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Hello from the Lincoln Project and welcome back, I'm Ron Kessler. It's time for another State of the vote episode. Once per week, we'll update you on the national political map as voters around the country cast their ballots. This election is unlike any other in history because of the record number of ballots that are being cast by mail. So although we've been conditioned to think that Election Day is a one time event that happens one time of year, people are voting right now.


They're already voting by mail in almost every battleground state, including Arizona and Florida, Georgia, Minnesota, Michigan, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Texas, Virginia and Wisconsin. And this week, ballots were mailed in Kansas, Maryland, Massachusetts, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah and Washington State. Joining me today is Lincoln Project co-founder and former political director of the California Republican Party. Mike, I eat numbers for breakfast, Madrid. I'm going to keep doing that because because it's thanks for being on again, Mike.


And former United States congressman for the Texas 16th Congressional District, a candidate in the twenty eighteen United States Senate race in Texas, a former candidate in the 20 20 Democratic primaries, and the founder of Powered by people, Beto O'Rourke. He's also the coolest guy in politics, I think, and the first very prominent Democrat that we've had on the podcast. Betto, thank you for taking the time today. It's an honor to be with you and thanks for having me on.


I'm looking forward to the conversation. Likewise. Mail in ballots are out in almost every state.


Make early in-person voting has started in Arizona and Ohio. And we'll start in Georgia, North Carolina and Texas this week. What are the trends we're seeing on the national map that voters should be watching before we start digging into Texas today?


Yeah, so be mindful that today we did it a little bit. Over six million votes have already been cast in this election month as we've been trying to drive that that educational narrative about it's not about Election Day. There's a there's a whole month of voting. Six million people have cast their ballots. The polling continues to look. The fundamentals, as we've been saying it, look very strong for Joe Biden. We are playing and looking at a lot of places, such as the Lincoln Project that we never anticipated being in.


We can talk a little bit about that later. I want to get to the Texas stuff with Batho in just a second. I'm excited about this conversation, but the fact that we're talking about taxes and such a meaningful way and that the Lincoln Project has announced, you know, at an early one million dollar a week position at this point in time tells us that the million we've already spent has been paying off. Most of that has been research. We've been looking at the numbers, identifying Republicans that we think we can move, coupled with the efforts that that Congressman O'Rourke is going to be involved with and is leading and doing a phenomenal job.


There's something cooking. There's something cooking in the sun generally in Texas specifically, we met this morning and we're going to we're going to really, I think, bring the heat. And so it's good to kind of to join forces with other folks that are aligned in common cause. And I think we can make a difference. Yeah, OK.


And before we get to Texas, one more thing I want to talk about Wisconsin. Yeah, quick, because we talked about Wisconsin's coronavirus spike last week and it only seems to have gotten worse since then. And a federal appeals court just blocked an extension for ballot returns last Thursday. The ruling means that all absentee ballots will need to be in the hands of election officials by the time the polls close on November 3rd. Now, these deadlines for ballots coming in, whether they whether they have to be returned by Election Day or whether they have to be postmarked by Election Day is a is a is a major point of contention at the state level, all across the board, the battleground states.


So can you talk really briefly about Wisconsin and what this means for voters?


So it's not just Wisconsin, although we did talk about it last week and said, you know, this is coming. It is here. We know that the life cycle of the virus, once we start to see infection rates spike above the national average, give us about a week before we start to see really, really unhealthy situations, unfortunately, because of the mismanagement of the Trump administration in this crisis. If you took a map of all of the infection rates spiking above the national average by county, it's virtually identical to the red map of, you know, Donald Trump's two hundred and seventy electoral strategy.


That's a tragedy. These are American lives being lost of human lives being lost, but it does have political implications. We need to be serious about that. This is a very serious election. So two quick things. One is, I think it's fairly easy to predict that Donald Trump vote. The polling will go even lower in his red base in these states, Wisconsin, Iowa. Take a real close look at Iowa the next few days and weeks.


These are rural areas, a lot of rural areas that don't have the capacity to manage what's coming in terms of the vote. Yeah, there are, again, twenty seven states. We have expanded our vote by mail and everyone is a little bit different, these nuances are different. Some states have extended the postmark date out to 16 days. Most sit about three days. The average is about three days after receipt. If it's postmarked that day, it's just another reminder that rather than get involved in the complications, the sooner that you can vote, please vote.


Get that vote turned around. If you're sitting on an absentee ballot or vote by mail ballot now, please vote if you can vote early and go into the county government center or your polling location, please vote now. Make it easier for yourself, for your community and for the country. The more of these votes that are in early, the better it's going to be on election night and going forward, because there is going to be a lot of complications with a lot of variations on election night based off of the demography of who is voting when the votes are happening, when they're being processed, when they're being counted, and what that's going to mean in the weeks post November 3rd.


I want to dive into Texas. But before we can do that, can you talk about why a campaign's target states can change and expand this late in the election? Because we've we've talked about how this race has been really stratified and and how the a lot of the law and order rhetoric that the president has been using has worked for him in some places and has actually backfired against him in other places, meaning that the Electoral College map in terms of campaign strategy has turned into sort of a game of whack a mole.


Right. And so it's become a lot flatter, as you've said. So so the fact that we're sitting here today with Bato talking about Texas is this late in the game is is puzzling, I think, to a lot of people. So just really quickly explain why we are why things are so fluid this late in the election. Sure. And it does seem a little bit anomalous because you've been hearing me say for the past few months that this race is extremely stratified, the most stratified and partisan in the history of modern polling.


And I've also said that this race is not necessarily tightening, but it is flattening. And what I mean by that is the battlefield map is expanding. This is probably the largest battleground map to 270 in my professional career. Certainly any time I've ever done a race, we're looking at 13 races. We were even talking about Alaska and Montana this morning. So the fact that we are talking about Georgia and the fact that we are talking about Texas and not just talking, but acting and moving now and that there is so much activity tells you that something demographically has shifted.


