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Is Texas turning purple? A look at the midterm numbers.

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Democrats haven’t won statewide office in Texas since 1994. But recently, there have been subtle signs the GOP’s stranglehold on the Lone Star State may be loosening.

In 2016, Donald Trump carried it by just nine percentage points, less than his margin in Iowa. In an average of its 2017 surveys, Gallup pegged Trump’s approval rating in Texas at 39 percent — lower than any other state he carried. And in 2018, Democrats are fielding candidates in every one of Texas’s 36 House seats for the first time since 1992.

These factors have given some Democrats hope that if 2018 turns into a “blue wave,” they could cut into Republicans’ 25-11 edge in Texas House seats and possibly even give GOP Sen. Ted Cruz a run for his money. But it may be premature to repaint this red state purple.

On Tuesday, Texas kicked off 2018’s congressional primaries, and in a positive sign for Democrats across the country, their voters demonstrated far greater energy than in past midterms. With nearly all votes counted, total votes cast in the Democratic primary surged 85 percent over 2014’s tally, compared to a 14 percent increase on the GOP side. However, the Republican primary still accounted for 60 percent of all primary turnout.

Democrats’ enthusiasm gains over 2014 and 2010 were especially pronounced in wealthy inner suburbs of Houston and Dallas, where Trump is uniquely unpopular. That’s good news for Democrats’ hopes of unseating GOP Reps. John Culberson and Pete Sessions, neither of whom have faced competitive races this decade. Their districts handily voted for Mitt Romney in 2012, but in a surprise, Hillary Clinton narrowly carried both districts in 2016.

However, Democrats’ gains were much less pronounced in small-town and rural Texas. And Democrats’ new Senate nominee, Rep. Beto O’Rourke, a former punk rocker who represents El Paso, showed he still has work to do to consolidate his own party before he faces Cruz. He demonstrated far less appeal among his own party’s voters in places like Beaumont (34 percent), Laredo (42 percent) and Dallas (58 percent) than he did in liberal Austin (87 percent).

So is ruby red Texas starting to drift toward becoming a purple state? Whether or not Democratic candidates break through at the state or district levels in 2018, the long-term trend line suggests it’s quite possible.

For a generation, despite the state’s booming non-white population, Republicans’ advantage in Texas barely budged. Between 1980 and 2012, the Census estimates that the Hispanic share of Texas’s population surged from 20 percent to 37 percent. Yet in 2012, Mitt Romney won 58 percent of all major-party presidential votes cast in the state — a point higher than the 57 percent share Ronald Reagan won in 1980.

The reason Texas stood still could be explained by two offsetting trends: As Democratic-leaning Hispanics and African-Americans grew in voting strength, Republicans made enormous gains with rural whites who felt increasingly alienated by coastal liberals.

But in 2018, Republicans may be on the verge of to “maxing out” their shares of rural whites. In 2016, exit polls showed Trump winning 76 percent of Texas whites without college degrees. Meanwhile, the non-white share of eligible voters is continuing to rise every year. And even more importantly for Democrats, Trump has alienated a booming, traditionally GOP group: Suburban professional whites, especially women.

Democrats’ new energy in the suburbs is unlikely to help O’Rourke or other 2018 statewide Democratic candidates if, as in past midterms, non-whites fail to show up. According to the Census Bureau, non-whites made up 41 percent of Texas’ electorate in 2012 and 39 percent in 2016, but just 35 percent in 2014.

No matter what happens in those races, however, Texas will make history in 2018. Incredibly, Texas has never elected a Latina to Congress. But on Tuesday, former El Paso County Judge Veronica Escobar and state Sen. Sylvia Garcia both won their primaries with more than 50 percent (the threshold needed to avoid a runoff), virtually guaranteeing they will win safe Democratic seats in El Paso and Houston this fall.

David Wasserman, House editor for The Cook Political Report, is an NBC News contributor and senior analyst with the NBC Election Unit.

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U.S. has administered over 309 million doses of Covid-19 vaccines, CDC says

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The United States had administered 309,322,545 doses of Covid-19 vaccines and distributed 374,398,105 doses in the country as of Sunday morning, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said.

Those figures were up from the 308,112,728 doses of vaccine that the CDC said had been administered as of Saturday, out of 374,397,205 doses delivered.

The agency said 173,840,483 people in the United States had received at least one dose of a vaccine, while 143,921,222 people were fully vaccinated as of 6 a.m. ET on Sunday.

The CDC tally includes the two-dose vaccines from Moderna Inc and Pfizer Inc/BioNTech/ as well as Johnson & Johnson’s one-shot vaccine.

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Nigel Farage SHOULD be honoured for 'services to EU exit' – 'He's the man of the Century!'

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DOZENS of influential figures have been rewarded in the Queen’s Birthday Honours list for their services to Brexit – but one former MEP has pointed out that Nigel Farage has been excluded.

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Queen Elizabeth II hosts Bidens at Windsor Castle

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LONDON — They met Friday at the Group of Seven summit, but President Joe Biden and the first lady had an altogether more private meeting with Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II on Sunday, at her home in Windsor Castle.

The monarch, 95, received the Bidens for tea at her historic residence, about 30 miles west of London. On arrival they were greeted with an official Guard of Honor military parade, which gave a royal salute and played the American national anthem.

Biden stood next to the queen in the sunshine, wearing his aviator sunglasses, before inspecting the troops in the quadrangle of Windsor Castle, last seen on television during the somber funeral ceremony of her husband, Prince Philip, who died aged 99 in April.

The queen has stoically continued with her official duties since then and met Biden alongside other world leaders and their spouses on Friday at the G-7 summit, by the seaside in Cornwall, southwest England.

There, she amused leaders when she quipped during a photo-call: “Are you supposed to be looking as if you’re enjoying yourselves?”

Biden first met the queen in 1982 as a Democratic senator for Delaware but this time he joined her as president. He is the 13th serving president the monarch has met. She has met every serving American president since Dwight Eisenhower — except Lyndon Johnson who did not travel to Britain while in office.

As a 25-year-old princess in 1951, she also stayed with President Harry S. Truman and his family in Washington, D.C.

The queen has hosted four other American presidents at Windsor Castle in recent years, including former-President Donald Trump in 2018, who shocked press and palace pundits when he breached royal protocol by walking ahead of the queen, at times blocking her view and giving her his back.

After a state visit in 2019, Trump told Fox News: “There are those that say they have never seen the queen have a better time.”

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On arrival to England last week, first lady Jill Biden told reporters that meeting the queen was “an exciting part of the visit for us.”

She also undertook a separate engagement with Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge, when the two visited a school on Friday.

Kate told NBC News during the visit that she was looking forward to meeting her new niece, Lilibet Diana, born in California earlier this month.

Britain’s royal family have had a turbulent year in the public eye following a bombshell interview given by the queen’s grandson Prince Harry and his wife, Meghan, the Duchess of Sussex.

The couple stunned viewers with allegations of royal racism — denied by the palace — while Meghan also spoke publicly about how royal life and media pressure had taken its toll on her mental health.

After taking private afternoon tea with the queen on Sunday, Biden will then travel to nearby Brussels for a NATO summit, before heading to Switzerland on Wednesday for a meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

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