AUSTIN, Texas - For years it shimmered on the far horizon, beckoning like a watery mirage: a blue Texas.
Democrats plotted and schemed and talked about flipping this conservative stronghold and seizing its electoral votes, a stockpile that is crucial for Republicans. Inevitably, they fell short - typically by a lot.
This time, however, it is not far-fetched to think Joe Biden could carry the Lone Star State, a sign of the difficult straits facing President Donald Trump and the growing opportunities for cash-rich Democrats aiming not just to win the White House but to take control of the Senate and expand their House majority.
Biden remains a distinct underdog. Democrats have not won a statewide race in more than 20 years, and their last presidential candidate to carry Texas was Jimmy Carter, in 1976.
"It's not become probable," Jim Henson, who co-directs the University of Texas/Texas Tribune Polls, said of Biden's chances. "But it's gone into the realm of the plausible."
Recently the Biden campaign announced a $6 million television ad buy - not huge in a state with 17 major media markets - and dispatched his wife, Jill, to get-out-the-vote rallies in Dallas, El Paso and Houston.
That's hardly a full-on assault. Still, the fact Biden hasn't written Texas off entirely reflects his advantage heading into the final stretch of the campaign. With a steady lead in states he must win, the former vice president can reach for others less vital to his chances, including Georgia, Iowa and Ohio.
Biden doesn't need Texas' 38 electoral votes to claim the White House; Trump does. If the state flipped - and stayed Democratic in years to come, a far more difficult challenge - it would reshape the national political landscape like nothing since California turned blue nearly 30 years ago. Any Republican running for president would start at a huge disadvantage.
Even a close Biden finish would mean the GOP could no longer take Texas for granted, said Garry Mauro, a former state land commissioner and Democratic Party leader. "That means they couldn't spend as much money in Iowa and Ohio," Mauro said.
Several circumstances have converged to give Biden a shot. Four years ago, Hillary Clinton lost by 9 percentage points. But Texas is growing and changing, as hundreds of thousands of transplants arrive and bring their political inclinations from California, New York and other left-leaning states.