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[00:00:02]

My name is Jon Meacham as we close in on one of the most important elections in American history. I invite you to listen to the entire season of it was said, a documentary podcast giving context to some of the most powerful speeches in our history and the amplified impact they have on us in 2020.

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I've spoken of a shining city all my political life. In my mind, it was a tall, proud city built on rocks, stronger than oceans, windswept God, blessed and teeming with people of all kinds, living in harmony and peace.

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Never forget words matter, words shape history, history matters.

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And I want you to know tonight that we as a people will get to the promised land.

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Let us go forth to lead the land. We love asking his blessing and his help, but knowing that here on Earth, God's work must truly be our own. Binge, the entire documentary podcast season of it was said from C 13 original studios in association with the History Channel. Available now on Apple podcasts and wherever you listen. Everybody, it's David Plouffe, welcome to Campaign HQ, last episode before Election Day twenty twenty or dropping this part a little bit late today because I really want to talk about Texas and I really want to talk to work about that.

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And so I wanted to talk to him.

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So I recorded this one Thursday and here we are. We know a lot more about this election than we didn't even a week ago. We see, as I'm recording this, over seventy five million people have voted in the United States of America. We have many states now that are north of 70 or 80 percent of their overall 16 turn out already. So a lot to to crunch there. And I'm sure a lot of you are spending time looking at what Dave Wasserman has to say about this or Nate Silver has to say about this.

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You've got experts in states like Nevada, Jon Ralston, you've got in Florida, Steve Schale, you've got so many people out there who are crunching these numbers. I think if you were to sum it up and there are some differences state by state, you know, you like what you're seeing if you're a Democrat, you're seeing very strong turnout. No. One, you're seeing a lot of young voters, very high numbers amongst young voters compared to twenty sixteen.

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So far, you're seeing a healthy number of first time registrants or sporadic voters. So that's all great news. Now, of course, the question is, does it remain through the rest of the period? We've still got a lot of states where you can vote in person. A lot of mail ballots still out there in Florida. I think it's still over two million mail ballots haven't been returned. Now, of course, if you live in Florida, you can just return that ballot to a drop box or bring it to an elections office.

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You can bring it to your precinct on Election Day. So that's the other thing. You know, right now, there's a lot of concern that ballots that would be dropped today won't make it in time. So if you know anybody, there's a ballot, really work with them to turn that ballot in in person. So make sure it gets counted. So the question is, do these numbers continue or the Republicans are going to have a surge at the end of the early vote period.

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And then, of course, Election Day as well as early vote can go for you. You have to hit your numbers on Election Day. And so I get often asked by people, given these polls, even people who understand that no two races are different. So let's not live in the rearview mirror of 16. How can Trump win? That's how we could win, which is we basically decelerate at the end of early voting period and really do not have the kind of Election Day turnout we need.

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So that's why everybody out there, I'm sure all of you are, but sign up for more GOTV phoning ships, ships. It's super easy to do. You'll call for two or three hours into states like Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, obviously live in those states. Even more important for you to do all you can sign up to help people drive people to the polls on Election Day and on Election Day, you're going to have phone calling happening. And in the states that are doing a doorknocking with people who haven't voted yet, maybe even people who have had requested an absentee ballot and hadn't turned it in.

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So we have to get to those people and have to encourage them and exhort them and plead with them to go to their polling location to vote. So, you know, all in all, I'd say the early vote period, if you like Joe Biden to be our next president and you'd like the Democrats to win back the Senate looks very good, but we still have quite a bit of road to travel. I'll remark on before I get into our conversation.

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Better about Texas is the map.

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You see, Kamala Harris is going to Texas. Joe Biden's going to Georgia, continuing to hit, obviously, the core battlegrounds up in the upper Midwest and Pennsylvania, Arizona. We saw Barack Obama in Florida once this week and he's going back. So, you know, the Biden campaign is just playing offense. And the good news is that's held up. Sometimes you can see polling and a state looks close and then, you know, is it really gets in in the last week, particularly in a state that seemed like a stretch, you know, the numbers kind of revert back to the favorite party, the party who's the favorite in that state.

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But here we see everything hang in there, Iowa, Georgia, Texas. And that's great news. I still think it's unlikely that Joe Biden wins Georgia and Texas and loses, let's say, Arizona and Wisconsin. But, you know, these states are changing pretty dramatically. And if you look at the turnout in Texas, it's judged by many to be the hardest state to vote in the country, sadly and tragically. But it's got the strongest turnout to date.

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And we'll certainly get into that with better. But we see really strong turnout in Georgia as well. So the map is very much to Joe Biden's liking. Donald Trump has to run the table. He has to make sure Georgia, Texas doesn't slip through for Joe Biden. And then he's got to defend Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Michigan, Arizona, North Carolina and. Florida, and when four of those now he pulled close to an inside straight last time, but you really have to like where Biden is in the race.

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And then, of course, that's how these two candidates are closing. And Donald Trump super spreader events. You know, he was in Wisconsin on Tuesday night, a huge crowd. We saw a lot of people actually got stranded afterwards, including a lot of elderly voters who came down with hypothermia and had to be hospitalized. But as every local television station and every local newspaper is covering the increase in hospitalizations, in covid cases, there's Donald Trump holding these massive events, which we know from polling is not where the American people are.

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They want caution and they want smart leadership. And that's not what Trump is getting. So those rumors, he's going to intensify his schedule even more and do five or six events a day. And honestly, you know, in a normal election, you never like to see your opponent doing more events than you. That means you're getting to more states, more markets. You're using it to organize every event. You're asking people to sign up for for volunteer shifts.

