Texas Conservatives Favor Abbott for Governor but DeSantis for President | news
By ALI LINAN
CNHI news service
AUSTIN — Gov. Greg Abbott is running for his third term as Texas’s senior official with much support from the state’s Republicans.
But in a hypothetical presidential bid, many Republicans see Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis as a better candidate, polls show.
In a UT/Texas Politics Project poll released Wednesday, 81% of self-proclaimed Conservatives said they would likely vote for Abbott next November.
Separately, in a straw poll conducted at the state GOP convention in Houston last month, 54% of delegates supported Trump on a possible 2024 run. Another 30% said they favor DeSantis. Abbott received 1% of the delegate vote. When Trump was not a factor, DeSantis received 71% of the vote and Abbott stayed at 1%. Republican Ted Cruz, Senator from US-Texas, received 4% and 9% of the delegate votes respectively.
A third survey by CWS Research released in February found similar trends. If Trump weren’t running, 46% of respondents favored DeSantis, while 13% supported Abbott.
Texas political scientists said there are a few reasons state Republicans are more open to backing Trump or DeSantis in 2024, but the biggest may be that among conservatives Abbott is not viewed as a “fighter” — an attribute that the party’s voters currently prefer.
“National Republicans, especially over the last decade, have been looking for a fighter as a kind of first testimony,” said Call Jillson, professor of political science at Southern Methodist University.
Jillson added that Abbott’s professional background played a role. He rose in the judiciary to the highest position in the state—first as a state judge, then as a judge on the Texas Supreme Court, then as Attorney General for Texas.
The profession requires a sit, listen and think approach before acting, and Abbott will continue to use that approach during his tenure as governor, Jillson said. The practice has taken Abbott far in Texas politics but may not work in the current national political climate, he added.
While Abbott has made more aggressive executive decisions over the past year and a half on conservative issues like the border, abortion and gun rights, all of which have pushed the Lone Star State and Abbott into the national spotlight, Jillson said it’s still not enough to to convince the Republicans.
“Republican primary voters who are looking for a fighter, they’re looking at DeSantis, they’re looking at Abbott, and they’re going to look at DeSantis a lot sooner than Greg Abbott,” Jillson said. “Judicial behavior is to watch and wait, evaluate evidence, and then come to some kind of systematic conclusion, and you still see that with Abbott.”
Henderson County Republicans said they would prefer Trump or DeSantis as their presidential nominee in 2024, but did not provide further explanation as to why or comment on Abbott when asked.
Other Texas Republican organizations did not respond to comment, nor did Abbott’s team.
The Texas Politics Project at the University of Texas at Austin, research director Joshua Blank, said the lack of support for Abbott was also likely due to his failure to comment on a possible presidential bid. Unlike Cruz, he has not attempted or even openly expressed a desire to run for president. Therefore, the state conservatives may not even be considered viable candidates.
DeSantis, on the other hand, has fueled speculation and positioned himself for a likely presidential bid — especially if Trump decides not to run.
“DeSantis has positioned himself for a presidential nomination and as such has been the focus of much speculation both from the media and, I think, among the Republican partisans who are currently contemplating who they might endorse for the 2024 nomination,” Blank said. “In that sense, DeSantis has an advantage in the straw polls, putting him first for many Republicans in a way I think he’s actively sought.”
Blank also noted that DeSantis has been pushing policies that are favorable to typical GOP conventioneers — those who are more politically conscious, vocal, and intensely minded — and who made up the straw poll participants. That doesn’t mean, however, that state Republicans in general wouldn’t be receptive to Abbott’s possible inauguration.
Still, Blank and Jillson added that if Abbott decides to run for president, it will be a calculated move and will only be made if he believes he has a real chance of winning the nomination.
“Abbott is generally a cautious guy,” Jillson said. “He may be forecasting an opportunity to stay relevant, perhaps to raise his national profile, but he knows he’ll never find a better job than Texas governor because being president is a job you can’t win .”