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Can 'deep MAGA country' help Biden in Texas? The Lincoln Project thinks so

A group of Republicans trying to defeat a Republican incumbent in a deeply red state is ready to spend millions of dollars in the final days before the election.
Credit: AP
In this combination photo, president Donald Trump, left, speaks at a news conference on Aug. 11, 2020, in Washington and Democratic presidential candidate former Vice President Joe Biden speaks in Wilmington, Del. on Aug. 13, 2020. The conventions, which will be largely virtual because of the coronavirus, will be Aug. 17-20 for the Democrats and Aug. 24-27 for the Republicans. (AP Photo)

If you needed any more proof Texas is a battleground state, The Lincoln Project is ready to spend millions of dollars here in the final days of the campaign. 

Imagine that for a moment: A group of Republicans trying to defeat a Republican incumbent in a deeply red state. 

And not only that, but The Lincoln Project is also expecting some support from what a co-founder calls “deep MAGA country.”

“You can’t get to dead heats in Texas unless you’re losing, deteriorating with Republicans. You just can’t,” Mike Madrid said on Y’all-itics.

To listen to the full conversation on this week's episode of Y'all-itics, subscribe wherever you get your podcasts:

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And in order to reach that “deep MAGA country,” Madrid said the Lincoln Project is prepared to spend $4 million in the state leading up to the election.

“We’re going hardcore to rural Texas to peel off just 1 out of 25, 1 in 30 of these Republican voters to say let’s make a vote for your country over your party at this moment in time,” Madrid said. “If we move just another 1 or 2%, it’s probably game over if Hispanics turn out at the numbers were think they’re going to.”

Madrid is a co-founder of the Lincoln Project. He’s long been a Republican operative in California, and he says he’s spent the past 20 years collecting data comparing his state to Texas.

They’ve long wanted to know why one is solidly blue while the other is solidly red despite looking very similar on paper, from economies to demographics.

And he believes the two are becoming more similar by the day, particularly in political preferences, as Texas continues to build a tech-heavy economy.

A life-long conservative, Madrid said this fight is personal as he views it as a battle for the soul of the party.

“We’re not in the business of starting a new party. I am in the business of fighting for my conservative principles. They can call me a Republican In Name Only. I call them a Conservative In Name Only,” Madrid told the Jasons. “These people are not fighting for conservatism. They’re fighting for Republicanism. And Republicanism is now the party of Donald Trump. It’s about populism. It’s about nationalism. It’s not about conservatism.”

Madrid said The Lincoln Project has been operating quietly in Texas for a while now, collecting and analyzing data.

A million dollars here.

Another million there.

He said they needed to make sure it was a good investment before committing even more dollars and resources.

And he said there is no question, based on their numbers, Texas is in play.

“Sometimes in a campaign, you almost kind of prefer that if the numbers become bad, it’ll give you an excuse to say let’s take this money and move it back into Wisconsin. Let’s go and work in Pennsylvania. Let’s go to Florida. But Texas won’t turn away, right," said Madrid. "It’s like you kind of want it to give you bad data so it will help us focus our resources. No. Texas is saying come on down. Republicans here are moving.”

And Madrid estimated some 10% of Texas Republicans are ready to break ranks. 

He said you’ll find them primarily in the suburbs and within the same powerful group you’ve heard a lot about this election -- suburban women.

But Madrid said at the end of the day, Hispanics hold the key to a Biden victory in Texas.

“They’re already going to turn out. They already are," Madrid said. "The question is how much of a break is he going to get? Is it going to break Biden’s way to the tune of 67%? Is he going to hit 70%? If he drops below 67 and hits 65, probably not enough to get there. That’s going to be the determining factor.”

And as we inch closer to Election Day, expect to see more of what The Lincoln Project has become known for: its commercials.

They are brutal. And effective.

“We have seven crews working in editing. So some of them are taking stuff immediately. Others are working on ads that are coming out in 48 hours. Others are working on ads that are coming out next week," said Madrid.

He said their goal is to respond to the president immediately and drive the narrative, in the short-term or long-term.

No matter what happens in Texas, after 2020, the political landscape may never be the same.

Some of that change can be traced directly back to The Lincoln Project.

“Love us or hate us, the Lincoln Project has redefined the modern campaign,” Madrid said.

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