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But this is hurting Trump. So that's the bizarre place we're in. We have an incumbent who's losing this race right now. And as he fights to try and erode that lead that Joe Biden has, all he's doing is setting himself back. And I think Biden is handling this in a very smart way, which is, you know, to be out there one event a day, maybe two events a day. You know, he's on Tuesday met with his covid advisory team.

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So you compare that to coverage of that versus Trump doing these massive events where now we know from reporting that a lot of these sites, not surprisingly, have turned into super spreader events where cases have risen, where Trump's done events. So, you know, Trump can yell all he wants, Don Junior can yell all he want about his crowds. You know, Biden and Obama and Harris are purposely having small crowds. That's the point. And Trump just doesn't understand that.

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And listen, crowds are important in politics. They can signal a lot. But I remember in 2012, so many people wrote that Romney was going to win based on his crowds at the end and crowds. The people who come out to political events are awesome. But it's still in a country where one hundred and fifty one hundred sixty million people are going to vote. Very few people would ever think about an attending an event. But again, the real point here is Trump is holding events that underline one of the central arguments against his presidency.

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And Biden, I think, is handling this extraordinarily well and is being cautious in the messages. I'm going to go out there and I'm going to share my message and I'm going to share my plans, but I'm going to do it in a way that's responsible. So it looks very different. The close of a presidential campaign is usually you're crossing the country, criss crossing time zones, doing huge events. So to events, that's just not what Biden's doing to close this race.

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And he shouldn't. And so if I were I know some Democrats get concerned about that. Don't I think the way these campaigns are closing is really consistent with the entire campaign. Trump is reckless, he's arrogant, he's narcissistic. He's putting people in danger and Biden's doing the opposite. So I think long and short of it, we all have the PTSD from 2016. Those of us who've worked in politics a long time have other examples of races. You thought we're going to go one way and they didn't.

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So I I'm always very cautious about getting overconfident in races, in particular the ones I was responsible for until you actually saw the actual votes on Election Day. And then as precincts get reported, does that match up to what you were expecting, both in terms of your vote share and your turnout?

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And until we see that, you know, the polls are directionally important and you'd certainly like to be where Biden is in the race. I mean, Biden's position in the race right now is better than Clinton's in 16, Obama is in 12 in many states, even Obama in eight, certainly more than Kerry in 04. Gore. So you really have to go back to Clinton 96, which was a strange race because you also had Perot in there. And so, you know, the lead is significant.

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It's real. It's been stable in some states, it's growing. In some states it's just maintaining. But until you see actual votes, you know, did the vote share that showing up in polling actually materialize?

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And then more importantly, you know, did you do what you needed to from a turnout perspective? Because that's still the one where Trump could pull an inside straight here, I think, is just to have much stronger turnout here at the end of the Election Day, early vote period, sorry, at the end of the election, early vote period and on Election Day. So that's what we have to be vigilant about. So, you know, my advice to everyone is work as hard as you can, sign up for more shifts, share good content on social media.

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You know, if you're just burned out of making phone calls, work on a hobby, work on a project. Spend time refreshing political websites, don't spend time on Twitter beyond what you need to, just to do a quick check in. I mean, it's just not healthy. So keep yourself busy and also prepare mentally that there's a chance we do know the outcome on November 3rd.

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If Biden wins by the kind of margin that these polls suggest, we very well might, but it may take a few days and so mentally prepare for that as well. But I think we enter this last weekend because of the work of so many of you who listen to this podcast and across the country who've done remarkable work to register voters, to turn them out, to work on persuasion, to share and create content. It's been a wonder to see and I think Joe Biden's run a very, very disciplined, smart campaign.

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He kind of his demand for this moment. Politics is so much about timing.

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You know, he might not have been the strongest general election candidate in other times, just as Barack Obama wouldn't have been in other races. But but his experience is empathy, his calmness. I think the way he's been disciplined about his campaign and not really listening to those who are asking him to get out of character is right for this moment. And I think Gentlemanly Dylan and the team there has done a really, really great job of of expanding the Electoral College battlefield.

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Really great advertising. I'm sure many of you have seen the ads that are running in these battleground states. They're really, really strong and, you know, close the campaign in a way that reinforces the central argument in the campaign, which is we can't afford four more years of Donald Trump because he's been reckless and divisive and he's a narcissist. And people just want Washington to quiet down and work. And in many respects, Joe Biden is the perfect.

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He's kind of out of central casting for that role that people are looking for. So hang in there, everybody, and we'll get through this. And hopefully on the other side of this, we're going to have a great celebration about a great forty six President United States Joe Biden, his vice president, Kamala Harris, Democratic Senate hopeful. We gain 10 or 15 seats in the House, which seems about the upper range, and win back some state house chambers.

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So we're going to talk about Texas today. Texas is a state that we've all said in politics for some time. Eventually it will become purple. And the question was when? And I think better or worse, a race against Ted Cruz in twenty eighteen really accelerate that discussion. But, you know, there's a question of how much of that was Cruz's unpopular battle just ran such a great race and was an exciting candidate in 18, was a good Democratic year.

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You know, we learn a lot from twenty. And what we see is, first of all, a lot of people who follow Texas very carefully, things the Democrats have a chance to win back the Texas state House, which would be an enormous accomplishment in the Senate race down there with MJ. Hagar and Cornyn is competitive. And then, of course, we have the presidential race, which right now you would consider to be a dead heat. My personal view is you'd still probably slightly favor Trump if you look at some of the polls and historical.

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But when you look at the turnout down there and the composition of who's turning out, you know, I think none of us should be surprised if Joe Biden wins Texas, which would just be a great capstone to Donald Trump's demise. But no one's worked harder to turn Texas around the better or worse.

