With a 2019 announcement expected soon, Texas political operatives tell Axios that former Congressman Beto O’Rourke is preparing to way for governor of Texas in 2022. Why this is significant: O’Rourke’s entry would give the Democratic Party a high-profile challenger with a national fundraising network to Greg Abbott, the GOP governor of Texas — and give O’Rourke, a former three-term congressman from El Paso who ran for president in 2020, as well as voting rights advocate, a means to political rehabilitation.
However, in a complex political environment, he would be attempting to win the governorship of California. Immigration is on the rise at the southern border, and Democrats nationally are preparing for a tough midterm election and the possibility of losing control of the House in 2022. According to a new poll conducted for the Dallas Morning News, O’Rourke has reduced the gap with Abbott in a head-to-head matchup, down 37-42. In July, O’Rourke had a 12-point deficit, 33-45.
In a recent survey, Abbot’s approval rating dropped to 41% in the summer, with 50% of respondents disapproving. O’Rourke has been making headlines by calling political allies to obtain their counsel, implying that he’s made his decision to run in Texas’ second-most populous state. “Nothing has been made,” David Wysong, O’Rourke’s former House chief of staff and a longtime advisor, told us. “He’s been talking to people from all around the state.”
In addition to significant cultural distinctions on how to react to COVID-19, many of the contentious issues tearing the nation apart appear to be larger in Texas, including abortion rights and border security.
The Supreme Court rejected a law championed by Abbott to make it a crime for women to have an abortion after six weeks, enraging left-wing activists and potentially middle-class suburbanites. On COVID-19, he has inflamed cultural divisions and implemented executive actions to prevent local governments from imposing requirements for masks or vaccines.
On the Texas-Mexico border, Abbott has urged for six entry points to be shut and has blamed the Biden administration for a worsening humanitarian situation in Del Rio, where thousands of people are seeking refuge beneath a bridge. What they are saying: “We hope that he’s going to run,” Gilberto Hinojosa, the state chair of the Democratic Party, told Axios. “We think he’ll be our strongest candidate. We think he can beat Abbott because he’s vulnerable.”
“His prohibition against mask and vaccination mandates have not gone over well with Texans,” Hinojosa said. “And with the abortion law, Republicans have raised the anger level of Texas women higher than anyone has ever seen before.” While Democratic operatives believed that Texas might go blue and vote for the state’s first Democrat for president since 1976 in 2020, President Trump won it with 52 percent, roughly the same as his 2016 margin. In 2020, Trump won 1.2 million more votes than in 2016, for a total of 5.8 million victories. In 2018, O’Rourke lost to Sen. Ted Cruz by a margin of roughly 215,000 votes, 51% to 48%.