WASHINGTON - US President Donald Trump heads to Harris County, Texas, this weekend to a major rally ahead of next week's United Nations General Assembly - for Prime Minister Narendra Modi. The website for the "Howdy, Modi" rally boasts that the "live audience will be the largest gathering for an invited foreign leader visiting the United States other than the Pope": Some 50,000 people, many from Houston's large Indian community, are expected to turn out.
It's eye-popping that leaders of the world's two biggest democracies are appearing together at such an event - let alone that this particular American president will be holding court in the epicenter of Texas's blue wave and the most diverse city in America.
You're not wrong if you think that doesn't sound like friendly territory for Trump. But that's a strong political reason for him to go: Democrats are making a big play for Texas in 2020 and Republicans are growing concerned. The rally for PM Modi provides Trump with access to a potential pool of Indian American voters that could turn out to be critical in next year's presidential elections.
- "Texas is a battleground," Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, said at a breakfast hosted by The Christian Science Monitor last week. "The far left is pissed off. They hate the president and that's a powerful motivator."
- There's perhaps no place that hates the president more in Texas than Harris County, which "completely inverted in 2016" from red to blue. Trump lost the county by 12 percentage points in 2016 - and former Congressman Beto O'Rourke followed up with a 17 point win over Cruz in their 2018 Senate race.
- And it's an important county, Republicans acknowledge: "Well, they say if you lose Harris County, you lose Texas . . . That's the deal," Charlotte Lampe, a Cypress precinct chairwoman involved in the county's Republican Party for decades told the Texas Tribune's Abby Livingston. "If this turns, so follows Texas because we're a big concentration of conservative voters." Advertisement
Not-so-strange bedfellows: Trump and PM Modi are, in many ways, cut from the same cloth - right-wing populist leaders that stir huge crowds with big personalities, who have faced been criticized for polarizing their country's electorates. But it's a big gamble for Trump to bet PM Modi's popularity at home - and among diaspora communities abroad - will translate to support for Trump, reports the Washington Post