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And what's amazing about Alberto was he decided to run for president and ended up like so many in that field, deciding, I think, in a responsible way to end his bid when it was clear that he couldn't put together what he needed to in the first states to win. But what he did then was go back to Texas and just basically become an extraordinary grassroots organizer and is devoted all of his time and his talent in every corner of Texas to organizing, to convincing people that we could win, raising resources to do that.

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It's really remarkable to see someone who's a national figure like that. He was probably the one of the most prominent, if not most prominent candidates in twenty eighteen runs for president and then basically goes home and toils in the vineyards of his home state to turn Texas blue. And when he started on this journey, you know, let's say at the beginning of this year, very, very, very few people outside of maybe his core really thought it was possible.

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And, you know, so much of politics is believing that you can win and better believed that twenty eighteen was not just an aberration, that Texas ultimately could be in play this year. And of course, if it is in play this year, now you have the the dynamic of an unpopular Trump. But if we win Texas or get very close, what that means for twenty, twenty two and twenty, twenty four and beyond could not be more important given the size of the state, the number of electoral votes.

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And you're going to have a lot of people now. Who have become voters in Texas, young people, maybe folks who hadn't been registered, hadn't participated. That's part of why you see such great numbers in Texas and that's what it takes. You have to basically. Right. Sort of raise your high watermark to get, you know, more people consistently voting, more people consistently volunteering, more people consistently active. And so that's what Beddows done. And so I'm really eager to talk to him about where he sees the race today, the work that's gone in to bringing Texas to where it is today, some of the scenarios he sees unfolding as we start counting votes there and then what it means for the country and for Texas in years to come.

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So I hope you enjoy this conversation better or work better or work.

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Welcome to Campaign HQ. Thanks for having me on. You did a remarkable thing. You are a national political figure. You and your presidential race. You could have done any number of things. You you go home to Texas and you say you're going to work at the grassroots and you're going to turn Texas blue. And pretty much nobody believed you. Certainly in Texas, people did. But now here we are on the precipice of a state state house, perhaps turning blue.

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You've got a very competitive Senate race on the heels of your own. And Joe Biden looks like he could win. And I just want to add, Texas is rated to be the hardest state to vote in. Tragically, your governor's made it even harder. Yet it's now five days after the election as the strongest turnout. So just tell us where we are better.

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Yeah, I mean, I think that that point that you just ended on is the story of twenty twenty, a state that prior to the twenty eighteen midterm election was fiftieth in the nation in voter turnout and not fiftieth for any lack of love of democracy or voting or participating in elections. But fiftieth. For one hundred and forty four years of active voter suppression, the most onerous voter ID laws in the country implemented literally in the minutes after the Shelby decision in twenty thirteen that gutted the Voting Rights Act right on the heels of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

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Fiery dissent in that decision. You could use your license to carry a firearm to prove who you are at the ballot box, but you cannot use your student ID at the University of Texas at El Paso to prove that you are at the ballot box you've had since Shelby. Seven hundred and fifty polling place closures in the fastest growing state in the country. And those polling place closures, which, by the way, that's more than any other state by a mile by a multiple of two, two and a half those.

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Those are concentrated in the fastest growing black and Latino communities. You have a racial gerrymander. Those aren't my words. Those are the words of a federal three judge panel in twenty seventeen that found that the Republican state legislature literally drew black voters, Latino voters out of a congressional district to diminish the power and impact and even likelihood of their vote. And then, as you mentioned, Greg Abbott in the last few weeks removed all supplementary absentee ballot drop off boxes in every county in Texas that had them.

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So Harris County, which has greater landmass than the state of Rhode Island, more people in it than the state of Nevada has one absentee ballot drop off box which might force a voter to drive 50 miles in order to cast your vote and to drop off her ballot and wait in line for hours.

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Right. I mean, it's so outrageous. And by the way, didn't your routine, your lieutenant governor, just say yesterday Republicans would be doing better except for all these damn people who are voting? Essentially?

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Yeah. I mean, he said out loud what we've all known all along, which is that they're not afraid of voter fraud.

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They are afraid of voters and voting, which is what to your point, that's what the governor very strategically set out to do.

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Absolutely. And I don't think they are done. But but in the face of all that going from fiftieth to as you just said, we are first in the nation in votes cast were first in the nation in votes cast relative to twenty sixteen. In fact, I think the first four counties that exceeded their twenty sixteen total votes cast were all in the state of Texas, beginning with Hayes County, which forever was a reliably red county which flipped blue in twenty eighteen.

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I think we now lead the country in youth voter turnout. So Texas dead last fiftieth place to first place over the course of two years. I think the story of twenty twenty is, is the Texas voter who's willing to overcome the obstacles in her way in order to cast her ballot. And that makes me extraordinarily proud and encouraged, although, as you said, we've still got five days to go. And they are the Republican governor, attorney general, lieutenant governor, Republican state legislature and the president are doing everything they possibly can to stop people or discourage people or intimidate people from voting.

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So we still have our work cut out for us. And so we will not stop until seven to one p.m. Mountain Standard Time on the night of November 3rd, reaching those voters who have yet to cast their ballots to make sure that they get that vote in in time to not just decide the outcome in Texas. But my theory of the case to you is that Texas decides the outcome for the country.

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That would be a remarkable, remarkable story. So, Betto, normally I do this at the end, but just in case anybody who doesn't listen to our whole conversation, I want to stop here and say, how can people, both those listening in Texas who haven't got engaged yet, but the many around the country, how can people help this effort in Texas over the next five days?