It's not just the political winds. So very quickly, one of the reasons why we look at Sunbelt states and we'll talk a little bit about this with, though, in just a moment, three primary reasons, the first large and growing number of college educated white voters in these Sunbelt areas. These are states that have invested heavily in very high tech economies, educated workforces, and they are growing literally workers with a much different, I would argue, much more progressive view of politics.


They're rejecting kind of the Trump ism and sort of the backward retrograde ness of what the Republican Party has metastasized into and the contrast between an Allen West led party and Republican Party in Texas. And what is happening with a Joe Biden candidacy is driving Republican suburban women specifically. But but all suburban, educated, college educated voters generally out of the Republican fold. That's one to sixty five plus voters. This was the real collapse that we started to see about 72 hours ago.


Once the president announced that he was covered positive, a lot of the facade really fell apart. And the Sunbelt states have a slightly older population because of whether there's more retirees. That's why Arizona is competitive, likely to go for Biden this year. Texas is no different. These seniors have turned off. They saw the reaction of a governor abit of a Governor Deucy and the governor to Santos and Florida, Arizona and Texas. They responded to it. Why?


Because their lives are on the line. They were actually physically threatened and felt those health impacts. And then third and finally, is the rising Latino vote tremendous promise to actually change the demography and actually the vote base of the entire country? I believe, as I've said numerous times, we are on the verge of a realignment. I think it will happen in November of twenty, twenty, just twenty five short days away. But if it doesn't, it's coming.


It's demography and demography is destiny and math matters. Math is real. And so as that as that develops, we're going to really be watching taxes on a day to day basis to see if this linchpin states not just in the electoral map, but really in the future of the country politically and from a partisan perspective makes its move.


Yes. OK, Betto, here we go. There's a lot to unpack, I think, with what Mike just said. And so I love first for you to react to that or add to that in terms of the shifting demographics in Texas, specifically about the crossover appeal this year. And and you mentioned earlier on before we started recording a huge chunk of Republican voters in Texas who are inclined to vote for a Democrat.


Why don't you take it from here to what Mike just said in a. All four year cycle between presidential elections, you'll see about 700000 Texans registered to vote as of two weeks before the voter registration deadline this year, we'd had more than one point five million Texans registered to vote since the 2016 election. So Mike was talking about demography. And you look at the natural population growth in Texas, a minority majority state. You add to that this other dynamic that he highlighted, which is you have a lot of people moving to Texas from other states to work at the Toyota headquarters in north Texas.


And if you all saw this New York Times article about the 10 communities that are that are bellwethers in the most competitive battleground states and they pick Collin County in north Texas, which, if you know anything about Texas, would be the last county you would think they would pick. And yet some of the polling that we've seen, perhaps some of the polling that you've seen, Donald Trump is not just underwater in what was thought to be reliably red. Collin County, he's at thirty seven, thirty eight, a high of thirty nine percent there.


And that's definitely a drag on all those Republican incumbents. And it's definitely giving all voters, Democrats, Independents, Republicans or non-aligned a reason to look at that Democratic challenger or to think about voting for for Joe Biden. And then in twenty eighteen, just as it really an indication of where this state was was already headed. And not only did I become the first Democrat since LBJ in nineteen sixty four to win the four major metro areas in Texas, not only did we produce a voter turnout that was greater than any midterms since 1970, not only did I win more votes than any Democratic candidate, but we won the votes of half a million five hundred thousand Texans who chose Greg Abbott for governor.


They voted for the Republican for governor and they voted for me against Ted Cruz for US Senate. I think that was just the beginning of the trend. Right. And I don't know how much that really actually had to do with me or my campaign. I think that was that was really a 10 year trend that you can look at if you plot from even Hillary Clinton's over performance against the poll. She was supposed to lose Texas by double digits after investing pretty close to zero dollars in the state.


She lost by nine, which was the best Democratic nominee performance in decades through to my race. And that takes you into twenty twenty with this really brand new electorate. I mean, think about one point five million plus added to the rolls. I mean, that's the electorate of some entire states that have been added to Texas. All of that is in play. And in this this, I think, is really the linchpin. You have the most competitive landscape for the state house in Texas in in decades, in a generation at least.


And we're nine seats down. Democrats are from winning a majority. And in nine of those districts that we need to pick up, I actually won more votes than did Ted Cruz in twenty eighteen. These candidates, most of whom are women, women of color, black women in particular, are enlarging the electorate, energizing them. And my theory of the case is that not only are they going to have a better chance of winning their elections and winning a Democratic majority, they're going to send those voters up ballot to these competitive congressional races to MJ Hagar against John Cornyn, and then could very well help Joe Biden become the first Democratic nominee to win the thirty eight Electoral College votes in Texas since Jimmy Carter did it in nineteen seventy six.


It's been a half century since that's happened. And if we do that here in Texas and again, thanks to your help and everyone who sees the opportunity, this election is over on election night. And Mike was talking about some of the dynamics in these other states. We have not expanded mail in balloting, so there's fewer mail in ballots to count. We began counting mail in ballots in Texas on October 30th before Election Day. So we post the results on election night.


We'll know who the winner is that night.


And if we do the online ballots for mail in ballots and there are there will be some that as long as they are postmarked on November 3rd and they have to come in November 4th, that's a very small universe of mail in ballots. Those will be added and counted later. But you'll have all the early voting totals, the Election Day totals and the vast majority of mail in ballot totals on the night of November 3rd. Biden wins this. We don't wait for Pennsylvania for days or weeks, mathematically, psychologically, in every way that matters.


It is impossible for Donald Trump to claim victory or to serve another term. That's how important Texas is.


