Traditionally a day for the faithful, on this Sunday Daniel Andrews prays for time


The hope that those crucial days might be brought forward has now all but evaporated.

Andrews, who has placed himself at the centre of Victorian’s entire COVID-19 saga – and thus, has made himself a target for disaffection – knows his fortunes are stretched thin.

His media statement on Sunday made it clear: “We are so close – so close – to beating this thing. I’m asking each of you: keep going. Dig deep. Stay strong.”

It was a pleading, following a weekend of careful telegraphing that bad news was likely.

But the virus is withholding the mercy of time to Andrews, causing a growing number of Victorians, who have already displayed astonishing forbearance through the long winter and into the spring, to grow more than agitated.

The weekend’s The Age/Ipsos poll revealed that Andrews and his administration still had a store of support for most of the state’s lockdown restrictions, though patience with the continuing closure of restaurants and retail stores was clearly running short.

But that poll reflected the feelings of Victorians at a time when expectation was high that Premier Andrews would announce a significant easing of restrictions on Sunday.

He signalled only a week ago, on Sunday, October 18, that good news could be brought forward if the rate of new infections continued falling.


The numbers played along for most of the week. Restaurateurs stocked up and called in staff.

That was then.

Now, as Premier Andrews declares, everything relies on the result of tests sitting in laboratories and yet to be taken. He needed to know there was “no bushfire burning out there”.

Just a few more days, he asked.

Sunday is traditionally a day for the faithful.

Andrews can only pray now that there are enough of his faithful still believing in his cautious approach to grant him those few more days, and that the virus doesn’t have an altogether different timetable.

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More Texans could turn Democrat this election. So why is the mood shifting in this traditionally Republican state?

Texas sits deep within our imaginations as the very definition of the Wild West.

The state is famous for its rugged individualism and cowboy mythology, and Texans have long and fiercely defended their way of life and sense of originality.

But over the past decade, the Lone Star state has changed.

It’s become a melting pot of racial diversity — no longer just defined by its whiteness, ruralness and conservatism.

The 43-year-old lifelong Democrat is part of a blue wave sweeping the state, and left her New York life to enter the white man’s world of ranching 12 years ago.

That’s when she took over management of her family’s property south of Dallas.

“It’s an economy thing here in Texas that’s bringing people here,” she said.

“I can see more and more minorities coming into agriculture.

“They might be coming from the state or they might be coming from somewhere else.”

Kimberley Ratcliffe is a Democrat who left New York to run the family ranch a decade ago.  (ABC News: Niall Lenihan)

The same philosophy can be applied to the state’s fast-growing Democrat-led cities, where most of the population explosion has been concentrated.

Democrats consider Texas a ‘battleground state’

Hispanics have far outstripped growth among the white population over the past decade, while the number of African and Asian Americans in the state is also increasing.

In 2018, Texas gained almost nine Hispanic residents for every white citizen. By 2022, the minority is expected to become the state’s largest population group.

As this happens, the Republicans’ 40-year grip on the state is loosening, and its red hue fading.

A close up shot of a woman's hand holding leather reins
Democrats believe that shifting demographics in Texas mean they’ll soon be able to loosen the Republican grip on the state.(ABC News: Niall Lenihan)

“I am hopeful. I’ll do my part to try and flip it blue,” Ms Ratcliffe said.

But she thinks it’s going to take “another election to flip it hard blue”.

“I think we’re still going to end up in-between, I guess [a] purplish colour for a while,” she said.

“It’s a generational flip, it’s not going to happen overnight. You cannot change people overnight.”

Despite Ms Ratcliffe’s reservations, some within the Democratic orbit believe the party is within striking distance of the red bastion for the first time since 1976.

Texas carries the nation’s second largest number of electoral college seats, second only to California.

Just last month Hillary Clinton labelled it as the “biggest battleground state in our country” during a fundraiser in Texas, while Beto O’Rouke — the sophomore from El Paso who, in 2018, came closer to winning a state-wide office than any Texas Democrat in a generation — has called it a “swing state”.

A close up of a cowboy boot
Texas is still known as the Lone Star State, but these days its inhabitants are far more culturally and political diverse.(ABC News: Niall Lenihan)

Mr O’Rourke came within 3 per cent of unseating incumbent Ted Cruz in the 2018 mid-term elections.

It was a voting litmus test for how the state is changing, and raised profound questions over its status as a Republican stronghold.

The strength of his candidacy helped the Texas Democrats pick up two US House seats, two state Senate seats and a dozen state House seats.

And now, less than a month out from the poll, Democrats have poured $US6 million into TV advertising in the state, their biggest spend in a quarter of a century.

But could the Republicans’ grip on Texas be changing?

Donald Trump carried Texas in 2016, but by the lowest margin since 1996.

Recent polls show Joe Biden has eroded his lead this year, putting himself within spitting distance of victory.

But despite the state’s growing diversity, support for Mr Trump among white men and rural conservatives — two traditionally reliable voting blocs — remains strong.

Fourth-generation rancher Brad Henry has benefitted from the President’s tax cuts and his moves to relax environmental regulations.

A man in a baseball cap leans against a hay bale
Rancher Brad Henry plans to support Donald Trump in the 2020 election.(ABC News: Niall Lenihan)

“I think he has done a good job these last four years, so I’m going to give him a chance to do four more,” he said.

