DALLAS, TEXAS - Asia Wright is in her second year of law school at Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Texas. She’s voting for the first time in a presidential election and says “duty and conviction” brought her out to the polls. She’s looking, she said, for a candidate in touch with the community, one who relies on a team to make decisions.

“I want someone who isn’t like (President Donald) Trump, who just thinks that they are the end-all and they know everything,” she said. In early voting, Wright chose former South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg.

But Sunday evening, Buttigieg suspended his campaign and canceled a Dallas rally minutes before it was to begin, leaving many supporters standing around, talking about Buttigieg’s future.

Vinny Bonanno sat, looking shell-shocked, as workers dismantled the stage and seats. He said he’s still proud of his candidate for “putting the words ‘gay’ and ‘president’” in the same sentence for many Americans.

Texas traditions vs Democratic primary

With days to go before the vote, Texas polling has Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders leading the southern state, followed by and occasionally tied with, former Vice President Joe Biden. Sanders’ popularity in a traditionally staunch conservative state confounds some because he is a self-described democratic socialist who champions Medicare-for-all and free public universities.

Gary Buster from Fort Worth, Texas, calls those empty promises. 

“A lot of the younger generation is supporting these Democrats and these socialist ideas, and it’s crazy to think that something’s free — it’s not,” he said.

But Anita Basudevan of Houston, Texas, disagrees. She chose Sanders in early voting for many reasons, including his health care plan. She says democratic socialism is misconstrued and Texans are looking for someone “new and fresh.”

Basudevan says her understanding of socialism is that it “really takes the power away from the big businesses and gives it back to the people.”

Longtime Texas Republican Consultant Craig Murphy of Murphy Nasica has given advice to Republicans - from those running for president to towns of fewer than 100 people. He downplays Sanders’ rise.

Republican Political Consultant Craig Murphy (l) discusses the Texas Primary with colleague Ross Hunt at Murphy Nasica. (VOA/Carolyn Presutti)

“His strength is more a function of the weakness of all the other candidates that he shares the ballot with,” Murphy said.

Money winnows the pack

Dallas County District Court Judge Eric Moyé has been active in Texas politics since the early 1990s. Moyé predicts the other candidates on the ballot will soon drop out and that Biden will edge out Sanders in Texas because he is the “established” candidate.

“Almost every elected official has endorsed Biden,” said Moyé, who believes the Sanders’ “early lead will galvanize the establishment of the Democratic Party” to urge more moderate candidates to drop out of the race, pushing more support to Biden.

Immediately following the release of Saturday’s results from South Carolina’s primary, billionaire Tom Steyer dropped out of the Democratic race saying, “I no longer see a path to victory.” That was followed by Sunday’s announcement from Buttigieg. Experts  predict the field will narrow even more following Super Tuesday when more candidates may find they lack the funds to continue.

The Biden campaign, coming off his win in South Carolina Saturday, says it raised $5 million in 24 hours. The Sanders campaign raised $46.5 million in February from more than 2 million donors. The campaign says the average donor gave $21.

360° VIDEO: One of the main events at the American Rodeo is steer wrestling. VOA's Carolyn Presutti takes you there with this video. Use your cursor to click and drag (or tap and swipe on mobile devices).

Conservative Texas

The American Rodeo semi-finals in Fort Worth, Texas, started with a Texas color guard highlighting the U.S. and Texas flags, followed by a prayer and the national anthem sung by two women wearing Western clothing.

“We love rodeo,” said self-described “strong conservative” Susanne Franks of Austin, Texas, who calls former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg “interesting.”

360° VIDEO: Another event is the bronco competition, as a cowboy tries to stay on a bucking horse. Use your cursor to click and drag (or tap and swipe on mobile devices).

Lupe Valdez, former Dallas County Sheriff and former Texas gubernatorial candidate, is throwing her support behind any Democrat “who can beat (Republican President) Donald Trump.” Valdez became the first gay Hispanic sheriff elected in the U.S.

She does not believe Sanders will do well in Texas asserting, “I think a moderate will be more successful … maybe not in the primary, but in the general election, especially in Texas.”

In a Marist/NBC News poll released Sunday, Sanders is predicted to get 34% of the Texas vote, and Biden 19%. They are followed by Bloomberg (15%) and Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren (10%).

360° VIDEO: Get a first-hand view of a Texas cattle drive in this 360 video. Use your cursor to click and drag (or tap and swipe on mobile devices).