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Beto O’Rourke Launches Texas Governor Run — But Polling Suggests Greg Abbott Could Still Win

By News Creatives Authors , in Business , at November 15, 2021

Topline

Beto O’Rourke announced Monday he’s challenging Texas Gov. Greg Abbott in the state’s 2022 gubernatorial race—but recent polling suggests the former congressman and presidential candidate is facing an uphill battle in the battleground state against the GOP incumbent, who still remains favored to win despite a recent string of controversial policies.

Key Facts

Abbott led O’Rourke by nine points in a poll conducted October 22-31 by the University of Texas at Austin, with 46% of registered voters saying they’d vote for Abbott and 37% backing O’Rourke.

Abbott had a smaller one-point lead in a poll conducted October 14-27 by the Texas Hispanic Policy Foundation and Rice University, with 43% backing Abbott and 42% saying they’d vote for O’Rourke.

O’Rourke’s support slipped when actor Matthew McConaughey, who’s mulling a gubernatorial run, was included as a third-party candidate, with 40% supporting Abbott, 37% backing O’Rourke and 9% planning to vote for McConaughey.

A September poll conducted by the Dallas Morning News and University of Texas-Tyler found 37% would vote for O’Rourke and 42% would vote for Abbott.

That poll had McConaughey winning if he ran as the Democratic candidate instead of O’Rourke, however, garnering 44% support versus 35% who said they’d vote for Abbott in a head-to-head matchup.

Support for O’Rourke has gone up since the summer, when a July Dallas Morning News/University of Texas-Tyler poll had Abbott leading by 12 points, with 45% backing the Republican and 33% supporting O’Rourke.

Crucial Quote

“Those in positions of public trust have stopped listening to, serving, and paying attention to—and trusting—the people of Texas, and so they’re not focused on the things we actually want them to do,” O’Rourke said in a video announcing his candidacy Monday, criticizing Abbott and Texas leadership for focusing on “extremist policies” like abortion and permitless firearm carry.

What We Don’t Know

Whether McConaughey will enter the race, either as a third-party candidate or by challenging O’Rourke for the Democratic nomination. The actor, who has described his political views as “aggressively centrist,” said in October he was still “measuring” a gubernatorial run.

Key Background

If elected, O’Rourke would be the first Democrat to serve as Texas’ governor since Gov. Dorothy Ann Willis Richards in 1995, though the traditionally conservative-leaning state has become increasingly more purple in recent years. O’Rourke’s gubernatorial bid marks the third high-profile campaign the former congressman has launched in recent years, after challenging Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) in a closely watched 2018 Senate run and then running for president in the 2020 Democratic primary. O’Rourke lost both races, though he ultimately lost to Cruz by less than three points and his close Senate run was hailed as a sign of Democrats’ growing influence in the state. The Democrat launched his challenge against Abbott after his policies have repeatedly come under controversy in recent months, such as the state’s near-total ban on abortion, restrictive voting law and Covid-19 policies banning school mask mandates and employer vaccine requirements. Texas also garnered headlines in February when the state’s electrical power grid failed and left many in the state without power or heat, which O’Rourke cited Monday as one of the main catalysts behind his decision to run.

Surprising Fact

Despite the widespread controversy sparked by Texas’ abortion and voting laws, a September Morning Consult poll found the policies didn’t appear to have a huge interest on Abbott’s approval rating in the state. The governor’s approval rating went down by just one point from August to September, from 48% to 47%. Abbott’s approval rating actually appeared to be affected more by his decision to drop Covid-19 restrictions like mask mandates, with his approval going down from 56% in March to 50% in July.

Further Reading

Beto O’Rourke Challenges Abbott For Texas Governor (Forbes)

Texas Gov. Abbott Leads Beto O’Rourke By Just 1 Point In Potential Matchup, Poll Suggests (Forbes)

Beto O’Rourke Will Reportedly Run For Texas Governor — But Matthew McConaughey May Have A Better Shot At Winning, Poll Shows (Forbes)

Texas Abortion Ban And Voting Restrictions Haven’t Hurt Gov. Greg Abbott’s Approval Rating, Poll Finds (Forbes)

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