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So the group we started to to reach these voters, register these voters and now help turn out these voters. It's called powered by people. And our website is powered X people dot org. So powered by people with the by being spelled as an X dog. And when you go there, you can sign up for a phone bank shift. And the really remarkable thing, David, to me is that more than ten thousand people over the last six months all across the country have signed up for a phone banking shift and have made millions of phone calls.

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We also have folks who sign up for text banking shifts, and we're doing some safe canvassing right now as well. And all together, we've we've attempted just under 60 million voter contacts over the course of this year. And all that is has been done by by volunteers. And I've got to I've got. To think that those volunteers have had some role in helping to to produce this this turnout that we've seen and overcome, these obstacles that have been placed in our way here in Texas.

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So I'm really encouraged by that. But we still have need for more volunteers. And so if you want to sign up for a shift, a shift, by all means, please do.

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So sign up. People know what those volunteers have made it happen because we'll get to the fact that you've done this largely without the presence of our national political ticket until today. So, Betto, when people ask me and I'm sure they ask you all the time, well, look at these polls, how could Biden lose? And, you know, polls aren't votes. Simple statement. But, you know, you look at early vote, which has gone better in Texas than anywhere else in the country, but it's gone well in most places.

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Right. But we still have to make sure we execute early vote so we don't have a drop off. And then the good news about early voting organizationally, as you know, is, you know, you've taken a lot of people off the rolls. So now you say we're down to only 30 percent of our GOTV target. We have to work on Election Day. The bad news is that's the last time you have to capture those people and get them to vote.

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So to talk about Election Day in Texas as well as early votes gone, you obviously can't have what we saw in Florida in in 16, which is Hillary had great early vote numbers and then kind of fell off a cliff on Election Day and Trump just dominated on Election Day turnout. So talk about Election Day and kind of how you're viewing that in Texas. Yeah.

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So I think the effort on the part of organizers and I was just knocking on doors yesterday in Garland, Texas, and the Dallas Fort Worth Metroplex for a state House candidate with the Texas Organizing Project, which, David, they for the last 10 years, this group called Top has been knocking on the doors of low propensity black and Latino voters, specifically the voters that the state government has tried to take off the rolls or suppress or exclude from voting in the first place.

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Top has been trying even harder than the Republican majority has in connecting with those voters and helping them to turn out.

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And, you know, they are just beginning a very aggressive but socially distanced and safe canvas to to reach those voters ahead of Tuesday. To your point, not assuming that this trajectory will hold or that this is the entire story. And in many counties in Texas, as you probably know, you'll get half the vote in early voting and you will get half the vote or more on on election 50, 50, 40, 60, depending on on the county.

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So there are millions of votes left on cast right now. And if we do not accelerate our efforts and get even more volunteers on doors, even more volunteers on phones, yeah, there's a very real possibility that we will not achieve our goal of winning a Democratic majority in state House, winning these congressional races, winning the US Senate race, winning the railroad commissioner race, which has nothing to do with railroads and everything to do with oil and gas, the environment and confronting climate change before it's too late.

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And then then the Holy Grail, as far as I'm concerned, in American politics elections. The thirty eight Electoral College votes in the largest, most diverse swing state in the country, which have not been won by a Democratic nominee since Jimmy Carter did it in nineteen seventy six. So so if we want to achieve any of those things, we really have to ramp up as hard as we've all been working, ramp up our efforts over the next five days.

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So I will be knocking on doors. I'll be hosting phone banks. We just had a big phone bank last night during which we made four hundred and one thousand phone calls to registered Texas voters who had yet to cast their ballot, helping them make a plan to vote. And we've got phone banks day and night for for the remainder of this deal. So so we are not taking anything but anything for granted. Well, that's great to hear.

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And for everyone out there who's not worked GOTV, again, there's nothing more important because you have early vote. People can vote. We encourage everybody to vote early in the period. Clearly in Texas, you've seen that. But this is your last chance. You need to treat these conversations is as the most important conversations in your life, because if we don't encourage these people to vote in those phone calls they want.

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You've stayed engaged. I'd like you to talk a little bit about what you're seeing. I mean, I've talked to some people who are working in state House races in Texas and they say some of those state House races and suburban districts like outside of Dallas have moved 20 to 30 points from 16 to 20. You probably even see movement from your race in 18 to 20. So what are you seeing in terms of the state? So what gives you positivity in terms of what you're seeing?

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Trends? There's been a lot of focus on the fact that in south Texas and in west Texas, Biden's numbers could be stronger in the Latino community. Just to tell us what you're seeing sort of demographically that will inform what happens when we start counting votes on Tuesday.

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You mentioned North Texas and Tarrant County, which is home to Fort Worth, adjacent to Dallas County and right next to Denton and Collin Counties, which are these fast growing suburban districts that have moved from very reliably red to. Absolutely in Tarrant County, up until twenty eighteen was the largest reliably red urban county in the United States of America. It last voted for Democrat in nineteen ninety four. We won it by the skin of our teeth in twenty eighteen. What I'm what I'm realizing now with the benefit of hindsight is I lost it to Cruz by about two and a half points, but we ended up producing together all of us who were on the ballot that year and all the volunteers who knocked on doors.

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The largest voter turnout in a midterm in Texas since nineteen seventy. And the first time that the top of the ticket Democrat won the four major urban areas in Texas and the surrounding counties. Since LBJ did it in nineteen sixty four, it's up to Democrats pick up congressional seats, 12 new state House members, 17 African-American women in judicial positions in Harris County alone. What I'm seeing now is all of that, as amazing as that was, was simply prologue and preview of of twenty twenty.

