AUSTIN, Texas - On MSNBC's "Rachel Maddow Show" on Wednesday night, Democratic vice presidential candidate Kamala Harris revealed that she was about to launch an in-person campaign swing across some crucial electoral terrain.
"I'm going to be in North Carolina and Ohio and Pennsylvania and, I think, Texas," Harris said.
Harris thought correctly. Texas was on her itinerary for this weekend, much to the delight of Texas Democrats, who would love for their state, in recent decades the cornerstone of the Republican electoral majority, to be viewed and treated by its national ticket as the biggest battleground state of the 2020 election.
But, by daybreak, plans for a Harris visit had been dashed, at least for the time being. The campaign had learned late Wednesday that Harris' campaign spokeswoman and another aide had tested positive for COVID-19, and while they weren't in the kind of close contact with the California senator that would require a quarantine, the campaign was erring on the side of caution and canceling, or at any rate postponing, the live tour.
For Texas Democrats it was the latest lift-then-letdown.
On Oct. 6, news broke that Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden's campaign had reserved $6.2 million in Texas television time for the final weeks of the campaign, not a huge investment in a state the size and expense of Texas, but it still was seen as a telling token of commitment.
But, according to ad-buying agencies, the campaign subsequently canceled a lot of that TV ad time. Before it's over, the campaign could still end up spending more than $4 million on Texas media - or much less.
"The Biden campaign's Texas media spending has been like a predator circling a larger but wounded target," said Nick Everhart, the founder of Medium Buying, which buys air time for campaigns. "They are close, watching, and prepared to strike for the kill, but so far have been cautious to wait until they are certain the opportunity is there."
"Most of the Biden spending in Texas has been niche - Spanish language - and in select markets - San Antonio and El Paso, for example - and seems aimed at helping Democrats down-ballot ... more than it seems focused on helping him actually win the state's electoral vote haul," Everhart said. "When you look at the path to an electoral vote win for Biden, it doesn't have to include Texas, so those dollars seem to have been deployed to other, less expensive, traditional GOP state targets like Arizona, Georgia, Ohio and Iowa."
The Biden campaign does have a statewide TV ad buy placed for the Cardinals-Cowboys game Monday night.