He also strongly believes in Mr Trump’s pledge to bring manufacturing jobs back to America.

While that sentiment is resonating out in rural Texas, Mr Henry admits the election could be close if the minority groups in the major cities turn out to vote in large numbers.

But Mr Henry doesn’t think Mr Biden’s the man to flip the state, pointing to his on-air gaffes as a sign the former vice-president might not be up to the job.

“I think if they had a stronger candidate it might possibly happen, but I don’t think Biden is a strong enough candidate to pull that off,” he said.

Trump is working hard to win over suburban women

Large swathes of rural Texas remain Trump country.

Donald Trump puts a cowboy hat on his head
The latest polls suggest Texas is now a toss-up state, meaning it could go for either Joe Biden or Donald Trump.(Reuters: Carlos Barria)

Many are deeply conservative, and even if they don’t like the President’s demeanour, they are unlikely to ever vote Democrat.

It’s the state’s liberal cities and sprawling suburbs which will most likely have the biggest sway on the result.

An estimated 2.1 million voters have joined the rolls since 2016, a 15 per cent jump, and equivalent to the total number of voters in all of Connecticut.

Most are from ethnic minorities and live within the major Democrat-led cities of Houston, Dallas, Fort Worth and Austin.

The share of eligible white voters has decreased by 12 per cent over the past 20 years. Over that same time, the number of Hispanic, black and Asian voters has increased a combined 11 per cent.

Mr Trump is also losing support he won four years ago.

Monica Rey Haft is among the crucial bloc of suburban women who helped propel Mr Trump to the White House in 2016.

The daughter of Hispanic immigrants, the mother of three from Dallas, cast her ballot for Mr Trump because her son was deploying to Afghanistan. She believed Mr Trump was supportive of the military.

A woman stands behind a giant chess board
“He disgusts me, his views disgust me, everything he stands for is appalling to me,” says Monica Rey Haft said of Donald Trump.(ABC News: Niall Lenihan)

And as a life-long Republican voter, Ms Rey Haft said she didn’t like Mrs Clinton.

But her views have changed since Mr Trump took power.

“He disgusts me, his views disgust me, everything he stands for is appalling to me.

“I now believe he has zero commitment to my son, or to the troops, or to anyone fighting over there.”

In November, Ms Rey Haft will be voting Democrat for the first time.

“I don’t feel safer with him as President,” she said.

“He is incapable of messaging in a way that comforts and calms the American people — he hasn’t done it during COVID, he hasn’t done it during the riots, he hasn’t done it during the recession.”

It’s clear Mr Trump has been campaigning hard to win over suburban women this year, while maintaining those he secured in 2016, by running a campaign warning of lawless streets under Mr Biden and a Democrat plan to “abolish the suburbs”.

The latest New York Times and Siena College poll shows Mr Trump losing women in Texas by 8 per cent. He remains ahead by 16 points among men.

Trump has found some success with his ‘law and order’ message

But Mr Trump’s antics over the past four years have started to disenfranchise many within the Republican camp.

Houston resident Justin Pitcock grew up in rural Texas and is the fourth generation of his family to make a living off oil and gas.

A man in a shirt and slacks stands in a backyard
Justin Pitcock says he can’t support the Republican Party under Donald Trump.(ABC News: Niall Lenihan)

But the Afghan marine veteran and man of faith said he can’t support the Republican Party with Mr Trump as leader.

So, Mr Pitcock is splitting with his family to vote for Mr Biden.

“We’ve come to a point in time where the policy implications of a particular candidate matter so much less than the durability of our republic,” he said.

Mr Pitcock is particularly scathing of Mr Trump’s handling of the pandemic.

“What we saw out of the President was a denial that this was a threat to the country,” he said.

“We now know it is [a] failure of leadership. This is the thing I was worried about — when a crisis comes, what are you going to do? And he denied it.

“The only reason he did it was because he thought it would make him look bad and he thought it would hurt the markets.”

But the President’s messaging on “law and order” has resonated with some Hispanic immigrants, who fled socialist regimes in South America.

A woman holds a 'Latinos for Trump' sign
“Hispanics, the very thing your ancestors ran from is now at the door of your country,” says Bianca Gracia.(ABC News: Niall Lenihan)

“Latinos for Trump” formed in 2016, and over the past four years the group has grown in popularity, spurred over fears of socialism under what Mr Trump calls the “radical left Democrats”.

At one of their rallies in McAllen, on the border with Mexico, founder Bianca Gracia said she was hoping to turn the Democrat-held Hidalgo county Republican.

“We are no longer going to let the Democrat agenda take advantage of our communities,” she said.

“To keep us under their thumb, keep us on welfare, to say, ‘Oh, we’re going to look after you, but you’re never going to prosper.'”

Ms Gracia grew up in the Rio Grande Valley and is targeting Hispanics and minorities in particular.

The rallies are a reminder Mr Biden shouldn’t take the Hispanic vote for granted, despite polling indicating he has a majority of their support.

“The very thing your ancestors ran from is now at the door of your country, wake up and do something,” Ms Garcia told supporters.

“They’ll come after your guns first. That’s what they did to us, they took away our guns so we wouldn’t be able to fight back.

“Then once they’ve taken your guns away, they go after your First Amendment right, they keep you silent so you can’t say anything.”

Whatever happens in this election, it appears as if a shift is underway in Texas, with the potential to reshape America for generations to come.

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