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The the absolute amazing turnout in twenty eighteen is is just a shadow of what we are seeing in twenty twenty thus far. The amazing slate of candidates that I ran with in that year was just the beginning of what we're seeing in this one, where you have state representative challengers, Democrats running in places that last saw a Democrat on the ballot, David, twenty, thirty years ago. Give you an example. In East Texas, there's a guy named Jason Rogers.

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He's a Democrat running for state rep. I don't know, the last time a Democrat ran for state rep in that district, they basically left that ballot blank in November and previous years. He's an Army veteran. He's a former public school teacher, and he's now working as a diesel mechanic. He's he's from and of that community. And and he is you know, he may or may not win. But I'll tell you what, he's generating far more Democratic votes and bringing out far more Democratic voters and giving Republican voters pause, especially those who are disaffected due to Donald Trump and maybe bringing them in to the ballot box and voting not just for him, but up that ballot all the way to Biden.

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You see that happening across the state. And what I think is so exciting is we typically think of a top down ballot strategy. We want the top of the ticket to rain money and votes down on these poor bottom of the ballot contenders. What we're seeing is that these bottom of the ballot contenders, these state representative candidates who, by the way, are overwhelmingly women and women of color and so many strong black women among them in a state that has done everything possible to keep black men and women from even voting in the first place.

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They are the ones that I think are responsible for almost two million new voter registrations since the last presidential election. They are the ones who are generating the excitement and electricity among the electorate. And I think that is going to flow up the ballot instead of having to come down ballot. And Joe Biden, MJ Hagar, other statewide candidates will be the beneficiaries of this work happening down here. And it is north Texas. It is east Texas. You mentioned the Rio Grande Valley, my hometown of El Paso, which is breaking every turnout record that has ever been set there.

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And we get to El Paso in the Valley. You're talking about communities that are eighty five percent, ninety ninety five percent Mexican-American that have borne the brunt of the worst of the Trump administration. I mean, the highest incidence of coded infections and deaths, front row seat to family separation and caging of of kids. The Wal-Mart massacre in El Paso just a little bit more than. Then a year ago, that claimed the lives of twenty three people due to a gunman who was inspired by Donald Trump and echoed the very words that the president used to describe immigrants and asylum seekers and people who come to this country seeking a better life and producing a better life for all of us from Mexico.

[00:34:22]

So when we connect the dots for one another, people turn out and vote. And that's what you're seeing happen in Texas right now. Better.

[00:34:32]

You mentioned your hometown of El Paso setting turnout records despite the fact that you've got an acute health crisis. So we have one all over the country, but you've got hospitalization records there. You've got ICU capacity issues. Just talk about what it's been like to organize in this election during covid in El Paso. But also, I'm just curious. I wouldn't be surprised if you talk to people who say in that area and all throughout Texas, you know, I voted for Trump in 16.

[00:34:59]

I actually voted for Cruz and 18 when you ran against him. But I'm voting Democratic this time. Yeah.

[00:35:05]

Let me tell you a story from one of the phone banks and I'll get back to your question about El Paso. But this was in the summer was in July, and we had a list that we were working through of landlines, which meant that these are voters for whom we could not obtain a cell phone or who did not have a cell phone at all. And as you can imagine, it tended to be more rural communities that we were calling into.

[00:35:30]

There were older voters, there were wider voters, and they were more likely to be Republicans. And I can't tell you in the days that we called to that list how many times people hung up the phone as soon as they heard my name or gave me a nice expletive to take before they disconnected. And I remember this one woman answered and she she stopped me midsentence, said better. You're wasting your time. This is a Republican household and we voted for Trump and no, thank you.

[00:35:58]

And I said, OK, I understand that. Have a great evening. And then she said, well, hold on a second. But is this really better? I said, it is. And she said, well, let me ask you some questions. She said, Is Biden really the best you can do? And what about this about Biden and who is he going to pick for his running mate? And I realized afterwards these were buying questions.

[00:36:19]

She was genuinely curious and she was she was asking them in a somewhat confrontational way, but she was really genuinely interested in my answers. And then she said this. She said, look, you've been very generous with your time. You took the you made the effort to call us. And so I'll tell you this. We voted for Trump in twenty sixteen. We were planning to vote for Trump again. But there's been something that happened recently that stopped me.

[00:36:45]

I said, well, what was that? She said, well, when we saw Trump make a plan to hold an indoor rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma on June 19th, which as we all know is Juneteenth. And she said, which is Juneteenth, Trump later moved it to the day after. That's when it was originally planned. She said, at that moment, I didn't know if I could vote for him again. And I thought to myself, I didn't say this out loud, but wow.

[00:37:09]

So the kids in cages, the open racism, the failure to meet the challenge of the worst recession since the Great Depression, exacerbated by this failure in leadership, none of that moved you or maybe all of that moved you. And what it took was this, you know, holding an indoor rally in the midst of a pandemic on Juneteenth, the day that this country celebrates the emancipation of our fellow Americans, our fellow human beings. That is what moved this older, white, rural voter in the state of Texas.

[00:37:43]

And you cannot extrapolate too much from that. This is just one anecdote. But I was I was really encouraged. And it and David, that's why I make phone calls and knock on people's doors. You wouldn't believe it unless you heard it and. Right. Or never to assume anything about anyone nor to write them off, nor to judge them nor nor to to make any kind of decision, unless you've heard them first and did your best to understand where they're coming from.

[00:38:12]

So that was extraordinarily encouraging to me. And then when it comes to El Paso, you're right. This is the hardest hit big city in not just in the state of Texas in the country right now. And this follows on the heels of what we saw happen in the Rio Grande Valley, which is many hundreds of miles away, but similarly situated on the US Mexico border, a heavily Latino Mexican-American communities that have just been decimated by covid in in the Rio Grande Valley.

