Once former Texas Rep. Beto O’Rourke finally makes it official that he's running for the state's top statewide office, Gov. Greg Abbott could be in for more of a challenge than many anticipated.A new poll from the Texas Hispanic Policy Foundation (TxHPF) shows the pair in a dead heat for the 2022 contest. In the survey released Monday, 43% of registered voters said they plan to vote for Abbott, while 42% said they would cast ballots for O’Rourke.
O'Rourke, who ran a near-miss campaign against U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz in 2018, and a considerably less-successful bid for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination, hasn't yet announced plans to run for governor. However, people close to the former El Paso congressman say an announcement is imminent.
Before the general election, Abbott must make it through a crowded Republican primary that also includes former Texas GOP Chairman Allen West. The TxHPF poll suggested that won't be tricky for the incumbent; 64% of Republicans said they plan to support Abbott in the primary.
The new poll lands shortly after the GOP-dominated Texas Legislature passed a raft of controversial legislation, much of it championed by Abbott. Among those are new voting restrictions, a law letting almost anyone over 21 carry a handgun without a permit or training and a near-complete ban on abortions. The latter is now being challenged before the U.S. Supreme Court.
Passage of those proposals helped Abbott shore up support from conservatives ahead of the Republican primary, TxHPF CEO Jason Villalba said in a statement released with the poll. However, that came with a considerable tradeoff, he added.
Abbott "has achieved this objective by cutting deeply into his support with Texans who vote in the general election," Villalba said. "Much can happen over the course of the year, but these numbers show that not only can we expect a competitive general election, but that Abbott’s shift to the hard right may have imperiled his governorship.”
While some political observers have mused that actor Matthew McConaughey, who's teased a potential run, could be a 2022 spoiler, the new poll suggests he may not be a much of a factor. The race would be virtually unchanged should the star run as an independent, according to the results.
Stay on top of San Antonio news and views. Sign up for our Weekly Headlines Newsletter.