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Michael Bloomberg to spend $15 million on TV ads for Biden in Texas and Ohio after seeing tight polling

Michael Bloomberg in East Austin on Jan. 11, 2020.                    Credit: Steve Matzker for The Texas Tribune
Michael Bloomberg in East Austin on Jan. 11, 2020. Credit: Steve Matzker for The Texas Tribune

Billionaire Michael Bloomberg is funding a last-minute ad blitz on behalf of Joe Biden in Texas and Ohio, providing a boost to the former vice president as polls and a flutter of late campaign activity continue to show that the Lone Star State might be in play.

A Bloomberg spokesperson told The Texas Tribune on Tuesday morning that the former mayor of New York City and Democratic presidential candidate will use his super PAC, Independence USA, to fund $15 million worth of statewide ads in both Texas and Ohio.

The ads begin running Wednesday and will go through Election Day, or Nov. 3. In Texas, the ads will focus on “[President Donald] Trump’s mismanagement of COVID-19 crisis,” according to a Bloomberg spokesperson. The commercials will run in both English and Spanish.

The decision by Bloomberg is further fodder for Democrats that for the first time in decades, Texas is not a foregone conclusion. The move comes as some polls show the Biden-Harris ticket within striking distance — and, in some surveys, ahead — in the traditionally Republican state.

The Bloomberg spokesperson confirmed earlier reports from the New York Times that the former mayor asked his team to run a round of polls across multiple states and based its spending decisions on survey results. The team came away convinced that Texas and Ohio were prime pickup opportunities for Democrats, despite both going for Trump in 2016, and Bloomberg later gave “the go-ahead to invest additional money to support Joe Biden,” the spokesperson said.

For the most part, both Biden and President Donald Trump have avoided general-election campaigning in Texas. Trump hasn’t visited the state since a summer fundraiser, while Biden’s last appearance was in March. In the last month, however, Biden has sent a flurry of surrogates to the state to campaign on his behalf. His running mate, U.S. Sen. Kamala Harris of California, is planning to visit Texas on Friday.

Until now, Bloomberg had focused his general-election activities in Florida — where he pledged to spend $100 million supporting Biden. The Bloomberg spokesperson told the Tribune on Tuesday that Bloomberg also plans to increase the size of his television ad buys in Florida over the next week.

But this is not the first time Bloomberg has waded into Texas politics. Before spending a gusher of cash in the state during his own failed presidential campaign, his super PAC spent $2.8 million to help Democratic U.S. Reps. Colin Allred, of Dallas, and Lizzie Pannill Fletcher, of Houston, in their respective 2018 congressional races.

More recently, he made a late donation of $2.6 million to the Democratic nominee for railroad commissioner, Chrysta Castañeda, providing a massive fundraising boost in a race for the oil and gas regulatory board that usually does not see such big money.

A Biden win in Texas this year would be seismic in American politics and end the decadeslong Republican dominance in the nation’s most populous red state. The last Democrat to win the state’s Electoral College votes was Jimmy Carter in 1976.

Still, Biden nor Trump has invested serious resources in the state in the lead-up to Election Day. Over the weekend, Trump’s campaign dismissed the possibility that Texas could flip to Democrats; Rick Perry, the former energy secretary and governor of Texas, told reporters that it was “not a battleground state.”

Polls paint a different picture: The latest survey from the University of Texas/Texas Tribune, released Oct. 9, gave Trump a 5-point lead over Biden in the state. A Quinnipiac University poll last week showed a tie; a Dallas Morning News/University of Texas at Tyler poll released Sunday showed Biden up 2 points, and a New York Times/Siena College poll on Monday gave Trump a 4-point lead. Another nonpartisan Texas poll released Monday, from the Hobby School for Public Affairs at the University of Houston, gave Trump a 5-point lead.

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