[00:38:44]

So many people died so quickly that you ran out of room and morgues and funeral homes and they had to stack the dead bodies in refrigerated FEMA trailers because there was no longer capacity in the community. We in El Paso have exceeded hospital capacity, ICU capacity. They're literally building military grade field. Hospitals in the downtown of El Paso right now. And yet, as you just said, El Paso continues to break voter turnout records. This says something not so much about necessarily the candidates or even our party, but but about our fellow Americans.

[00:39:22]

It's just heroic. It really is.

[00:39:24]

It really is. And I'll tell you, there's there's one person that I want to particularly call out in my community, Veronica Escobar, who is our member of Congress and along with Sylvia Garcia, became the first Latina ever elected to Congress from the state of Texas, though we are forty two percent Mexican-American and obviously have a long, proud history of Latina and leadership. She doesn't have a really serious November election. She is born every moment of her waking life, every resource in her campaign into calling El Paso INS and turning them out and helping them make a plan to vote in the most voter suppressed state.

[00:40:06]

Ma'am, do you know where your your nearest polling location is? Let me tell you the hours. Do you know what documents you need to bring with you? Can you go tomorrow? It opens at 7:00. We can get you there right before work. And I think she and others you are devoting that kind of time and effort are helping to produce this kind of turnout. But ultimately, the credit goes to the voter who's willing to brave these conditions and in some cases, let's be honest, risk their health and potentially their lives in order to ensure that this democracy really works.

[00:40:39]

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[00:42:03]

Tell us what that visit can mean here in the last five days. And we still then have, after today, four days left. And I know that you've been advocating for a trip from Vice President Biden. You think that still could be possible, like an election visit?

[00:42:20]

I think it's amazing that Senator Harris is going to be here. Even more amazing that we mentioned how critical a role Tarrant County in north Texas, home to Fort Worth, plays in our elections. Essentially, Tarrant County has predicted the outcome just about every major statewide election. Again, we won it by such a slim margin. In twenty eighteen, there are many competitive state House districts within Tarrant County. Her visit there says something. She'll also be visiting Houston, Texas, which is the most diverse city in the United States of America.

[00:42:56]

One hundred and twenty languages spoken in the public schools and the Houston Independent School District. And then there's this most exciting of all to me. She'll be going to Garland, Texas.

[00:43:07]

Yeah, that is. I was so happy to see that. So smart. I'm sure you had something to do with that.

[00:43:11]

And you know what is so counterintuitive to most campaigns because and you know your Texas geography, Allen, just like my hometown of El Paso, not easy to get to. You don't have direct flights. It's not in typically the consciousness of most national campaigns. And yet in terms of what it means to our identity as as Texans in nineteen ninety five percent Mexican-American community, that has borne the brunt of the worst of Trump's cruelty, a place that is so often overlooked or forgotten or taken for granted because it is so reliably Democratic for poor someone like Senator Harris, who could very well be the next vice president, United States to to make a point of coming to the Rio Grande Valley is so profoundly powerful.

[00:44:00]

I don't think most people outside of Texas or even outside the valley get what that means. So I was so pleased to see that, in fact, I'm in north Texas right now where we were knocking on doors yesterday with the Texas Organizing Project. I'm driving down to an eight hour drive to be there in the valley to to welcome Senator Harris and to do my part in trying to encourage greater voter turnout there. So I'm very, very happy with what the Biden Harris campaign have done so far in and, you know, just acknowledging Texas, which for 20 years has not been acknowledged for more than 20 years.

[00:44:37]

You know, to be honest, I certainly would love to see more resources devoted to this state because the state has done its part. The Texas Democratic Party never seen it this well capitalized or organized grassroots groups like Top Annie's List, our organization powered by people, and then the Texas voter willing to stand in those lines for seven or eight hours, willing to overcome this voter suppression and voter intimidation. That voter needs to know that the national ticket has their back.

[00:45:07]

And if in the last Dallas Morning News poll, which was released Sunday just a few days ago, which had Biden at forty eight percent, Trump at forty five percent, and as you said, polls don't vote. And who knows what that poll means, except that it is possible, if that is all happening without relatively any investment from the national ticket, imagine what could happen with a significant investment from the national ticket, including a visit by the very top of the ticket.

[00:45:37]

Now, there are only five days left to us. I don't know that the Joe Biden's going to visit Texas and we're not counting on it. We're not waiting for it. And we're going to do the work necessary regardless. But I think his presence would be catalytic in this state, a sure hope that it's under consideration. Well, here's the good news.

[00:45:54]

Better because of the work of you and hundreds of thousands of people in Texas in twenty twenty four. Texas is going to start at the beginning of the conversation about battleground states because it is such a backbreaker, those 38 electoral votes so better. The Texas State House has one hundred and fifty members. Democrats only need nine to win back. The majority made big progress in 18. When you look the top of the ticket, obviously winning back state House is matters in every chamber in the country, but I think it particularly matters in Texas.

[00:46:23]

Can you talk about what it would mean for the Democrats to win back the state House heading into a redistricting year in Texas is is growing faster than almost any, if not faster than any other state in the country. That will be reflected in the twenty 20 census count, which means that Texas will probably draw in three new congressional districts, adding to the thirty six that that we already have. I mentioned earlier that this is a state that has been racially gerrymandered, where people have been placed in congressional districts.

[00:46:57]

Solely based on the color of their skin or their ethnicity or their country of of national origin, if Democrats pick up at least nine seats and have a majority in the state House for the first time in nearly 20 years, they will have a seat at the table when this state is redrawn in in twenty, twenty one. And they can draw back in people who literally were drawn out of not just a district, but a reason to vote and functionally drawn out of their democracy.