It's so important and it's so exciting that, OK, so there's three things that you mentioned that I want to drill into. But very quickly, can we go back to Collin County for just a quick second? And can you explain to our listeners why this is the most unlikely county to be called a bellwether just for folks who. Don't understand the state geography of Texas yet, so Collin County is in north Texas and it's it's conventionally thought to be part of the Dallas Fort Worth metro area.


So you've got Collin County, Tarrant County, which you all know was the largest reliably red urban county in the United States of America until 2018 when I won it by the, you know, the whiskers on our face. Right, with just a just under one percent. But it was the first time since nineteen ninety four that a Democrat had won Tarrant County. You add Tarrant Collin Denton County, where there's some competitive races, and Dallas County, these four major North Texas counties have fought for most of the last 30 years, reliably voted Republican and all, then one by one, or breaking Dallas County years ago, Tarrant County two years ago.


And it looks like Collin County now, again, one of the reddest places on planet Earth. You can see it glowing from outer space as you orbit the Earth.


That it is it is breaking for for Democrats. And some of that has got to be explained by the new Toyota headquarters in north Texas that people are moving to from across the country to work in.


But but it's also the caliber of the candidates, the bizarre behavior of the president, the understanding that people have choices. And in a state that that, I would argue, is not necessarily a red state before, but was a non-voting state prior to twenty eighteen, we were fiftieth in voter turnout in the United States of America. Dedalus and not for a lack of love of democracy, but we were literally through voter ID laws, through racial gerrymander, through seven hundred and fifty polling place closures over the last eight years.


Following the Shelby decision, we just became a we were drawn to be a non-voting state in twenty eighteen, shattered all of that with massive turnout. And again, I really see that. And as you all know, a midterm in Texas will tend to favor Republican turnout at the expense of Democratic performance in a presidential election cycle is usually the reverse. So if you add all of those, you know, the trajectory we were already on, plus what typically happens in a presidential cycle, I mean, I really think this is Biden's to lose.


This is this state is fully in play.


Can you do you feel that energy on the ground better? Do you feel that turnout swell kind of popping up? Because, I mean, the twenty eighteen numbers were eye popping, right. Like around the country. But you get a feel for these things, especially somebody who's run for office. What do you think. Are you feeling it there?


I am. So so we have a volunteer driven group called Powered by People that has made more than forty million voter contact attempts. We have helped to register more than one hundred thousand Texans, some new Texans, some Texans who just didn't want to get in the game until they saw what was at stake this year, the volunteer turnout by the thousands people willing to make phone calls. And you know that no matter how hard I try to sell it, it's not fun.


And it's certainly not easy to call a complete stranger at dinner time and ask them about one of the two subjects you're not supposed to discuss in polite company.


And, you know, you're going to get the phone hung up on you. You're going to be calling the wrong numbers. You're going to get some Trump voters. But but these volunteers are willing to run through walls to contact these voters because they are so excited. And the voters and then eligible voters that we're talking to and Mike mentioned the Latino electorate in Texas, five point six million eligible Latino voters in Texas. It's it's the largest Latino electorate in the biggest swing state, right?


Yeah. And as we're calling and making these phone calls, you know, I don't know how scientific it is, but given the volume of calls we're making, we get a very good feel for the state. And yes, people are excited. And admittedly, a lot of it is excited to get rid of Donald Trump because Texas has been on the front lines of this sixteen thousand three hundred Texans dead per capita. That's 40 percent more deaths in Texas than in the state of California.


You've got a Republican governor escaping or following in the footsteps of Donald Trump, ignoring science and public health, decimating the communities of the Rio Grande Valley that are ninety five percent Mexican-American, where they ran out of room in the morgues and funeral homes and had to resort to stacking dead bodies in refrigerated FEMA trailers. That is not lost on the electorate of Texas, that that there is got to be accountability. And there's also got to be a better choice, I think, to close this.


What you all are doing is critical, what Biden is beginning to do, that that six million dollar plan spend, which is probably six million more than any Democratic nominee has spent in the state, certainly helps if he comes here and makes a direct appeal to this electorate, which is the electorate of the future of this country. I think he wins this state and I think these. Folks who are already ready and energized against Trump will now become energized for Joe Biden in what he will do for them as president of the United States.


I think that's what's at play right now.


So speaking of Joe Biden at the top of the ticket and then going back to the legislative races that you mentioned earlier, we are sort of conditioned to think about the the coattails of the guy or girl at the top of the ticket. Right. And that having the major impact on down ballot races. But you sort of turned that upside down and you were talking about the impact of the enthusiasm for all of these down ballot in state legislative races. Basically, it sounds like a bottoms up movement to try to influence the way Texas goes in the presidential race.


Can you talk about the difference between, you know, the top of ticket coattails versus the state legislative races and the enthusiasm for them that you described?


Yeah, you're exactly right. The the way that you described it, there is so much energy at the bottom of the ballot. And I think it is it is literally expanding the electorate. I talked about more than doubling the number of registrations in a four year period. A lot of that is due to these candidates who are bringing in friends and family and colleagues and former classmates and neighbors and complete strangers, in some cases in parts of the state that have not seen a Democrat on the ballot literally in decades.


There's a guy I'll give you an example in east Texas is mark your ballot? Yeah. Even on the ballot, there's been literally no contest in in November, which functionally means the people in those communities went unrepresented because there was no debate of ideas or track record. No accountability. No, no. No force requiring somebody to answer to their constituents because they're riding free through November. I had a guy in East Texas. Oh, yeah.


Jason Rogers, Democrat, running for a district that has not seen a Democrat run for that representative seat in 20, 30 years. He's an Army veteran, a retired public school teacher, and is now working as a diesel mechanic. And he's from that community and he knows those people. And so he's not necessarily the the or he's certainly not the the stereotype that Donald Trump would have you believe of a flaming liberal communist who's going to do all these terrible things to you and your family.


