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Supporters attend a rally for Sen. Bernie Sanders. (Photo: Bastiaan Slabbers/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

New Poll Shows Sanders Is Trump's Most Formidable Foe in "So-Called Red State" of Texas

"Texas is not a red state. It's a non-voting state with one of the worst voter participation rates in the country. Bernie Sanders will change that!"

Julia Conley

After new polling showed Sen. Bernie Sanders is President Donald Trump's most formidable competition in the traditionally conservative state of Texas, the Democratic hopeful on Thursday suggested his strong support in the state could pave the way to victory in the 2020 election.

The Texas Lyceum released a poll Wednesday showing that Sanders—not his more moderate opponents like former Vice President Joe Biden—is closest to beating Trump in the state.

"Poll after poll shows that we are the strongest campaign to beat him, even in so-called 'red' states like Texas. Together, we'll sweep him and all he stands for out of office."
—Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.)
In a head-to-head match-up, Sanders was favored by 47% of respondents versus 50% who supported Trump. The results were within the survey's 4.3-point margin of error, putting the two in a statistical tie.

Biden was in second place with 46% versus 51% for Trump, while Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) had 44% support compared to Trump's 52%. South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg was favored by 43% versus 51% who supported the president.

"Poll after poll shows that we are the strongest campaign to beat him, even in so-called 'red' states like Texas," Sanders tweeted Thursday. "Together, we'll sweep him and all he stands for out of office."

The poll further found that Texas Democrats aren't necessarily certain to back Biden, who polling consistently shows as the Democratic primary frontrunner and who many political commentators say has the best chance of beating Trump due to his centrist views and rejection of bold, far-reaching initiatives. Sanders had the support of 26% of Democrats in the state, close behind Biden with 28%.

Sanders was ahead of the president among independent voters, with 44% support versus 41%, and voters under age 30, with 57% of young Texans selecting the senator as their favorite.

"All three Democrats, aside from Sanders, lost independents to Trump in this poll, basically 60 to 30 or so with the rest of them unsure," Josh Blank, research director for Texas Lyceum, told The Hill.

Nina Turner, national co-chair of the Sanders campaign, echoed the senator's enthusiasm for competing against Trump in a state which hasn't voted for a Democrat in a presidential election since 1976 and where Republicans have had full control of the legislature since 2003.

"Texas is not a red state. It's a non-voting state with one of the worst voter participation rates in the country," tweeted Turner. "Bernie Sanders will change that!"

"It's so on," added progressive activist Rafael Shimunov.

While Texas is known as a red state, it has also been called "ground zero for voter suppression," with gerrymandering, restrictive voter ID laws, and a failed attempt at purging tens of thousands of voters from state rolls last year targeting likely Democratic voters.

Last October, NBC News reported on a secret meeting held by Republican lawmakers in the state where they expressed fears that an influx of young people moving to Texas from other states and the rapidly growing population of Hispanic voters could soon turn the state blue.

Earlier this month, the voter registration initiative launched by former Georgia gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams, Fair Fight 2020, began a campaign in Texas to reach a large share of the state's 2.6 million unregistered voters.

"Republicans in Texas have, for a long time, sought to make it harder to vote, particularly for voters of color, and it takes a dedicated voter protection team on the ground well before Election Day to make sure all Texans' voices can be heard," Seth Bringman, a spokesman for Fair Fight, told ABC News.

Texas Lyceum's recent polling demonstrates that, should Texas turn blue in 2020, the party's "best shot is with Bernie Sanders," tweeted Gregorio Casar, an Austin City Council member.

"The Republican Party will entirely cease to be competitive for the presidency if we flip Texas," Casar wrote.

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