© Reuters. FILEPHOTO: Texas Governor Greg Abbott is joined by troops from the Texas National Guard and personnel of U.S. Border Patrol for an information session about security on the Mexico-U.S. Border in Weslaco Texas. U.S.A. April 12, 2018. REUTERS/Loren Elliott
Julia Harte and Joseph Ax
(Reuters] – Texas Governor Greg Abbott’s decision to ban private companies from enforcing COVID-19 mandates in Texas is just one of many signs he’s betting that the state’s electorate will remain solidly Republican before his re-election bid next January.
Abbott supported a number of Texas measures in recent months that have pushed Texas to the right. These include the most restrictive abortion ban in the United States, voting limits and an attempt to finance a wall at the border. He also restricted transgender student athletes from being allowed to vote.
His executive order on Monday banning private employers and other entities from imposing COVID-19 vaccine mandates is in direct conflict https://www.reuters.com/business/healthcare-pharmaceuticals/texas-vaccine-mandate-ban-likely-be-trumped-by-federal-law-could-cause-2021-10-13 with the Biden administration’s plan to require shots for workers.
The strength of Texas’ rapidly expanding metropolitan areas like Houston and Austin has helped Democrats make political gains. Abbott’s actions appear to be geared towards energizing Republican voters rather than appeals to moderate Democrats and swing voters, despite Abbott being facing two intraparty challengers as governor.
Brendan Steinhauser (a Texas-based Republican consultant on politics) said that “He is taking a more aggressive strategy.” These are all methods to support conservative voters within the state.
The evidence is strong to support the strategy. In spite of national unpopularity, and unprecedented Democratic enthusiasm, Donald Trump won Texas last year by over five points.
Abbott (63), is expected to be in a more friendly environment as he pursues another four year term. The White House party in control usually loses its first midterm elections. President Joe Biden (a Democrat) has seen his approval ratings plummet.
Ray Sullivan was a former senior advisor to Republican Governor Rick Perry. He stated that “I strongly believe Governor Abbott has the catbird seat for reelection.” History is not in favor of the Democrats for this election cycle.
There has been no announcement by a Democrat that he would run to be the Abbott-Bush office candidate next year. Political observers predict that Beto O’Rourke will run for the office next year, having been a former Congressman and Presidential candidate.
Abbott faces at least two credible Republican challengers in this first round of his term: Don Huffines, an ex-state senator and Allen West who is chairman, Texas Republican Party. Allen West was also recently admitted with COVID-19.
Both agree that Abbott is not sufficiently conservative for Texas. Huffines took credit Monday for Abbott’s decision to ban vaccine mandates, and tweeted that it was “glad Greg Abbott finally caves to the grassroots pressure caused by my campaign.”
Abbott’s campaign didn’t respond to our request for comment.
CONSERVATIVE BONA FIRE
Abbott sometimes angered the right-wing of his party, as when he issued an order for all states to wear masks last year, during the coronavirus pandemic. This contrasts with his recent decision to ban schools from using masks.
Abbott will be able to reaffirm his conservatism with Biden as a political foil at the White House. Abbott is already a target of the White House, picking up fights against the administration over everything from abortion mandates and border security to mandating masks.
Mark Jones, an assistant professor of political science at Rice University, Houston, stated that Abbott is primarily thinking about March 2022 Republican Primary.
Mustafa Tameez (a Texas-based Democratic strategist) said that Abbott is showing loyalty to Trump in a way similar to other Republican leaders. Abbott supported his state’s partial examination of the 2020 presidential elections. This decision was made hours after Trump demanded that Republicans “audit” them.
Tameez stated that he understands the argument that Texas Republicans have an advantage in midterm elections because of lower turnout among Democrats. However, he pointed out that recent cycles have seen a surge in turnout and suggested that Abbott may be subject to repercussions for following far-right priorities.
“If Governor Abbott and the Republican Party continue to go to their extreme agenda… they will lose the suburbs of Texas and therefore will lose elections – sooner than they believe,” he said.
According to the Texas Politics Project, the August poll showed that a majority of Texans believe the state is heading in the wrong directions. It was the worst poll since 2008 when the survey began. This gave Abbott the lowest approval rating since his election in 2015.
Abbott’s decline in popularity can partly be explained by his aggressive partisan positions of the last year. However, it is also related to a decline in support of political leaders during the same period according to James Henson (director of the polling).
Henson explained that, even though Abbott’s policies might have offended some Democrats and independents alike, consolidating the conservative base of Abbott is an effective strategy to get ready for next year’s elections.
Nate Lerner (a Democratic consultant) said that Trump knows Trump won’t be on the ballot in 2022. This would make Democratic voters more motivated. Lerner was part of a grassroots campaign to persuade O’Rourke not to run in 2020. It’s now more about the base, because “the middle” is too small and fragile.