He's your neighbor. He's the guy who taught your kids in public school. He's a guy who put his life on the line serving this country when when asked to. And he's now asking for this position of public trust and he's doing it the right way. Whether or not he wins and he's got a tough hill to climb there. He is going to bring in more voters who otherwise would have sat this out because there's no contest in East Texas in most years.


And those voters won't just vote at the bottom of the ballot. They're going to vote for that congressional district, the U.S. Senate race and the presidential. And so you're right, it's kind of flipping this idea of coattails on on its head instead of waiting for the savior from above to rain votes down the ballot. It's all of these dozens of candidates across the state who are sending their energy and electorate up to the top of the ticket.


So it's a pretty special thing coming together in Texas right now that is very cool.


And with the Biden campaign moving in with this very significant buy, you almost have maybe even like a pincer effect right from the top and from the bottom, like. That's right.


Meet us halfway. That's that's the appeal to the Biden campaign, which you don't have to spend one hundred million dollars in this state. You don't have to start this from scratch. You don't have to do all the work that, in fact, these candidates and their campaigns and these congressional races. And, you know, MJ Hagar, which is kind of a sleeper Senate race and polling's got her within single digits maybe in some polls. A point down from Cornyn.


I mean, all of these candidates and importantly all these volunteers and all these new voters, they're the ones doing the work. Just just meet them where they are. And and you can bring this home. So it's exciting. And you see not only the Biden team spending money you saw dug him off in the Rio Grande Valley earlier this week. You see Dr. Biden, Jill Biden coming to three different Texas cities next week on the first day of early voting, which folks is four days away.


We begin dropping ballots in early voting locations four days from now, next Tuesday. And Joe Biden is going to be here, Jill. Dr. Biden is going to be here. So I think that the fact that you all are dedicating an episode to this, the fact that they're coming to Texas, the fact they're spending money, nobody does this to to be charitable. Right. You only do this if you see if possibility opportunity if it's a reasonable investment.


That's exactly right. Yeah. We've seen so much enthusiasm just among our own grassroots support base for our initiative into Texas. Like it was it's been one of the most successful grassroots fundraising appeals that we've had so far. I want to pivot to covid and Texas because over the past week there has been an average of nearly 5000. Cases per day and over 16000 Texans have died as a result of the pandemic, there's been a 25 percent drop in small businesses since January.


And, Mike, one of the things that you've explained on the podcast before to our listeners is how we've watched Donald Trump's numbers go down every time we see a covid spike in every one of these states. And that has informed our strategy to a very large extent. So I wonder, you know, to both of you, how do you think the the covid-19 pandemic, especially right now with the spikes that we're seeing, especially in the red states, is going to shape the way people vote in Texas?


Do you want to take that one first?


Yeah. You know, I talked about Texas relative to other states earlier. You know, we've got a 40 percent higher death rate per capita than than California. And there's no other explanation than leadership or failed leadership in our case. And it's not hard to connect the dots between Texas and the White House, between Governor Greg Abbott and Donald Trump, the ridiculing people who are wearing masks early on, the failure to to require people to stay at home in the first stages of this, the belated mandate to wear masks, except in polling places, by the way, to kind of discourage people from from voting and from poll workers, you know, volunteering their time because they tend to be older and a little bit more vulnerable.


And it's clearly a voter suppressive tactic. And then just the the sheer numbers, I mean, we're now approaching sixteen thousand four hundred dead in the state of Texas. And as you all know, it is not impacting the state equally. You go to the Mexican-American majority communities of El Paso, my hometown, the Rio Grande Valley, and it is decimating, absolutely decimating these communities. And and it is young and old alike. And there's a guy, Daniel Morales, a 39 year old nurse for children in El Paso, Texas, was a dialysis nurse, but volunteered to work in some of these acute care hospitals as the surge really hit El Paso and and literally lost his life, sacrificed himself for this.


And it didn't have to be that way. And people understand that in Texas. And I think, you know, we have to respect the wisdom of the electorate, of the people that we live with it. They understand what's happening in that four percent of the world's population now accounts for 22, 23 percent of the world's deaths in the wealthiest, most powerful, most medically advanced country in human civilization. There can only be one explanation, and it is it is failed leadership.


And I love, by the way, that Senator Harris led with that in the debate earlier this week. That first punch was just like, you know, this is on you. So but I would love to hear what what Mike is seeing in other states, because I certainly see that resonating in Texas.


Yeah, well, so and look, something very powerful and very important to what we're essentially doing in this country is we are treating what we call essential workers is less than essential human beings. The the disproportionate impact on people of color with this pandemic is a moral travesty. I mean, it is anyway, because with every everybody the way this has been handled. But the simple fact that it has so disproportionately impacted people who actually make the economy run and we you know, that we too often certainly this administration is turning a blind eye to it.


What I will say is this, though, we have been monitoring the virus since March, as everybody has, and overlaid it and recognized back in about an April time frame that there was a direct correlation between infection rate increases and a decline in the president's support levels. It's a little bit McJob, of course, but as data, people were just looking at these correlations and see that when we saw in the summer Arizona, Texas and Florida, all Republican governors trying to curry favor with the president and being very ignorant about the restrictions and the protection measures that we could have put in place.


We did see these numbers fall on the support level for the president, fall when people started getting sicker in these communities. That made us really focus on this virus as it moved around the country and noticed, in fact, wherever it moved, we started to see that happen. Look, this is going to be a difficult winter for this country. These numbers are spiking everywhere. They're moving much more aggressively in red states where governors have not done the right things, these Republican governors that have not done the right things to protect their citizenry, that they've just outlined some of those things that are happening in Texas.


