On a visit to Texas less than 100 days before this year’s election, U.S. President Donald Trump promoted his energy policies, warning that the state’s oil and gas industry would be destroyed if his rival, former Vice President Joe Biden, was elected.
“The radical left,” Trump said Wednesday, “is fighting to abolish American energy, destroy the oil and gas industries and wipe out your jobs.”
Texas ranks highest among all 50 U.S. states in the energy sector in terms of employment and total production. But the industry has been hit hard recently by low prices and the coronavirus pandemic.
The president made his remarks to employees of Double Eagle Energy, a midsize crude oil and natural gas company in Midland in the hot and dusty Permian Basin.
“There's a huge overlap between workers in the energy industry here in Texas and his political base of support,” said Brendan Steinhauser, a Republican political consultant in Austin.
Earlier in the day at a pair of political events in Odessa, Trump raised $7 million in campaign contributions at a time when opinion polls show a narrower-than-expected race against Biden in Texas, a must-win state for the president.
'Kind of a tough job'
“So, he has kind of a tough job here to sort of deliver the message and deliver the policies that make the base happy and keep the money flowing to his campaign. But at the same time, not alienating those voters in the middle, those independents and swing voters who would support an agenda that Republicans support,” Steinhauser told VOA.
“There have been a number of surveys and public polls that have been released that show that Joe Biden and Donald Trump are essentially fighting at a tie right now,” he said.
In a statement earlier Wednesday, Biden criticized the president for politicking in Texas amid the spread of COVID-19 and in the wake of Hurricane Hanna's ravaging of the southeastern part of the state.
“Mr. President, now isn’t the time for politicking or photo-ops,” said the statement issued by Biden’s campaign. “Texans need a President with the experience and vision to fight for families no matter how many catastrophes reach our shores.”
Texas has voted Republican in presidential elections for the past three decades. Trump, in 2016, beat Democrat Hillary Clinton by 9 percentage points.
In this year’s election, Texas is worth 38 electoral votes out of the 270 needed to win the presidency.
'We love our environment'
“I don’t think Biden’s going to do too well in Texas,” predicted Trump as he blasted the Democrats’ environmental policies, such as the Green New Deal.
“People don’t know that. We love our environment,” the president said of his environmental policies, which he contended have given America the world’s cleanest air and water.
Environmentalists, however, have expressed alarm over the Trump administration's dismantling of about 100 rules and regulations imposed by previous administrations and promoting hydraulic fracking, a process to extract oil and gas from shale rock, including on public lands.
Immediately after his remarks in Midland, Trump signed four permits allowing the expansion of oil transportation infrastructure in the region.
VOA's Patsy Widakuswara contributed to this report.