Like any smart politician, Texas Governor Gregg Abbott has played the percentages in maneuvering through the modern political minefields of a pandemic, racial unrest, and an uncertain economy. There is great unease in Texas, as there is nationwide, as the pandemic waxes and wanes, bringing uncertainty to the public as politicians and activists try to panic people into submission.
Abbott faced a serious challenge on his right flank and dealt with it by giving his conservative challengers nowhere to go. Abortion? He signed the most restrictive abortion law in the nation. Mask and vaccine mandates? They are unknown in Texas. Illegal alien influx at historic numbers? Abbott is proposing to finish Trump’s border wall.
He has stymied his conservative opposition at every turn. But he has also alienated at least some voters. His approval ratings are underwater, and a majority of Texans believe the state is on the wrong track.
At least, this is the case in the new poll from The Dallas Morning News and University of Texas at Tyler.
A whopping 54% of Texans surveyed think the state is on the wrong track. Just 45% approve of the governor’s job performance.
The poll on state and political issues was conducted Sept. 7-14. It surveyed 1,148 registered voters and has a margin of error of plus or minus 2.9 percentage points.
In the past two months, McConaughey has gone from slightly behind to 9 percentage points ahead of Abbott in a hypothetical match-up, and O’Rourke has cut the governor’s lead from 12 points to five.
Matthew McConaughey seems a nice enough fellow but the governor of Texas? Not on this planet, anyway. And that fellow O’Rourke. Is that the 3-time loser Beto O’Rourke? Is he still around?
With opposition like that, it’s unlikely that Greg Abbott is in any trouble. And while Abbott’s personal popularity might not be above water, the issues will almost certainly favor his re-election.
Of poll respondents who support the right to carry a gun without a permit, or Abbott’s ban on mask mandates, two-thirds think Texas is on the right track. It’s 3-in-5 among those who support Abbott’s ban on vaccine mandates, or the abortion ban.
On the other side, nearly everyone (83%) who disapproves of Abbott’s job performance thinks Texas is on the wrong track. Of Texans who oppose spending state revenue on a border wall, 74% say Texas is on the wrong track.
Even 29% of Abbott supporters are in that camp.
But the bottom line is getting more votes than the other guy. And Abbott has surely set his campaign up to do that. On the issues that matter most to Texans, he’s on the right side. His left-wing opponents are talking about issues that concern liberal activists.
Abbott is by no means a shoo-in to win next year. But given all that’s happened in the past year and a half, Abbott is in better shape than most incumbents.