And again, just from a pure data play, that's my job, is to be clinical and objective. And look at this. This is going to impact that's going to have political impacts. These numbers are going to go down. The question becomes, what do Latinos do? As a community disproportionately impacted, will they stay home out of fear or will they responded? Step up. My strong suspicion is we're going to see a historic turnout of Latinos in response to not only this direct attack on the community, but to the direct attack on the Latino community that the Trump administration and Donald Trump himself presents to the community.


So in a weird, unfortunate way, I think many I think this is going to be a catalyst for a historic turnout. I think we're going to surpass 150 million voters this year for the first time in American history. I believe that Latinos will surpass blacks as the second largest ethnic voting group in America. And I think it's going to be something that will be definitive again in Sunbelt states, generally in Texas, Arizona specifically. I won't talk about seniors, Mike.


Yes. So we have noted in the last week the massive, massive tectonic shift among seniors for support in Donald Trump, meaning they have they have broken from him at about 26 percent or so. He is losing seniors at twenty six percent nationally. And your team has identified that this is not an anomaly. This is a trend that we are watching in every single battleground state. What does that mean for Texas? First of all, are we seeing the same shift there?


Is it permanent? And because, you know, we're talking again last night about whether or not that's a late break or a or a temporary move that where they could come back. I want to talk specifically about seniors in Texas and whether whether or not you think and better what you think about about this shift among seniors. And we have to note that it just coincided with Donald Trump's diagnosis. Yeah, a perfect overlap, actually, a perfect overlap.


So we look, you have to understand, when the Lincoln Project began looking at how methodically we were going to be able to move Republicans off of Donald Trump, we were very, I think, astute in recognizing it wasn't going to be with these big bromides about the you know, this is not a real he's not a real conservative, although he's not or this is about tax policy, even though it has a lot to do with that. We knew that we were going to have to go and get very small slivers of the Republican coalition.


And that was, frankly, all we needed. Right, to four percent, three percent. The Bannon line numbers, if we can get three to four percent of Republicans off, there's going to be a tectonic impact with the electoral map. So where do we begin? We started where he had the most trouble, which was with college educated Republicans. That still remains the largest dividing line with the Republican base. There's a direct correlation between how educated you are and your disdain for the Republican Party.


We moved those numbers, but we've started to see something in March that was very unique, something I had never seen before. And that was the 65 plus vote, which Donald Trump won by about a nine share, plus nine in twenty sixteen, started to move downwards and Biden started to actually start winning in some of these national polls. The reason for that was obvious, which was the covered pandemic. They did not. The seniors started to realize we don't have any confidence in the way this guy is dealing with this.


And there's been no issue that I have seen that has a direct impact on everybody's life like this pandemic. And I don't just mean seniors, I mean everybody's life. We're all wearing masks. We know shelter in place means elementary schools are shutting down. We can't see our grandparents for the great moments and memories of life anymore. The whole narrative of what it means to be a human being and the traditions and the processes that we go through, whether it's Christmas or Thanksgiving or school starting or graduations, has all been upended.


So it is directly impact the very first time in all of our lives. Everyone is experiencing the same thing at the same time in a sustained way and in a way that did not have to happen.


Right. And so this becomes very clear. There's no political issue, there's no political ad. There's no movement that can grasp the imagination and the focus of the nation the way that this mismanagement has.


And so we then look back at this and recognize no Republican has ever won the White House since the 1940s, which is when we can really look at scientific polling. And and no Republican has ever won the White House without winning the senior citizen vote. Ever, ever. And the numbers are so consistent, I'm not sure that any Republican has ever lost to the White House. And in other words, no Republican has ever lost the senior citizen vote. OK, let's just it just hasn't.


And one of the reasons why it's gotten so stratified is if you look candidly at Fox News viewership, it skews overwhelmingly to this demographic. Right. And so it's locked in it's been baked in so tight that we can't have, you know, make much of we thought we could make much of a of a bit of a break into the bedrock of this vote. But we are seeing those numbers not only move and they have been coming off in the small single digits since summer, since these covid outbreaks, specifically in the Sunbelt.


But after the the president contracted the contracted the virus, the numbers collapsed. And so. You're asking exactly the right question, is it a lull or is that a temporary thing with this news or is this that late shift that we always look at for these significant breaks before an election? My strong suspicion is this normal break that you see within the last week of an election happened about three weeks early. And so we are now sitting in an environment where the president is going to be flailing to get back what is a core base, fundamental piece of his coalition.


And there are a larger number of senior citizens in Texas than there are in places, for example, like Pennsylvania and Ohio and Wisconsin. And so it's going to, I think, be determinative in this this certainly in twenty twenty. We'll see if it if it lasts longer with the Republican brand, as this has been so damaging to so many people's lives. OK, so Betto, what is your take on all of this as it relates specifically inside Texas?


It's fascinating to me to hear Mike shear the numbers and in some of the causes for those numbers, because I've just been picking this stuff up anecdotally from talking to friends and neighbors and and listen to people in these phone banks. And, you know, a friend texted me today to tell me that their neighbor, who's a senior citizen, took down his Trump flag as of yesterday and who knows why? He didn't tell me why. But I can you know, based on what Mike just said and just some common sense, I think that, you know, these people no longer feel like they have someone who's looking out for them and who's literally going to protect them from something that's killed more than two hundred and thirteen thousand of our of our fellow Americans.


There's also just the kind of the stuff that you don't anticipate that you pick up on these phone banks. We were calling a list of landlines. And as you all know, we got a landline list because we couldn't find a cell phone for these people or they don't have a cell phone and they tend to be older, whiter, more rural and and more likely to be Republicans. And I can't even count how many times the phone was hung up on me when I introduced myself as one woman who didn't hang up.


And she started by saying, look, we're we're a Republican family. We voted for Trump in 16, you're wasting your time. And then she said, but is this really Beto calling? And I said, it is.


