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As a sign of how unusual this presidential election is, Texas is now considered a battleground state. The Lone Star State has been a Republican juggernaut in presidential elections for the last 40 years, and now polls show a close race there. But does Hillary Clinton really stand a chance of winning Texas? Well, NPR's Wade Goodwyn went to find out.
WADE GOODWYN, BYLINE: It's the first day of early voting in Texas, and Republican precinct chair Jody Rushton is walking her neighborhood in Plano for Donald Trump.
(SOUNDBITE OF KNOCKING)
JODY RUSHTON: Hello.
UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN #1: Hi.
RUSHTON: Did you vote today?
GOODWYN: This upper-middle-class, predominantly white suburban community is fertile Republican territory, and Rushton has been their party liaison for many, many years. Solid wooden doors are thrown open wide by friendly women.
RUSHTON: I'm really glad you voted.
UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN #2: I know, and...
UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN #2: ...There were a lot of people there, too.
RUSHTON: Were there?
UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN #2: Yeah.
RUSHTON: Oh, good.
UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN #2: A lot of people.
RUSHTON: You're off my list then. I won't call you and remind you to vote.
GOODWYN: Rushton trundles house to house in a warm October sun, ambushed by motion-activated zombies crawling out of front yard graves.
(SOUNDBITE OF ZOMBIE DECORATION SCREAMING)
GOODWYN: Two doors down, Charlene Collins is worried about the election. When Rushton asked Collins what motivates her to vote the most...
CHARLENE COLLINS: Well, mainly it's the judges.
RUSHTON: The judges.
COLLINS: And I can tell you truthfully. This is a really sad situation for us to be in right now.
RUSHTON: It is sad.
GOODWYN: Jody Rushton's first choice for president was Florida Senator Marco Rubio. Like many Republican suburban women voters across the state, she will loyally support her party's candidate. But she knows others who hesitate and some who can't bring themselves to vote for Trump.
RUSHTON: Our candidate is not a politician, and obviously he's done things that are out there that we don't appreciate. There's no way I can condone what he has done and said in some of the areas. However, his words don't mean as much from 10 years ago, 11 years ago, as what he says he will do.
GOODWYN: This is the potential soft point for Trump's campaign - suburban Republican women.
CAROL REED: He has turned off women pretty much all over America, and it really doesn't matter if you were an R or a D.
GOODWYN: Carol Reed has been a Republican political consultant in Texas for more than three decades. She's helped build the Texas Republican Party from a collection that could caucus in a phone booth to the powerhouse it is today. Reed says what's happening to the GOP nationally is happening in Texas, too.
REED: Absolutely, yeah, we're no different when it comes to that kind of thing. And so the soccer mom today, while she cares more about economic stuff, there comes a point where there's a bridge too far. And it just - you know, I'm seeing already - in North Dallas, I saw a couple I'm a nasty woman T-shirts.
GOODWYN: But Reed thinks a Clinton victory in Texas will also prove to be a bridge too far. She's not worried about Trump winning Texas. She's worried about what happens to Texas Republicans after November 8.
REED: If we see a huge split like I think is going to happen, if the Republican Party does not change its way of approaching people and if they stick on these wedge issues, they're going to lose.
RAFAEL ANCHIA: Where we stand today, Hillary winning Texas is very, very real.
GOODWYN: Texas House Representative Rafael Anchia from Dallas believes Trump's campaign is changing the balance of power in Texas. Of course he well knows that in the past, Hispanic turnout in Texas has been a disappointment. But he believes this election is different.
ANCHIA: We have a candidate that has gone out of his way to alienate Hispanic voters. I think you're not only going to see that at the top of the ticket, but you're going to see it down ballot. The efforts of Donald Trump and Republicans - they're really delivering that vote in large percentages to the Democratic Party.
GOODWYN: The numbers from the first day of early voting in Texas were jaw-dropping. In Houston four years ago, 47,000 voted on the first day. On Monday, 67,000 voted. In Austin four years ago, 16,000 - Monday, 35,000. Every major Texas city smashed its previous record. Something is going on here. We just don't know what yet. Wade Goodwyn, NPR News, Dallas.
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