The nationalization of Texas politics has created a challenge for Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, who’s had to fend off criticism of his border security approach and endure former President Donald Trump’s insistence on election audits.
Moderates and Democrats charge that Abbott has gone too far right with his conservative agenda. They decry his plan to finish Trump’s border wall, deplore the state’s new law that limits mail-in voting and denounce Texas’ law that bans abortion after six weeks of pregnancy.
That’s just a sample of the bounty of conservative legislation approved by the Legislature this year over four legislative sessions. Abbott also has banned vaccine mandates and passports.
But that isn’t enough for some national conservative voices that influence conservative voters.
Gov. Greg Abbott during a press conference in Dallas, March 17, 2021, addressing the arrival of a few hundred immigrant teen boys from the border to the Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services confirmed Tuesday that the convention center will serve as an emergency intake site to hold teens who have arrived at the U.S.-Mexico border starting Wednesday to decrease overcrowding at Customs and Border Protection facilities. (Lola Gomez/The Dallas Morning News)(Lola Gomez)
Ordinarily, what folks outside the state think about the Texas governor isn’t of great concern. It’s the view inside Texas that counts the most.
But Abbott is dueling with Florida Republican Ron DeSantis for the conservative title of America’s governor. The person who fills that role could be a contender for a national ticket in 2024, depending on whether Trump makes another run for the White House.
More urgently, Republican activists are swayed by the coverage they see on conservative media networks. If the national media has negative perceptions of an elected leader or political candidate, it could result in a backlash at the polls.
“Between COVID and the border situation, local issues have become nationalized,” said former Dallas County Republican Party Chairman Jonathan Neerman. “Border security is a very important issue to voters around the country, and they naturally focus on Texas because that’s where the issues with migrants have been.”
Former state Sen. Donald Huffines of Dallas and former Texas GOP Chairman Allen West of Frisco are the leading challengers against Abbott in the 2022 Republican primary for governor. They have been pointed in their criticism of Abbott’s record, including on border security issues.
Neerman doesn’t put much stock in that criticism, countering that Abbott should be heavily favored to win his March primary contest. But he does add that national figures dabbling into Texas politics often have a distorted view.