President Trump on Wednesday visited West Texas to shore up support in a must-win state that has become surprisingly competitive.
Trump quickly shifted into campaign mode while delivering remarks at Double Eagle Energy Oil Rig in Midland, Texas, a city in the oil-rich Permian Basin.
He railed at length against the Green New Deal supported by progressive Democrats and warned of dire consequences for the energy sector if presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden won the presidency.
“The radical left … is fighting to abolish American energy, destroy the oil and gas industries, and wipe out your jobs,” Trump told the crowd, claiming that Democrats’ agenda would destroy the U.S. economy.
“I don’t think Biden’s going to do too well in Texas. He’s already written it off,” Trump added, citing a unity platform between Biden’s campaign and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), which includes measures to combat climate change that would reduce reliance on fossil fuels.
Trump argued that his administration has been a boon for the energy industry, pointing to the withdrawal from Paris climate agreement, abolishment of the Obama-era clean power plan, approval of Keystone XL pipeline and other steps.
Trump also announced his administration would allow export authorizations for liquified natural gas to be extended until the year 2050 and signed four permits, including two allowing exports of Texas crude oil to Mexico.
Despite the visit to the oil rig being an official White House event, Trump’s remarks at times mirrored his rhetoric from the campaign trail, veering off the central topic of energy. He threatened to send additional federal personnel into Portland, Ore., to quell unrest; he claimed Democrats “don’t love our country;” and warned that low-income housing developments threatened the way of life in America’s suburbs.
Trump raised millions of dollars for his reelection effort at a private fundraiser in Odessa before touring the oil rig and delivering remarks there.
Texas has long been a Republican stronghold in presidential elections, but a RealClearPolitics average of polls in Texas shows Trump with only a slight edge in a state he carried by roughly 800,000 votes in 2016.
A Quinnipiac University poll released last week showed Biden beating Trump 45 percent to 44 percent, a lead which is within the margin of error.
The poll also showed that a majority of voters in the state harbor deep concerns about the coronavirus pandemic, with 74 percent saying they believe the spread of COVID-19 in Texas to be a serious problem.
The tight polls have spurred on Democrats who believe the state may be winnable in November because of frustration with Trump’s handling of the pandemic, shifting demographics and a strong showing in 2018 by former Rep. Beto O’Rourke (D) in his unsuccessful Senate bid. The Biden campaign launched its first ads in the state earlier this month.
The Trump campaign maintains confidence, however, that the president will ultimately emerge victorious in Texas, a state that has consistently trended red in presidential elections. Texas last backed a Democrat for the White House in 1976, when Jimmy Carter was elected president.
Prior to Trump’s arrival in Texas, Biden issued a statement targeting the president for his handling of the coronavirus pandemic in the Lone Star State, noting that Hurricane Hanna has put an even greater strain on the state’s medical resources.
“Both the continued COVID-19 surges and Hurricane Hanna’s impact must be met with swift action from the state and federal government,” Biden said. “Mr. President, now isn’t the time for politicking or photo-ops. Texans need a President with the experience and vision to fight for families no matter how many catastrophes reach our shores.”
Texas is among the states that have seen a considerable surge in coronavirus cases and hospitalizations in recent weeks, forcing Gov. Greg Abbott (R) to roll back plans to reopen business and issued an order mandating the use of face masks in public areas. The state reported a record number of deaths from the virus a week ago with 197.
Trump opened his prepared remarks in Midland with a brief nod to the state of the outbreak in Texas and a list of actions his administration has taken to combat the virus.
“Our hearts are with the people of Texas. We love our people. We love our country,” Trump said. “Statewide, the percent of patients testing positive has stabilized and the number of new cases has begun to substantially decline, but Texans must remain vigilant.”