In Texas, a rising number of young, liberal politicians believe they can finally turn the conservative state blue by embracing a progressive platform.
Two years ago, Julie Oliver lost a House race in Texas’ 25th Congressional District, based in suburban Austin, by nine percentage points — a far closer margin than the 20 points that Representative Roger Williams, a Republican, won by in 2016. This year, the race may be even tighter.
“The things we are talking about two years ago that seemed radical don’t seem so radical today,” said Ms. Oliver, who was endorsed by Mr. Biden last month. “Universal health care doesn’t seem radical. Universal basic income doesn’t seem so radical. These are popular ideas.”
Others in the state worry that their colleagues are forgetting the lessons of recent history. In 2008, Democrats won control of Congress and the White House. But after passing the Affordable Care Act and pushing a climate bill through the House, they lost seats during the midterm elections and their majority in the House.
“We got to remember, midterms are coming,” said Representative Henry Cuellar, a moderate Democrat from South Texas. “If liberals had a mandate, then Bernie Sanders or Elizabeth Warren would have won the primary. The mandate of the American public was to have somebody more to the center.”
Yet in an increasingly polarized country, that center may be shifting.
As he waited for Mr. Cornyn to address the crowd in Plano, Mark Wurst said he had come to embrace the Trump brand of conservatism.
A lifelong Republican, Mr. Wurst, 74, volunteered at the George W. Bush Presidential Library for years. He was skeptical of Mr. Trump initially but was impressed with his actions on immigration and trade — policies that diverged drastically from Mr. Bush’s approach.