University of Houston Political Science Professor Brandon Rottinghaus says Texans want answers about the “Snowmageddon” from a few weeks ago. But, he says, polling shows there’s not a consensus on the reforms they’d like to see. He also says it’s not clear whether anyone will pay a price at the polls in 2022.
“I mean, the most obvious answer is Greg Abbott, who is the kind of centerpiece for government in Texas and has been the most visible,” Rottinghaus said. “And he’s played this, I think, like he should. … Whether he gets out of it or not in terms of the politics of this are unknown.”
Rottinghaus says Abbott isn’t doing well with independent voters but he doesn’t see him being too vulnerable to any potential Republicans who may seek to challenge him in the governor’s race in 2022.
“I think Gov. Abbott has protected his right flank pretty well,” Rottinghaus said.
He cites voters’ familiarity with Abbott and his large campaign war chest.
However, some have noted that Texas Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller may be positioning himself as a challenger to Abbott.
“I think for sure that’s a risk that Gov. Abbott runs if he doesn’t do something to fix this [energy grid crisis],” Rottinghaus said. “Allen West, who is the Republican Party chair, he’s been extremely outspoken about what Gov. Abbott has done during the COVID-19 crisis, especially with respect to closing down businesses. So obviously, we’ll see kind of how the economy plays out after this. And if things improve in a way that maybe the governor hopes, that we might see some of that dissipate.”
Another open question is what could happen after the governor’s recent move to lift COVID-19 restrictions.
“I think his primary objectives are two: No.1, he wants to be able to say that Texas is still at the vanguard of how to deal with COVID-19 the conservative way,” Rottinghaus said. “And No. 2, he’s got to be able to reintroduce the ‘Texas miracle’ at the center of his campaign philosophy. And if the businesses across the country and people from across the world look at Texas as a state that can’t keep the lights on, that’s a major problem. So he’s got to change the subject; he’s got to rewrite the narrative here.”