And she she she started asking me these questions, which I thought were at first kind of hostile questions, said, well, is Biden the best you could do? And isn't he too old? And this is this is in the middle of the summer. Who's he going to pick for his running mate? And I later learned that those were buying questions because she said after she'd asked me all these questions and I did my best to answer them, she said, look.


I'll be honest with you, since you have answered my questions and you took the time to call me, we did vote for Trump at twenty sixteen, but we are rethinking it this year. And I said, if I may ask, why is that? And this is the answer so surprised me. But she said when when we saw Donald Trump announce the indoor rally in Tulsa originally for June 19th, and she, this older white woman in rural Texas said, you know better, that's Juneteenth.


That's the day that we celebrate the liberation of our fellow Americans. When we saw him do that, we just didn't think that he could be he should be our president going forward. And in my head, I didn't say this. I'm thinking, you know, the kids in cages didn't move you. The Kobad deaths didn't move you. The worst recession since the Great Depression didn't move you. The open racism didn't. But but this this moved you.


And who knows why. But thank God, maybe this was the straw that finally broke your back on on supporting Donald Trump. But I wonder if if so much of what he has done this year and certainly since the covid pandemic began to kill our fellow Americans has has, you know, as Mike suggests, has just begun to erode his support. And there are many people who are holding on and trying to find some reason to to justify their vote for him in in this year.


And perhaps after this last week, they can no longer hold on to that justification. And they're either not going to vote or they're going to vote for Joe Biden. And that's that's what it sounds like you're saying, Mike. And it sounds anecdotally like what we're seeing in Texas, like like the fantasy has been shattered.


Yeah. And, you know, I'm listening to this with fascination about because everybody comes to this conclusion in their own way for their own reasons. And you put it really well. It's like it wasn't the kids with cages. It wasn't in cages. It wasn't Charlottesville like it wasn't it was this.


And I don't know if there's a rhyme or reason to it. I think it's like anybody else kind of breaking a fever. It comes when it comes. And I think all we can keep doing is pushing. And I think that the Lincoln Project, I think that's probably one of the value that we provide is it's Republicans saying this isn't right.


This isn't this is not normal. This is not right for what I do not have to go along with. This is OK. Yeah, we've left. We're gone. Join this movement and step out in front of your country. Protect your country, by the way. The water's fine.


You're going to be OK. There's nothing to be afraid of. You know, you're protecting your country. And I just as I've gone through the course of this year and try to understand, like, what does that what does that push point? What does that key message? The reality is there isn't one for everybody. You just keep pushing and people come on when they come on for whatever rationale or reason that they come on. So I was listening with fascination that you had that experience, because I think it's something we've all shared and so many of them.


This will be the first time they voted for a Democrat ever in their lives.


And so, you know, there is there is something to be said, I think, about the courage of these Republicans to, you know, remember when Rita came on the podcast, did you listen to her story? She's from Texas. Actually, better Rihad. Rita Parker from I think she's from Round Rock, Texas. And and she she's just she's a supporter of the Lincoln Project. We had people sort of record their stories and tell us why they were you know, she'd voted for Trump in twenty sixteen.


And and I wanted to talk to him. We did this hour long conversation about what that experience has been like for her, why she voted for him in twenty sixteen and she's 72 years old and she has lost a lot from this decision. She's lost her friends. Her whole social circle has has sort of left her behind or she's left them behind and she can't have conversations with their neighbors anymore.


And so when you think about like where we are as a country, that who you vote for becomes such a a social trigger, like there's such a social cost to saying this is what I'm going to do, like it was heart. I mean, she made me cry. Her story made me cry. It was that it was that powerful. But to think that that is what Republicans, especially seniors in Texas, are going through right now, I just I think like we should just give them a huge shout out and for the courage that it takes to do.


And let me let me throw this out to I think one thing that has made it easier is when you have elected officials and leaders like like Bethel and I'm I'm not just saying this because you're here about something.


Yeah. It's tough when the opposition, you know, vilifies you and makes you a bad person.


It just even if you're having second thoughts, it's harder to come over and say that when you got somebody as welcoming you, like, come on over, like join this.


We're not that bad. We may disagree on a lot, but we're all Americans and find that common ground. It just makes it so much easier for people to be like, you know, OK, I'm no, I'm not with the Republicans anymore. But it's so easy to say I know I'm not a Democrat. I'll never be a Democrat. The Democrats are bad when that's not reinforced. That's why I think you're starting to see a shift in movement some.


Misplaces, I really do. Yeah, yeah, you all are describing to some degree, my mom, who is a lifelong Republican, did not vote for Trump in twenty sixteen, but but may not have voted for a Democrat before that, with the exception of her son when he ran for Congress in 2012. But it's funny, I was I called her because she had a question about her absentee ballot and called her back and answered a question for her.


And then we just started talking about this dynamic about she's in this book club with 20 members, 20 other women. And she said there's about four of us who are going to vote for for Joe Biden. And she says socially, it kind of it just is uncomfortable right now. And it's it's hard to it's hard to to to get this right. And I think in other years, if, you know, you voted for Romney and I voted for Obama, you know, largely these are policy differences.


And and, you know, when you're voting for Trump and my mom's like, it's just hard for me given everything he's done and given that mass murderer that he inspired, he took the lives of twenty three people in our community that someone in El Paso could still support Trump. And she you know, she's a devout Catholic and she's trying to find the good in other people. And certainly there is and they're not bad people because they're voting for Donald Trump.


And we know that rationally. But it is hard, really hard right now, given what what our community has been through, what our state's been through, what our what our country's going through. And we started to talk about how do we bring everyone back together after this election. And certainly if if Joe Biden wins and part of the reason that I made the choice to to endorse him and vote for him when, you know, when there was still a contest in Texas for the primary, I just think his capacity for empathy and his ability to heal and the suffering he's been through in his life and his understanding of the very real struggles that so many people are going through, that's that's what my mom and I were talking.


