When rumors began to surface that Gov. Greg Abbott might face a challenge from former Congressman, and U.S. Senate and presidential candidate, Beto O’Rourke, in 2022, many politics watchers got ready to settle in for a new battle royal in Texas politics.
Those excited by the prospect of combat between O’Rourke and Abbott included Evan Smith, CEO of The Texas Tribune and host of the public TV show, “Overheard with Evan Smith.” He told Texas Standard that he’s eager to pop some popcorn and watch what happens, even if February 2021 might seem a little soon to be talking about a 2022 governor’s race.
“It’s never too early for popcorn,” Smith said.
The rumors started when O’Rourke told an El Paso radio station he’s thinking about whether to challenge Abbott next year. Smith says he believes O’Rourke is serious.
Smith says there’s no other obvious Democratic challenger to Abbott at this point, and that by signaling early that he’s interested, O’Rourke could “clear a lane” for himself in the Democratic Party.
“His celebrity, his name ID and his following is pretty passionate and big,” Smith said. “But Texas, we learned in the 2020 election, what we probably already knew, is a pretty conservative state.”
Smith says 2020 was the best chance Democrats had to make gains in Texas. They didn’t do that.
In his State of the State address this week, Abbott addressed political “red meat” subjects, including gun rights – an issue on which O’Rourke made headlines during his failed presidential campaign, angering conservatives.
But Abbott seems to look forward to taking on a candidate with O’Rourke’s name ID and celebrity.
“Governor Abbott knows that a high-value opponent is good for him, good for the party,” Smith said.