Hillary Clinton is making a shocking play for a state once considered untouchable for Democrats: Texas.
Or is she?
Clinton’s campaign is launching a one-week ad campaign in Texas, aides to the Democratic candidate announced this week, dropping $100,000 on television spots in Dallas, Houston, San Antonio, and online.
It’s a modest ad buy – compare it to the $2 million on ads Clinton is spending in another traditionally red state, Arizona. And despite Clinton’s recent gains in Texas, she’s still losing to Republican nominee Donald Trump by about 6 points, according to a RealClearPolitics average of recent polls. She remains a long shot to overtake him in the Lone Star State.
So why is Clinton even bothering?
“It’s a classic political prank,” wrote Ross Ramsey, executive editor of The Texas Tribune, in a column on Wednesday.
“If you only have enough money to buy one billboard ad, spend it on the billboard that’s closest to your opponent’s home airport. It won’t move that many voters, but it will rattle the opponent, who’ll be seeing your name and face with every departure and arrival.”
“Buying a bit of TV time in a state your opponent is supposed to have in the bag is essentially the same gag.”
With 38 electoral votes at stake, Texas is the second-biggest prize in the US, and by far the largest traditionally Republican state. Republican presidential candidates typically win the state by double digits. No Democrat has won there since Jimmy Carter in 1976.
If Clinton wanted to make a serious bid to convert the majority of Texans to her side, Ramsey wrote, she would likely need to spend $1 million a week in the state.
But as Trump’s poll numbers continue their downward spiral, he finds himself vulnerable in a number of Republican-leaning states, including Arizona, Utah, and Georgia. As unlikely as a Clinton victory in Texas may be, her ad buy opens the door to countless “what ifs.”
“They’re not trying to swing the state’s electorate,” Ramsey wrote. “The campaign just wants Texans – and Trump – to think about the possibilities.”
“Real advertising would have cost millions,” he wrote, but Clinton is steering the conversation her way for a fraction of the price.