ongoing effort to turn this historically red state, blue.
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