[00:47:26]

I mean, this this is part of the profound pernicious consequence of the Shelby decision in twenty thirteen. There's just no safeguard for this kind of voter suppression. And until we get a new Voting Rights Act that is enforced by a new administration, it's really up to the majorities that we're able to produce in the state house. The good news is we're nine seats down in twenty eighteen. I actually won more votes than did Ted Cruz in nine of those seats that we have to pick up.

[00:48:00]

And so we have turned out voters sufficient to win in the past. But then in addition to that, just since twenty eighteen, more than one point one million additional Texans have registered to vote, many of them in the most competitive state House districts. And our read of who is registering to vote bodes very well. Those those, by and large, are democratically inclined voters who we now have the challenge of connecting with and helping to make a plan to vote and ensuring that they turn out in these important elections.

[00:48:35]

And again, if if we win that majority redistricting could become a much fairer process. And then you also have the ability for Texas to take the lead on some some national issues that are front and center in our state, that four of the worst gun violence tragedies have occurred in Texas, El Paso, Midland, Odessa, Sutherland Springs, Santa Fe High School. This this is the the the front lines of climate change and the communities of color that literally sit right on the edge of disparate health impacts and deaths and the underlying preconditions that cause people to die from covid.

[00:49:20]

That's all happening right here in Texas. So on gun violence, on climate, on expanding access to health care in the least insured state in the country, Democratic majority state legislature can make progress on those issues. And then again, I think at the bottom of the ballot, when we're generating excitement, expanding the electorate, helping to turn out more voters, that helps everyone up ballot, including Joe Biden and Kamala Harris. So a lot is riding on these critically important state House seats.

[00:49:57]

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[00:51:26]

Stamps.com never go to the post office again. That it is you mentioned this earlier, just in Texas, that dynamic of these down ballot races are going to help the top of the ticket. And one of the things that's most exciting to me, and you were an example of this, I mean, if you look at twenty, eighteen and twenty twenty, the Democratic candidates for US Senate, for state House races, for Congress, you mentioned railroad commissioner.

[00:51:56]

They are so strong because they're just like normal average Americans who basically have decided maybe not to make a career of this. Right. But they're going to go try and win office and serve for two or three terms, take a swing at the plate and do their best. And to me, if we can make that continue, our future is bright. So I want to talk last question for you, because I know you've got to get on the road.

[00:52:17]

When you think about Texas, we may have a state house to defend. You mentioned there's other House races. Hopefully we win a couple more seats. So we're going to have vulnerable incumbents to defend in twenty, twenty two. We'd like Texas to be a core battleground state in twenty four and get rid of Ted Cruz in twenty four as well if he's running for re-election. So what needs to happen? You mentioned the work that your group is doing, Texas Organizing Project.

[00:52:41]

What needs to happen over the next two to four years. So we're registering people when they turn 18. So we're turning people out in in off year so that we're recruiting candidates. It seems to me that the resources that we put in in Texas are going to pay off five or ten fold for our party if we can get this right. So you've I don't think there's anybody who knows better, like what needs to be the road map so that the good outcomes we get in twenty twenty, whether we win narrowly or lose narrowly, it's still going to be remarkable to think in four years how Texas has changed.

[00:53:13]

How do we make this the new normal?

[00:53:16]

Yeah, you look at some of these state House candidates who are running right now in Texas. And again, I think this is the most important and most exciting and most interesting level of the ballot. Lisa Simmons is a great example up here in north Texas. In Arlington, she is president of the Arlington NAACP, has not run for elected office before. Is speaks her mind from the heart. I don't know that she's met a consultant or a pollster or or listen to a focus group.

[00:53:46]

She's she's talking and listening to voters and the people in the community that she's worked with for ever. She's a really good shot of winning this race because she's just an extraordinary leader. But as a black woman, she really doesn't have access or traditionally has not had access to the same campaign resources donors, network of campaign infrastructure that I, as a white guy in the state of Texas, have been the beneficiary of. And so I think if Lisa wins that race, we all I mean, we've got to get behind her right now with five days to go to help her win.

[00:54:24]

But but when she becomes a state representative for that district, I think we all have to acknowledge that she needs support beginning on November 4th to make sure that she has the resources to compete again in twenty, twenty two when, you know, they will be coming after her with everything but everything that they have. I worked my tail off for Senator Obama in twenty eight in the primary caucus in Texas, the Texas two step knocking on doors, hosting campaign workers at at our home, donating the maximum 30 dollars at a time.

[00:55:00]

To my wife's consternation when we finally got the aggregate bill and I just, you know, with tears in my eyes, I watched him make his victory speech on the night of that election. And then, David, I like I said, OK, great job done. Watch this guy go. He's going to save us now. And you went back to what I was doing in my life. And I realize now, with the benefit of hindsight, that's when the work began, because over the next ten years, I don't know how many hundreds are more than a thousand legislative seats.

[00:55:36]

Democrats lost majorities in Congress that were lost Senate. And so his ability to affect all of that amazing change that I was so excited about and was working so hard to help him win, which I thought was dependent solely upon the 2008 election, all of that became compromised and much more difficult than it would have been otherwise. Lesson learned. So after November 3rd, twenty twenty, I think we drink a beer, spend some time with our family and our kids, and then we get back to work and we help to sustain these majorities that I hope that we have won.

[00:56:15]

And we prepare for the reaction, which is sure to come down the line right away as we learned after the two thousand and eight election. And and we have the courage of our conscience and our convictions to say and do the things that we know are important for our state and to connect with those voters who matter. Yes. When I was not in Garland, Texas, knocked on the door of a woman, her one year old son was was at the window kind of looking at us and doing what one year olds do, pressing his face up against the window and laughing at all of us who were camped out in her front yard.

