Hundreds turned out late Friday afternoon at Juarez Plaza at La Villita in downtown San Antonio for a rally to support former Democratic Vice President Joe Biden’s bid for the White House.
A poll of likely Texas voters released by CNN Thursday shows Biden as the front runner among Democratic candidates.
35 percent of those surveyed say they backed Biden. His nearest Democratic challengers, Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren and Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, are both about 20 points or more behind him.
Former San Antonio Mayor and U.S. Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julian Castro by comparison only has the support of three percent of Texans surveyed, according to the same poll. Biden trails President Donald Trump in Texas by just one percentage point.
“This election is about the soul of this nation and Donald Trump has poisoned our soul,” Biden told the crowd gathered under the live oak trees shading the plaza.
Biden said during his first 100 days in office, he would turn back much of the damage he believes President Trump has done, including the separation of families at the border. He said he would welcome asylum seekers at the border and stop wasting millions of dollars on a border wall.
Biden criticized Trump’s comments about a Latin invasion of America, words he said were closely repeated by the shooter at the Walmart in El Paso.
“He fans the flames of hate, hate groups, white supremacists here at home,” Biden said.
He ended his speech with a call to action.
“Get up and let’s take it back now,” Biden said.
Biden’s campaign Friday also picked up some big name local endorsements, including former San Antonio Mayor Phil Hardberger and State Senator Jose Menendez.
“As we continue to build an aggressive ground game in Texas, we are more than proud to have such a strong list of dedicated public servants by our side as we fight to restore the soul of this country,” said Jane Hamilton, Texas State Director, Biden for President.
“The Lone Star State will play a crucial role in 2020. These Texans who have joined with us today are ready for that fight, and they know that Joe Biden can unite the country across party lines to defeat Donald Trump,” she said. “Together, we will build a movement to get things done and to revive the American spirit.”
Local Biden supporters said it’s no surprise the presidential race is closer in Texas than it has been in decades
“Texas is going through a demographic shift, especially with the blue wave," said Sarah Kupcho of San Antonio, who attended the rally. “With the change in demographics we know that boomers are no longer the largest population. It’s the millennials who traditionally go a little more liberal than they would, especially here in Texas, and especially with an increasing Hispanic population. I’m not surprised that he’s doing well here.”
Another Biden backer said he’s a strong candidate in Texas because he has the experience.
“He’s got the knowledge. He’s got the background,” said Carolyn Gracia. “And I do feel he’d be great as a president. He did a great job while he was VP. And I strongly believe in him.”
Around a dozen Trump supporters heckled Biden during his speech, but were mostly drowned out by Biden supporters. One heckler got close to Biden’s podium, but Biden told the crowd to let him go.
“This is not a Trump Rally. This is a real rally,” Biden said.
After the rally, Biden attended a fundraiser at a private residence in Terrell Hills.
Brian Kirkpatrick can be reached at Brian@TPR.org and on Twitter at @TPRBrian.