Democrat Joe Biden aired a 2020 campaign ad in Texas for the first time Tuesday, capitalizing on favorable polling to launch a challenge against President Donald Trump on what has long been considered conservative turf.
The 60-second spot is part of a broader ad buy across multiple states including Arizona and Florida, battlegrounds that Trump won in 2016 but are now in play as his support wavers amid frustration over how he is handling the coronavirus pandemic.
An average of recent polling shows Biden and Trump in a dead heat in Texas, which has not voted for a Democratic presidential candidate since 1976, and which Republicans count on in their efforts to win the White House.
A recent Dallas Morning News poll that had Biden up by five points against Trump showed that fully nine percent of Republicans would vote for Biden if the general election were held today.
That would be a game-changer for the election; Trump losing Texas, the nation's second largest state, would almost certainly deny him a second term.
Amid an overwhelming surge in new cases, Texas Governor Greg Abbott has reversed the state's reopening.
"The rise in case numbers is causing fear and apprehension," Biden says in the ad, which is clearly aimed at soothing concerns about a crisis that has left more 3.3 million infected nationwide and about 136,000 Americans dead.
"If you're sick, if you're struggling ... I will not abandon you," he says over images of masked emergency responders, parents and children, and of loved ones communicating via webcast or through glass.
"We'll fight this together, and together we'll emerge from this stronger than we were before we began."
The ad notably makes no mention or features no image of Trump, but it serves as a clear indictment of the president's handling of the crisis.
In a speech later Tuesday about his "Build Back Better" plan to revive the faltering US economy, Biden did take aim at the president.
Biden knocked Trump's "failed response" to the pandemic and said he should listen to his health experts, not denigrate them as he has recently done.
"Do your job, Mr President, because if we can't deal with the public health crisis, we can't deal with the economic crisis," the former vice president said.
Biden is leading Trump by nine percentage points in the RealClearPolitics aggregate of national polling.
But, significantly, Biden is also ahead in at least five of the major swing states that will likely decide the election: Arizona, Florida, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.