[00:56:49]

And she she spoke Spanish and she said to me, hey, I'm so glad you're here. And she didn't know where her her nearest early voting location was. And she said, thank you for letting me know and I'll try to get there tomorrow. But she said, you know, I typically just see people like you in the days before an election and maybe you guys are going to do what you say you're going to do. Maybe you won't.

[00:57:13]

So I don't know. And I can tell she was she was telling me, you know, I don't know how important it is for me to vote, so I don't know if things are are going to change. The reason I was knocking on your door with the Texas Organizing Project is because they will be back at her door, not in October or November of twenty twenty two. They'll be back next month talking to her about civic or municipal issues in her community and helping her to get engaged in school board issues, city council issues so that we have a relationship and a conversation ongoing so that when that election comes around in twenty, twenty two, it's not a cold ask that we're making right now.

[00:57:49]

So for all of us and you know this and I think your listeners understand this, we have to stay engaged in the fight and do the work right after this election is said and done. And that is an exhausting prospect right now, given how hard all of us are working. But you don't want to find yourself in twenty, twenty two the way we found ourselves in twenty ten, having to fight a surprise battle that we didn't see coming. We know this is coming.

[00:58:18]

So, so let's get ready.

[00:58:19]

That is such a stirring reminder, an exhortation to people. I mean, yeah you're right. You drink a beer and spend a little time with your family but we need year round activism and donating money is important and people need to do that. You know, your example about North Texas is great. But, you know, the top example you just use is exactly right, you know, to be at those doors when we're not asking for votes. And so many of these voters are low information consumers of political news.

[00:58:47]

They're not paying attention to the debates in Washington or in Austin. We've got to be telling them, hey, this thing just happened. That's positive on health care or climate change. If we don't do that, you know, people are going to rightly ask what is in it for them and how this matter. So does that to me. You just captured what we need to do, which is we got to stay at this and stay at this and stay at this.

[00:59:10]

Maybe you can work a little less hard in the first quarter of twenty twenty one than you did the last quarter of twenty twenty. But we have to stay at this because Texas is the best example in the country. We have the numbers to win more elections than we lose. But if you do all that work in the last 60 days, you're not going to get anywhere. So we have to do year round voter registration, year round storytelling, year round organizing.

[00:59:31]

So it's such a great model for what we need to do in the rest of the country, because the one thing we know that is, you know, if Joe Biden wins the presidency, you know, what's Mitch McConnell, if he survives his race and Ted Cruz is going to say day after, you know what, we're not going to help him do anything, not a dollar for anything. Even though we've run up the biggest deficits of all time, we're still going to have a tough economy.

[00:59:50]

So your point about 08 is a good one, which is the election is just the opportunity to make the change. The real change happens afterwards. So everybody listen to better work and find a way to stay engaged, even in the quiet moments, because that's actually when people listen, I think much more so than they do around election time. Well, better. Thank you for your time today. More importantly, thank you for all you're doing for our country, for your state in Texas.

[01:00:15]

It's a great model for how we win elections.

[01:00:18]

And you could have, after your presidential race, pontificated or lecture wounds or made a lot of money, did whatever you wanted to do. But the fact that you've done this kind of organizing, doorknocking, phone calling, rallying others, again, it's just heroic work. So I'm glad that you're on the stage. And nothing would make us all happier than to have your state be called on the night of November 3rd and be the first real time we can say Donald Trump is a first term disgrace president.

[01:00:46]

This is the happiest I've been in as long as I can remember. I was in Congress for four, six years. Then I traveled to the state of Texas for two years and traveled much of the country for a year last year and so forth, for the first time in what seems like forever. I'm living with my family. I'm helping to raise my kids. I'm seeing my wife every day and I'm a volunteer, just like millions of volunteers across this country who's knocking on doors, making phone calls, doing what I can to support great candidates and ensure that this democracy survives this administration.

[01:01:21]

And it is so fulfilling. And just one quick message for anyone who is tempted by the despair that we are sure to feel in the face of so much death and devastation and. Struggle and suffering and listen, I feel it, too, and I have to fight that off the work that you can do by making phone calls or volunteering and it's tough. Like I don't like making phone calls to Grangers and interrupting your dinner and introducing myself and talking to them about one of the two subjects you're not supposed to bring up in polite company.

[01:01:56]

I have a little bit of anxiety before every single phone call, even though I've made thousands of them. However, at the end of one of those phone banking shifts, I feel so fulfilled I no longer feel like a bystander or a witness or a member of the audience. I have agency. I'm taking action. I'm helping what I know is one of the most important causes in the history of this country. And for me personally, that has been the antidote to despair.

[01:02:26]

And I think for all of us collectively, that is the key to victory. So if you're listen this right now and you've been fretting and anxious and just down because of what's happening in this country, I don't blame you. But I will tell you the key to getting past that is taken action and there is still time to do that. Do not think that we're too close for you to make a difference with as of this recording, five days to go, you can make a huge difference and you can certainly do that in the biggest battleground state in the country.

[01:02:55]

And we'd love to have your help.

[01:02:56]

So sign up for a shift to help that and all those amazing volunteers deliver Texas so that we'll have fun with Comilla and McCallan today. And we can't wait to see what happens on Tuesday down in the big, incredibly important state of Texas. Thank you.

[01:03:12]

Thanks for the focus on Texas. We are really grateful for it. And thanks for what you're doing out there. Of course. Good to be with you, brother. Thanks. Likewise.