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Why skateboarding liberal Beto O'Rourke is trying to turn the reddest of US states blue in the mid-terms

“Show me the way to Amarillo” goes the song, but the truth is it doesn’t feature on many people’s list of places to see.

The freight trains pass through on their way to Oklahoma City and beyond, but the wide highways are all but empty.

Yet in the past few months, the man who wants to become Texans' first Democratic senator in more than two decades has been here no fewer than seven times.

Beto O'Rourke wants to become Texas' Democratic senator.

And in the reddest of cities, in the most crimson of states, Beto O’Rourke - a skateboarding liberal - has managed to pull in the crowds.

He’s got something special, no doubt about that.

In 2016 Trump won Amarillo’s Potter County with 70% of the vote. Credit: ITV News

Driving himself to the morning's rally, the tall congressman from El Paso laughs off the praise for his admittedly slick parallel parking, before bounding out of his car and signing a skateboard, all the while smiling at his supporters, doubling back for warm handshakes with those who shout that he has their vote.

He’ll need every last one.

In 2016 Trump won Amarillo’s Potter County with 70% of the vote.

The incumbent senator is the former presidential candidate Ted Cruz, making this one of the most competitive and high profile contests in the country.

Incumbent Ted Cruz is a former presidential candidate. Credit: AP

It’s been a difficult week here in the US, with pipe bomb discoveries and the dreadful shooting at a Pittsburgh synagogue.

When I ask O’Rourke how he would try to bring his divided country back together he tells me: “I think Texas has a great opportunity to make sure that those things of party, geography, race, religion and how many generations you have been an American, that none of that defines us right now."

He talks about wanting to bring Texans back together: “We’re either going to be governed by our fears and our hatreds," he tells the crowd, “or we will be known by our ambitions”.

It’s a million miles from the President’s harsh rhetoric on immigration and race.

One group of Hispanic teenagers, who have skipped school to be at the rally, can barely hold back the tears.

They show me the selfies they have taken with O’Rourke and talk about their parents' journeys from Mexico.

“What means so much is to hear him talk about us in a positive way,” says Katherine Alvarez.

President Donald Trump is increasingly framing this election around immigration, in particular the threat he says is caused by a group of people from Central America walking towards the US border.

"The Caravan", as he calls it, is made up of around 7,000 people, including children and young families, determined to seek refuge in America.

Texas shares its border with Mexico, so immigration is an emotive subject here.

  • Texan salesman David Rosas - who is descended from immigrants - tells ITV News that immigrants are the "backbone" of American society

Ken Ferron is a retired police officer who intends to vote Republican.

“Whether it’s one person,” he tells me, “or 4,000, they can’t just walk across the border, otherwise we become the Honduras, we become Mexico, where we can’t take care of anybody”.

His sentiments are shared across town at the Amarillo Livestock Auction, where Stetson-wearing ranchers gather to buy and sell cattle.

  • Restaurant owner Mitsy Veloz tells ITV News that immigrants are often portrayed negatively in the US

Since Trump took over the White House, business has been booming here and owner Keith Parrott believes the President should get a lot more credit for the thriving economy.

“You gotta get up, go to work, make money, that’s what you gotta do” he says.

“A lot of people don’t like Trump, but I just wish people would let him do his job.

"Working people don’t want people bickering and fighting over everything.”

Keith Parrott believes the President should get a lot more credit for the thriving economy. Credit: ITV News

And more than anything else that’s what unites almost every Amarillan we speak to.

This is the United States of America after all, and they hate both the relentless focus on their divisions and the feeling of being so at odds with each other.

The mid-terms tend to act as a report card on the President in office.

In a week's time Amarillo, along with the rest of America, will deliver its verdict.

Five facts from Amarillo

  • Tony Richie’s 1971 classic, “Show me the way to Amarillo”, didn’t even make the US top 40.
  • At the city’s famed Big Texan Steak House, where your 72oz steak is free if you can eat it in less than an hour, the “little-biddy ol' ladies” have a much better success rate than the cowboys.
  • Texas hasn't had a Democratic senator here since 1993
  • The longest train on the BSNF railroad which passes through Amarillo was over two miles (3.2km) in length.
  • When the Texan cattle industry sued Oprah Winfrey for £7.8 million - she said cases of mad cow disease in England had stopped her "cold from eating another burger" - the libel case was heard in Amarillo. Despite a rash of “The only mad cow in Texas is Oprah” t-shirts, the television star won.