We need that right now in our country. We need to bring people together. And I I really hope that that that's part of what people are seeing in his candidacy right now. They, as you just said, they may not agree on every policy issue, but if you are so concerned about the epic level of division and polarization and the fact that the center just may not hold if it gets any worse, there's really not been a candidate like this in my lifetime who is all about empathy, compassion, kindness and bringing people together.


So so I think I think there are a lot of those older, lifelong Republicans that you're talking about in Texas who, like my mom, are kind.


And I would love to have your mom on the podcast.


Well, that really meant, you know, we could have your mom and then we could invite Rita back for. Yeah, that was gushing. That would be sweet. Absolutely. Yeah. OK, let's talk about the actual process of voting and voter suppression, which we have been monitoring Republican governors and legislatures attempts to do throughout these battleground states. On October 1st, Governor Abbott announced that every county in Texas, every county in Texas would be limited to one ballot.


Dropbox and I just saw something on this yesterday, which means like if a county has three million people in it or one hundred thousand people in it, they get one ballot Dropbox location. And I think they just I think better you can speak to this, but I think they just changed the rules a little bit so that you could have multiple ballot drop boxes, but only if they're in the same location, which actually defeats the purpose and makes zero sense.


So can you talk about first what the governor's goal was and how this is actually going to impact voters on the ground as they go to cast their ballots?


Governor Abbott's goal in closing all of these absentee ballot drop off locations across the state of Texas and making it harder for you to drop off your ballot in a county like Harris that has eighteen hundred square miles more people in it than the entire state of Nevada would require somebody to drive up to 50 miles, five zero miles to drop off their ballot. He wants to make it hard enough that you think, you know, what? Do I really want the hassle of doing this to even understand what's happening?


Close stuff down, what's left open. It follows in a very long line in Texas, really going back to the end of reconstruction of efforts to stop people, specifically people of color from from voting in the state. You had the all white Democratic primary from nineteen twenty four to nineteen forty four. You had after Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, fiery dissent in the Shelby decision in twenty thirteen. Within minutes, we imposed the most onerous voter ID laws in the country, compounded by since Shelby.


Seven hundred and fifty polling look. Closure. So the next closest state, I think, is Arizona, with three hundred polling place closures and guess what? Most of those have been closed in the communities with the fastest growing black and Latino populations. You then have, what, a three judge federal panel in twenty seventeen described as a racial gerrymander of Texas, where black Texans, Latino Texans were drawn out of congressional districts to diminish the impact of their vote and the likelihood that they would vote at all to concentrate the power of white voters.


Very cynical, very racist, very unconstitutional, as this three judge panel found. And and then you don't have online voter registration in this state. You have an expanded mail in balloting at a time that none of us enjoy immunity from a virus that has killed more than 16000 of us. And in this case, on October 1st, closing down these satellite drop off locations. But if we just leave the story there, then they will have won and we will have reinforced this voter suppressive tactic.


Here's the beautiful story in Harris County, that one with the eighteen hundred square miles and nearly five million residents there. County elections administrator, this guy, Chris Hollins, has implemented twenty four hour voting drive thru voting. You don't have to leave your car voting super centers and a ballot tracking application. So when you mail that absentee ballot in, you can track it until you know that it has been counted. And so I think the message for our fellow Texans is, yes, they are trying to stop you from voting because they wouldn't just like we talked about, Biden wouldn't spend six million.


Lincoln Project wouldn't take an interest in Texas. You wouldn't have all these candidates running in in what were previously uncontested districts if something wasn't happening in Texas. Likewise, you wouldn't have Greg Abbott closing down ballot drop off locations if he wasn't so afraid about what is taking place right now in this state. And and I think people recognize that you've got early voting starting in four days. You can vote at any early voting location in most counties in Texas. These these, you know, new ideas that people like Chris Hollins have implemented, the twenty four hour voting to drive through voting.


We're making it extraordinarily easy despite the efforts to suppress for people to cast their ballot. And you saw that happen in twenty eighteen. Largest voter turnout in a midterm since nineteen seventy two years before I was born. That happened despite all of those voter suppression tactics that were in place. So the people of Texas have proven that they can overcome these obstacles. It's not easy. We're going to have to work on it. In fact, we're hosting what we're calling a million voter phone bank this Monday day before early voting to literally call a million registered likely Democratic voters, some independents, some disaffected Republicans, and make sure that they are planning to vote on Tuesday, the 13th of October, the first day of early voting.


No lines, super convenient. Twelve hours, seven to seven vote at any location in your county. That way, you can avoid what is likely to happen on the 3rd, which is you're going to have a surge in turnout and there are going to be some lines.


So I think we can say more about that million voter phone banking and who's involved with it and where people can find more information about that.


Yeah, I mean, even recounting these names to you, it does not sound real to me. But Willie Nelson is is going to join us and and I think may even make some some phone calls, too. But I mean, imagine getting a phone call from from Willie Willie Nelson encouraging.


Both Andrew Yang has agreed to join us as as a host. Bernie Sanders, who it's interesting, Bernie Sanders, to his credit, I think, saw Texas before many national Democratic figures outside of Texas saw Texas. And he gets that this is the future of the country and this is, in some people's terms, the rising electorate. And and he's really excited about it. And he hosted a town hall with me and Julian Castro. And afterwards he called me, he said better on that town hall.


You said that Biden can win Texas. Do you really mean that or are you just saying that? I said no. And I made the case that you and I have just made and he said, I'm in, I'm all in. Tell me how I can be helpful. So he's going to join us. Julian Castro is going to join us. Stacey Abrams is going to join us. And then Oprah Winfrey is going to join us to discuss Oprah Winfrey.


Right. How do you how do you mentioned Oprah last? I know. How do I say tell her about burying the lead. Yeah. So pretty amazing that you get a call from Oprah.


