Democrat and former representative Beto O’Rourke is planning to run for governor of Texas in 2022, according to political operatives in the state.
O’Rourke would be a high-profile candidate in the race, which could give Democrats a shot against current Gov. Greg Abbott. O’Rourke has evidently been calling political allies in the state asking for advice and discussing the potential run, Axios first reported.
As of now, O’Rourke faces a long fight. In a theoretical matchup between O’Rourke and Abbott, a poll for Dallas Morning News shows that about 37 percent would vote for O’Rourke, while 42 percent would vote for the incumbent governor. However, the gap is smaller than earlier this summer, when a July poll found O’Rourke at 33 percent and Abbott at 45 percent.
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The shrinking gap between the two politicians could be due to the fact that Abbott’s favorability ratings have been dropping in the state over the past months.
A poll released over the weekend found that only 45 percent of Texans polled approve of Abbott’s job performance and 54 percent of poll respondents feel that the state is going in the wrong direction. Another poll from earlier this month, conducted before the state’s abortion ban went into effect, found similar results, with Abbott’s approval rating lower than ever.
Abbott has taken a sharp pivot right over the past year, prioritizing radical policies like a near-total ban on abortion; massive voter suppression laws, and banning efforts to stem the spread of COVID-19, among other authoritarian laws targeting human rights..
Under Abbott’s leadership, the state has been experiencing some of the worst COVID infection rates and deaths in the country. As Delta sweeps the U.S.,Texas is nearing all-time high infection rates, overwhelming hospitals to the point where the Republican governor had to call for pausing elective surgeries in the state — though he still refused to ease up on a mask mandate ban that he implemented.
Meanwhile, O’Rourke faced sharp criticism from progressives throughout his campaign against Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) and his presidential run in 2020. Progressives have also panned him for his history of participating in policies that helped to drive out Latinx populations from El Paso, where he served on the city council between 2005 and 2011.
During his higher-profile runs, O’Rourke was known for his wishy washy platform. When he ran in a crowded field, he failed to distinguish himself with his tepid policies like a plan that would provide Medicare for most, but not all.
“O’Rourke lacks any platform whatsoever,” wrote The New Republic’s Alex Shephard in 2019. “He has no signature idea, and we know little about his political positions beyond the mushy centrism he exhibited in Congress.”
It’s possible that O’Rourke may become more forceful in positioning himself against Abbott during this run, with a Democratic policy platform. At the very least, he has been highly critical of Abbott and his handling of the pandemic, calling on the Republican to resign in 2020.