Recent polling suggests a tightening race between Republican incumbent Gov. Greg Abbott and his Democratic challenger, Beto O’Rourke, in this November’s marquee gubernatorial midterm election. How could the U.S. Supreme Court’s recent decision to overturn Roe v. Wade influence the governor’s race?
Political observers have been attributing the recently tightening race to last month’s shooting in Uvalde, said Edward McKinley, a state government reporter based at the Houston Chronicle’s Austin bureau, noting that there hasn’t been any new polling since the Supreme Court issued its opinion on abortion.
“It’ll be interesting to see what the next round of polls says about where we’re at now. But basically, Beto O’Rourke is in a position where he wants to translate this hurt that the Democratic electorate is feeling into political action,” McKinley said. “He’s saying, come volunteer, come knock on doors, come out to this rally and let’s turn this into a political movement. While Greg Abbott is in a slightly awkward position of the dog that caught its tail, I would say.”
A University of Texas at Austin poll in May showed that 78% of Texas voters believed abortion should be allowed in some form.
“Obviously the numbers are going to be lower among Republicans, kind of in the middle among independents and highest among Democrats,” McKinley said. “After the Dobbs decision came through, Greg Abbott put out a statement that he’s unapologetically anti-abortion and that he’s made efforts to outlaw it in Texas – but a lot of the statement focused on resources for mothers and for families. And that’s a little bit more of an awkward position for the GOP to be making when this is also the party that is not supporting a strengthened safety net [or] Medicare expansion.”
Still, Abbott and other GOP politicians are hoping that abortion will be an issue that appeals to Latino voters in South Texas who might be more socially conservative than in other parts of the state, convincing them to continue voting Republican. Meanwhile, there’s a concern that suburban women may be galvanized to vote Democratic this year and that the reversal of Roe could compel more voters to opt for Democratic candidates up and down the ballot.
“[O’Rourke’s] campaign believes the higher the turnout is – the more engaged the electorate is in general – the better it is for his campaign,” McKinley said. “At his rally on Sunday in Austin, he was saying, ‘you know, I lost to Ted Cruz by just over 200,000 votes.’ There are more than 200,000 people in Travis County alone that didn’t vote in 2018 that could have. So his pitch is, ‘let’s get everyone involved.'”