Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump is making an unusual general election swing through Texas with a series of events — some public — planned Tuesday across the reliably red state.
Fundraising is Trump's main purpose, though the recent addition of a rally and television show taping has left some Texas Republicans scratching their heads about how Trump is spending his time in a state that should be safely in the GOP column. The last time Texas voted for a Democrat in a presidential election was in 1976, when Jimmy Carter carried the state.
Acknowledging the atypical nature of the trip, some party insiders said Monday that Trump will nonetheless command attention in a way that extends far beyond the Lone Star State — especially in an election cycle where Trump has defied many rules of politics.
"I think in a traditional way, I think people are a little puzzled he's spending time doing public events in a state that’s not competitive, that hasn't been competitive, but there is something to be said for the fact that in the modern presidential campaign, when you’re on television delivering a message, you’re on television delivering message," said Ted Delisi, an Austin-based Republican strategist.
Added Andy Hogue, a spokesman for the Travis County GOP: "If that’s the case that there’s a lot of money here, a lot of wealth, a lot of political connectedness that he’s going to need to win in November, I think it’s a good move. It’s a good crossroads."
Trump's Plans In Texas Today
Publicly campaigning in red states, including Texas, is not new for Trump. When he visited the Lone Star State in June, he tacked on two rallies, one in Dallas and the other in The Woodlands, to a two-day trip otherwise centered on fundraising. And when Trump stops in another reliably Republican state Wednesday — Mississippi — he will do the same two-step, holding both a fundraiser and a rally.
Trump's day in Texas will start at a lunchtime fundraiser in Fort Worth. Then he'll head to Austin for a sold-out, two-hour taping of a town hall with Fox News host Sean Hannity at ACL Live at The Moody Theater. The town hall is expected to focus on border security and immigration. It will air over two nights on Fox News starting Tuesday.
From there, Trump will go to a dinnertime fundraiser at the Headliners Club and then, finally, a rally at Luedecke Arena.
One of Trump's most vocal surrogates will be in tow as he travels Texas, according to two GOP sources close to the campaign: Rudy Giuliani, former mayor of New York City. Giuliani was on the stump for Trump on Monday in Ohio, where he introduced the nominee at an Akron rally.
Two of Trump's highest-profile supporters in Texas will also join him throughout Tuesday, according to aides. Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick will attend the two fundraisers and the rally, while former Gov. Rick Perry will participate in the taping with Trump and go to his Austin fundraiser.
Absent from the Trump trail will be Gov. Greg Abbott, who has been less than vocal in his support for the GOP nominee. Abbott's office has said he will be at Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio on Tuesday for ongoing treatment for the burns he suffered more than a month ago during a family vacation.
The latest statewide official to express support for Trump, Land Commissioner George P. Bush, also will not be at the rally. A spokesman said Friday that Bush, who asked Texas Republicans to help elect Trump at a party meeting earlier this month, "will be unable to attend due to his schedule."
U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, Trump's former primary rival who has declined to support the nominee, appears to be steering clear of Trump's events as well. Cruz is scheduled to spend the afternoon in Pasadena, where his office says he will tour the Port of Houston Authority and hold a roundtable discussion with port officials as well as community leaders.
Trump will find high-profile support as he travels the Interstate 35 corridor, especially at his fundraisers. The Fort Worth luncheon will feature a slew of local donors, according to a source close to the Trump campaign, including insurance executive Roy Bailey, investor Gentry Beach, investor Doug Deason, former Rangers owner Tom Hicks and philanthropist Kit Moncrief. U.S. Rep. Michael Burgess is also expected to attend.
In Austin, Trump will be feted by a host committee that includes two of his top fundraisers in Texas — Dennis Nixon and Gene Powell — as well as Patrick, U.S. Rep. Lamar Smith of San Antonio and Alamo City billionaire Red McCombs, according to an invitation. The nominee's son, Donald Trump Jr., is listed as a special guest.
Both fundraisers are being hosted by Reince Priebus, chairman of the Republican National Committee; Steve Mnuchin, finance chairman of the Trump campaign; and Lewis Eisenberg, chairman of the joint fundraising committee between the RNC and Trump campaign.
Trump's Leading Clinton By Narrower Margins
Those attending the Fort Worth event are expected to raise or give anywhere from $2,700 per person to $250,000 per couple. In Austin, fundraiser attendees are being asked to bundle or donate amounts ranging from $2,700 per person to $100,000 per couple.
Trump's visit comes on the heels of polls showing him leading Clinton in Texas by narrower margins than usual for a GOP nominee. Trump had only a 6-percentage-point advantage over Clinton, 44 percent to 38 percent, in a survey released last week by the Democratic-leaning firm Public Policy Polling.
"Donald Trump coming to Austin is proof that his campaign is in a tailspin," Texas Democratic Party spokesman Tariq Thowfeek said in a statement. "It's likely his travel to Texas is a last-ditch attempt to excite the base of the party he's been unable to unify. It shows Texas Republicans' obvious identity crisis and just how out of touch they are with Texas' diverse new majority."
In response to Trump's visit, Democratic groups are planning a "Love Trumps Hate Day of Action and Protest" 0n Tuesday in Austin. The day includes a phone bank in the morning at the AFL-CIO headquarters, a protest in the afternoon outside the Trump town hall at ACL Live and a protest in the evening outside the Trump fundraiser at the Headliner's Club.
Trump will also face a protest from at least one local Republican: Robert Morrow, who won a fluke election earlier this year to become Travis County GOP chairman. Morrow advised reporters Monday that he will be stationed for three and a half hours outside the Trump rally, wearing his trademark jester's hat and holding a large sign reading, "Trump is a Child Rapist."
On Monday, Trump critics were also using his trip to try to tie him to U.S. Rep. Will Hurd, R-San Antonio, who is in a rematch with Democrat Pete Gallego in the only competitive congressional race this fall in Texas. Hurd is not currently supporting Trump but not ruling out getting behind him before Election Day.
"Since Mr. Hurd and Mr. Trump are running parallel campaigns, it wouldn't be surprising if, in a fit of honesty, Congressman Hurd stands next to Donald Trump at his rally in Austin," Gallego said in a statement. "Texans need less reality television from their congressman, and more real answers."