Actor Matthew McConaughey is easy to spot around Texas, especially in the Capital City. He voices public service announcements, appears in the stands at University of Texas at Austin football games and has an ownership stake in Austin’s new professional soccer team. But is name recognition enough to make McConaughey a viable gubernatorial candidate?
The Texas-based celebrity has flirted with a run against Texas Gov. Greg Abbott in 2022. And a poll released by the University of Texas at Tyler and The Dallas Morning News this week indicated that more registered voters in Texas would mark their ballots for McConaughey than for Abbott.
Gromer Jeffers writes about politics for the Morning News. He told Texas Standard that speculating – and writing poll questions – about McConaughey’s gubernatorial prospects is “just plain fun.”
McConaughey hasn’t indicated which party he would run in – whether he might challenge Abbott for the Republican nomination, or run as a Democrat. The actor has advocated for a “middle ground” in his past political statements, lamenting extremism in both major parties. But applying that approach to a run for office in Texas strikes Jeffers as untenable.
“We’ve seen in other places celebrity candidates succeed, right?” Jeffers said. “Arnold Schwarzenegger in California, Jesse ‘The Body’ Ventura in Minnesota.”
But Jeffers says celebrity isn’t enough.
“You have to back it up with some ideology, some platform, something more than what he’s saying now,” Jeffers said. “And once you do that, that’s when you give a guy like Abbott, who is very good at defining his opponent, the opportunity to define Matthew McConaughey.”
Party affiliation is among the biggest drivers for voters, Jeffers says.
“[For Republicans], it would take a lot to dump an incumbent like Abbott,” he said.
Democrats, who may not have another strong candidate to put up against Abbott, might be open to McConaughey, but some might be skeptical, too.
“Inside both parties, though, there is a dissatisfaction with the political process,” Jeffers said. “And in that respect, if Matthew McConaughey can tap into that – the winter storm … and other aspects of government – would they put aside party ID and say ‘Look, we need to send a message?'”