Oh, please vote. Yeah.


I don't know if she will be making phone calls with us, but she'll certainly be live with us to talk about how important this election is in Texas, to talk about our democracy, which is really on the line right now. I mean, this this is the mother of all pressure tests for for our democracy. Will this institution come through? Two hundred and forty. Four years in to the experiment, or do we lose it forever, and what state better than Texas to to to answer that question, given the thirty eight Electoral College votes, the history of voter suppression, all these registrations over the last four years.


So this this is this is really going to be something on on Monday, we're going to call more than a million voters, largest phone bank that I know of in in Texas history and only made possible by the thousands of people who've signed up. And if anyone listening wants to join us, there's a website. It's powered by people, dawg, but it's spelled powered X people, dawg. And there's the million voter phone bank. It's called calling Texas kind of a play on the clashes.


London calling turned it around. Call in Texas and anyone can join us. You do not have to be a Texan. You can live in Florida and California, in Idaho and Wyoming does not matter no more important. We just want your help calling these Texans and no big ask, right? You don't have to convince them to get registered. You don't have to tell them what's at stake. Just have to say, look, I want to make this so easy for you.


You can vote tomorrow, October 13th, first day of early voting. It's that easy. Will you commit to doing that? And they say yes and you move on to the next call. So we're looking forward to it. It's exciting stuff.


And it's nice to be. Texas is a swing state. Yeah. What? Yeah, it's nice to be going in with strong allies that have been, you know. Yeah. Yeah. You've been telling the soil down there for a very, very long time. We're obviously latecomers to this. But, you know, I just feel I got to feel that if we were able to accomplish our end with Republicans that have had it and you're going to be driving those lower propensity Democrats to get the turnout numbers that we need, something something exciting could be happening in Texas in November, integrate.


And it's it's it what what is also a beautiful part of the story is that it's the individual candidates down ballot, up ballot. It's their supporters and volunteers. It's Lincoln Project. It's powered by people. It's a Texas Democratic Party. It's it's Texas.


It's Willie Nelson from every town.


I mean, so many partners, allied organizations, groups, everyday people coming together to make this happen. That's that's democracy. And that's it's just it's a beautiful thing, but it's not going to roll of its own accord. Like, we've got to do that. We're going to tell folks, you know, voting essential. Right. Retweeting that awesome Lincoln Project ad I just saw the latest one on Regeneron, which, by the way, I think is is your best critical to do that, too.




But the infomercial. Infomercial. Oh, my God. The Regeneron. You know, Brian Williams played that on air. Is it like to. I'm like, yeah, yeah. It was so good.


But beyond all of that, you then have to you've got it. And you all have done this over your career. So you know this, but you've also got to do the unglamorous, not very fun or easy stuff like making phone calls or back when we could knocking on doors. And that's what we're asking people to do. But the great thing is folks want the responsibility. I mean, they want to vote, they want to donate, they want to read tweet.


But but they also want to be doing something more, because this is my theory. The work, the the action, the agency is the antidote to despair and to the anxiety that you would otherwise feel. You want to be in the game. You you want to be given the ball. You want to do your part. And that is just absolutely wonderful. And we've been so surprised. I think we're approaching ten thousand volunteer sign ups for Monday, so surprised by the turnout.


But that's what it's going to take to reach a million voters. Yeah, we have seen the same kind of enthusiasm among Lincoln Project supporters, they're so fired up to do something. And I think your theory is exactly right. It's an antidote to the anxiety because everybody's feeling it. OK, we before before we let you go, I. I wonder if I could ask you to speak directly to the Republican voters in Texas who we talked about earlier, maybe have never voted for a Democrat in their lives.


And to the extent that there are undecided voters left in Texas, what would you what would you say to them? You know, that they think that this guy is going to you know, they're genuinely afraid of what would happen if Joe Biden gets into office and he's controlled by the radical, you know, I mean, all the all the terrifying stuff that the Trump campaign is putting out there.


What do you say to Republican voters right now who are who are who are worried about that as they're going to make their choice?


Well, this is actually what I hear from Republican voters in Texas. They get before, you know, they're a Republican. I'm a Democrat. We're Americans were Texans. We're human beings. And this election is quite literally going to define the future, the fortune of this country for generations to come. And that that understanding of the responsibility we have as Americans first in this election is compelling. So many to look beyond party. And I think when they take a look at Joe Biden, they see someone who's got a very long track record of working for this country and very often working across the aisle to to no small amount of criticism from his own party to bring in Republicans and to make sure that they know that they are welcome, that they are part of the solution, that this is not going to be a government that serves and represents Democrats only.


This is going to be an administration that is there for all Americans. In distinct contrast to the current president and administration who have literally written off so much of the country, literally walked away from negotiations with the other party to save lives and to revive an economy that is in the tank worse than at any time since the Great Depression. So Joe Biden's willingness to also do that, to see beyond party and division and limitations and bring people together, I think his capacity to do that is precisely what this country needs right now.


And I hope that Republicans can see a future for themselves and their families and their communities in this administration and in the country that Joe Biden wants to lead. Beginning in January. Twenty twenty one. Thank you to Mike and Betto for being on the show today, and thanks to all of you at home for listening. You can find more information about our movement at Lincoln Project US. Also check out Vogue for more information about how to register to vote, get an absentee ballot and for the deadlines for returning your ballot wherever you are.


If you have any questions, comments or advice for us. You can reach us, as always, a podcast of Lincoln Project U.S. And please know that even if we don't respond, we read every email we get and we always appreciate hearing from you. If you haven't yet, it would really help us if you would subscribe rate and review the show wherever you get your podcasts, because this helps us stay up in the rankings so that new voters can find the show and join our mission to defeat Trump and Trump ism at the ballot box.


For the Lincoln Project, I'm Ron Stutsman, I'll see you in the next episode.