As she took to the podium in El Paso, Texas this week, Dr Jill Biden was unequivocal.
“For the first time in a long time, winning Texas is possible,” she confidently declared to the crowd. “And if we win here, we are unstoppable.”
It was a far cry from the once reluctant political spouse, who previously described how the mere prospect of giving a speech made her “so nervous I felt sick”.
But since her husband Joe Biden secured the Democratic presidential nomination, Dr Biden has rapidly become one of his campaign’s most prolific surrogates, holding in-person events and virtual fundraisers at a rate that often outpaces her spouse.
With her youthful appearance - she is eight years her husband’s junior - and her carefully delivered remarks, Dr Biden’s strength lies in the counterbalance she provides to her husband’s occasional outbursts and verbal slip-ups on the campaign trail.
Recognising her appeal, Democrats have put the former second lady front and center of her husband’s campaign.
Her appearance at a university campus in El Paso was just the first stop in a three-city tour of Texas for Dr Biden on Tuesday, as she hopes to help Mr Biden become the first Democrat since 1976 to turn the state Blue.
“We have to work like we have never worked before,” she told the crowd of around 50 people in El Paso, urging supporters to boost turnout on the first day of early voting in Texas. “One vote could make the difference between losing and winning a precinct. One precinct could win a state. And one state - this great state - could decide our future for generations to come.”
Her comments reflect the optimism Democrats feel about the Lone Star state, where they have recently announced a $6 million advertising spree - a move that would have been unthinkable just a few months ago. Polling averages suggest the race in Texas is unusually tight, with Donald Trump’s lead against Mr Biden down to just 4.4 points.
Dr Biden’s appearance in El Paso was followed by events in Dallas and Houston, where Democrats see their best hopes of boosting turnout before election day on November 3.
Emma Acosta, from El Paso County's Democratic Party, said it was significant to have the candidate’s wife spend the day in Texas with the election less than three weeks away. “I think she’s invigorating,” she told The Telegraph. “We needed her here in Texas, we need to make sure people go out and vote."
Jill Biden is spending the entire day in Texas to mark the start of early voting in the state, travelling from El Paso to Dallas and ending in Houston tonight. Three weeks out from Election Day, the time spent here shows Democrats are optimistic about flipping the state pic.twitter.com/IoBFN429Jp
— Rozina Sabur (@RozinaSabur) October 13, 2020
On the campaign trail, Dr Biden, who has spent decades working as a teacher, has championed the issues closest to her heart: education and support for military families.
The 69-year-old has often used her own personal history to underscore her message, delivering her prime-time address during the Democratic Convention from an empty classroom at the high school where she used to teach and talking intimately about the couple’s late son Beau and his time in the US military.
It was a theme that she returned to during her events in Texas, where she praised her husband’s plans to reopen “our schools and childcare programmes safely”, and his promise to “protect and prepare our troops” both on deployment and upon their return home.
It was a speech that resonated with those in the crowd. “You can understand her message. I don’t like big speeches and she was precise,” said Norma Fincher. “She was touching on the major issues right now with a lot of impact.”
Mrs Fincher also noted that while Mr Biden’s age was a concern to some voters, his wife provided an important boost to him on the campaign. “I think that she energises him,” she said. “I could see her energy [today].”
Others, like Noel Rosenbaum, said Dr Biden’s backstory had won her support. “She is a remarkable woman in herself,” she said, noting the 69-year-old’s doctorate in education and her intention to keep teaching if she becomes First Lady.
Was Dr Biden the Democratic campaign’s secret asset? “I don’t think she’s any secret,” said Ms Rosenbaum, laughing. “She’s an extraordinary woman.”
Dr Biden has also won the support of Beto O'Rourke, a Texan who ran against her husband for the Democratic presidential nomination. Introducing Dr Biden on stage in El Paso on Tuesday, Mr O’Rourke described how, despite being opponents, the Bidens always expressed "genuine interest" in his family and offered their support on the campaign trail.
Beto O’Rourke introducing Dr Jill Biden in El Paso, Texas today. “We believe that you and your husband can win the 38 electoral college votes in the state of Texas... and end our collective nightmare,” he says. pic.twitter.com/asExtQ9oEN
— Rozina Sabur (@RozinaSabur) October 13, 2020
“It made it such an easy decision to get behind them because I know what good people they are," he told the crowd. Turning to Dr Biden, he told her: “We believe that you and your husband can win the 38 electoral college votes of the state of Texas.”
But as she took to the podium, Dr Biden steered the conversation away from the technicalities of winning the election, focusing her speaking time on anecdotes from voters she had met on the campaign trail.
Summarising her pitch to voters, she said: “We care more about people than politics.”