Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton went head-to-head Wednesday night for the final presidential debate in Las Vegas.
The candidate’s immediately got down to business, walking straight to their podium on stage without shaking hands.
Joshua Blank, a professor at the University of Texas, says Wednesday’s debate is the first time Texas voters heard the candidates talk about two of the most important issues in the Lone Star State; gun control and immigration.
“The flow of this debate really benefited Trump in starting out with these two issues,” Blank said. “A lot of people want to credit Trump with bringing these two issues to the forefront, especially Trump himself, but the reality is that these issues have been on the minds of Texas republicans long before Trump, and they’ll continue to be there whether he wins or loses the nomination.”
“Because I support the Second Amendment doesn’t mean that I want people who shouldn’t have guns to be able to threaten you, kill you or members of your family,” Clinton said during the debate.
Trump vowed to protect the Second Amendment during his presidency, saying it would strongly influence his pick to fill the vacancy on the U.S. Supreme Court.
“I think there were a lot for Democrats to like about Hillary Clinton’s response. I think there were a lot for Republicans to like about Donald Trump’s response,” Blank said. “And the reality when thinking about Texas is there just tends to be more republicans here than democrats.”
Blank says Trump’s harsh stance on immigration could help him pick up a few more votes and even boost his shrinking lead in Texas. According to a University of Houston poll released Tuesday, Trump is ahead of Clinton by 3 percent, which is within the poll’s margin of error, making it a statistical tie.
“I’m not surprised that she is gaining ground here,” Travis County Judge and Clinton supporter Sarah Eckhardt said. “I knew that Donald Trump’s values aren’t Texas values.”
Hoping to close that gap even further, Clinton’s campaign announced they are putting money on a one-week television ad buy in Austin, Dallas, San Antonio and Houston.
But is that enough to turn America’s largest conservative state blue? Blank says don’t count on that happening this election cycle.
“The reality is that even a little bit of investment and a favorable environment basically because of some of the language Trump has used throughout the campaign, isn’t going to turn Texas blue in one cycle,” Blank said.
Eckhardt says she is proud to be casting her ballot for Clinton this November. She says it’s not about Texas changing colors, but what is best for our nation.
“The conversation isn’t about if we are blue or red,” Eckhardt said. “The conversation is about what’s effective and clearly the ability to work across the aisle and work together. I think the slogan “Stronger Together” says it all.”
Republican presidential candidates have won Texas by no less than 11 percentage points since 2000. The last time a Democrat won Texas in a presidential race was in 1976.