ANALYSIS: In Abbott vs. O’Rourke, Past is Prologue
What elections in 2018 and 2020 can tell us about this Texas Gubernatorial race
ANALYSIS - Four years ago, Beto O’Rourke, then just a congressman from El Paso, almost shocked the country by finishing only three percent behind his opponent, Ted Cruz.
I mention this because to try to understand and prognosticate what will happen in six days, one must look at recent electoral history to tell the story of the gubernatorial election between Greg Abbott and Beto O’Rourke.
In that election cycle, Democrats across the state and country racked up wins to gain back control of the House in a repudiation of Trump and his first two years in office. In the House alone, they picked up the most seats since 1974.
O’Rourke, in the best day that Democrats have had in recent years, still could not overcome the Goliath that is the Texas GOP.
To add insult to injury, O’Rourke was deeply unpopular in the Rio Grande Valley. He somehow lost to another candidate in the primary earlier that year.
Still, even then, what has made Beto so unpopular among rural Texans was not necessarily that he couldn’t beat the most disliked politician in a long time in Ted Cruz but rather his performance in the 2020 Democratic primaries for President.
In a futile, quixotic effort to be more progressive than Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, O’Rourke proudly stated he would ban all assault rifles if elected. While it received loud, thunderous applause in the debate hall, in Texas, it was the final nail in the coffin of his ever winning statewide office.
Of course, O’Rourke’s charisma has always been evident, and his ability to orate and draw a crowd is admirable. The fact that he’s able to get so many young people excited to vote for something is outstanding and laudatory.
However, that one proclamation ended any shot he had to get the rural Texas vote. If you can’t get that vote, then you can’t win. And he’s about to lose his second statewide race in four years.
Playing devil’s advocate, I could argue that electoral surprises in Kansas and furor over SCOTUS’s Dobbs decision along with the tragedy in Uvalde would change the mood in the country.
In some ways, it did to a point. However, poll after poll shows that Texans care more about inflation and border security than any other issue on the ballot. In those issues alone, for better or worse, Texans and Americans trust the Republican Party more than their counterparts across the aisle. Topics that Democrats care about more such as abortion and democracy fall way below those two issues that are most pressing in people’s minds.
Never mind that inflation isn’t something that can be looked at in a vacuum. That is, that if Trump was still president, inflation would still be a thing because we are still dealing with effects from the pandemic.
It is like playing Hot Potato. Whoever has the potato when it’s time loses even if there were factors outside their control.
O’Rourke and his party across the country are having to deal with running under the same party as an unpopular president just lile Republicans did in 2018. Even though Abbott has been in office since 2015, voters see the country being led by Biden and vote accordingly no matter how maddening that is for Texas Democrats.
Because of that, O’Rourke has consistently polled behind Abbott. Right now, according to Real Clear Politics, he is behind by nine points. That’s not just one poll. That’s all of the polls taken as a composite.
Like Republicans in 2018, I’m afraid it won’t be a pleasant night for O’Rourke and company on Tuesday.
Well, that’s what I think when looking at history. But who knows, I’m most likely wrong…