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Joe Biden to air first general-election TV ads in Texas as polls show increasingly close race against President Donald Trump

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Former Vice President Joe Biden plans to air his first general-election TV ads in Texas as polls show him closing in on President Donald Trump here. Michael Stravato for The Texas Tribune

Joe Biden is launching his first general-election TV ads in Texas as a growing number of polls show a close presidential race here.

As part of a four-state ad buy that Biden's campaign is announcing Tuesday, the presumptive Democratic nominee is going up with a 60-second spot in Texas that addresses the increasingly dire coronavirus situation here.

"I'm thinking all of you today across Texas," Biden says in the ad, which opens with a shot of Marfa. "I know the rise in case numbers is causing fear and apprehension."

"The virus is tough, but Texas is tougher," Biden later says, telling Americans to follow guidelines to slow the spread of the virus — and that he wants them to know: "I will not abandon you. We're all in this together."

The buy, which also features digital ads, is across Texas, Arizona, Florida and North Carolina — and it marks the campaign's first TV and digital ad spending in Texas since Biden secured the nomination. A Biden campaign official described the size of the four-state buy as "mid-six figures."

There have been a series of polls in recent weeks finding a tight contest between Biden and President Donald Trump in historically red Texas. One poll released Sunday found Biden leading Trump by 5 percentage points among likely voters, while another survey that came out the same day gave Trump a 1-point lead among likely voters, well within the margin of error.

At the same time, the campaign season in Texas has been upended by the coronavirus, especially as it has surged here in recent weeks. The spike prompted Gov. Greg Abbott to issue a statewide mask requirement earlier this month, despite previously resisting calls to issue such a mandate.

In the ad, Biden encourages Texans to wear masks, wash their hands, stay home if they can and socially distance when they go out. The spot ends with an image of Biden in a mask, along with the words, "Stay Safe, Wear a Mask."

Biden has promised to contend Texas, which Trump won by 9 percentage points in 2016, the smallest margin for a GOP nominee in the state since 1996. The 2016 Democratic nominee, Hillary Clinton, ran TV ads in the state, though she did not do so until less than a month out from the election and made a relatively small investment.

While the Biden campaign did not detail how much it is spending specifically in Texas, the official said the four-state buy "will run in each state’s top markets, on local cable, and on Sunday cable shows." In Texas and two of the other states, the campaign is running Spanish-language versions of the spots, with captions, on YouTube, Facebook and Univision.

Trump has brushed off the threat of Biden in Texas, casting doubt on the polls.

"I think Texas is going to be very strong for us – all of us — as it was in the past election, 2016," Trump said during a tele-town hall Monday evening with a congressional candidate here.

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