Are There Enough ‘Republicans for Beto’ to Beat Greg Abbott?

Beto O’Rourke is in Lubbock County, the place 65% of voters supported Donald Trump within the 2020 election, drawing 1,000 folks.

O’Rourke is in Bailey County, the place 77% of voters supported Trump in 2020, speaking to the native chamber of commerce and having a meal at a family-owned Mexican restaurant.

And he is in Wichita Falls, the place 70% of voters supported Trump two years in the past, drawing 200 folks right into a small room to listen to him converse.

His stops are by design, a part of a 49-day tour bringing O’Rourke to 65 counties for 70 public occasions.

In a state like Texas, which has voted for Republican governors for the final 27 years and has giant swaths of conservative and rural areas, political observers say O’Rourke cannot win with out drawing out some “Republicans for Beto,” in addition to unbiased voters.

O’Rourke has finished it statewide earlier than, garnering 8% of Republican help in 2018 in opposition to Ted Cruz of their senate race, however profitable independents 50% to 47%, in accordance with exit polls.

O’Rourke’s newest marketing campaign is banking on bettering on these numbers.

“There’s real power in showing up and holding a town hall, whether people are wearing a Beto T-shirt or a Trump hat,” O’Rourke spokesman Chris Evans, who typically travels with the candidate to rural elements of the state, instructed Newsweek.

Beto O'Rourke
Democratic gubernatorial candidate Beto O’Rourke waits to talk at an occasion at Pan American Neighborhood Park on June 26, 2022 in Austin, Texas.

Victor Leal, the Republican former mayor of Muleshoe, Texas, which is in Bailey County, met O’Rourke and welcomed him to his city, the place the previous congressman spoke to the Muleshoe Chamber of Commerce & Agriculture.

Leal did not hear his fellow Republicans say that they had been altering their vote based mostly on one dialog with O’Rourke, however he mentioned it is the primary a part of a needed course of.

“I thanked him for making Muleshoe a stop,” he mentioned. “We’re an outpost out here, so anytime we have someone come listen to the needs we have in terms of rural schools and rural hospitals it’s important.”

Leal famous particularly that O’Rourke talked about making broadband web extra accessible to rural communities.

“He’s saying, ‘If I can get you guys out to knock on doors, I’ll narrow the gap,'” he added. “It’s a key for him to be competitive.”

Beto’s marketing campaign workers, together with Democrats across the state, consider the momentum has shifted towards O’Rourke within the race, and the fundraising numbers seem to help that. O’Rourke topped Abbot for the primary time on this marketing campaign within the interval February by way of June with a Texas report $27.6 million, in comparison with Abbott’s $24.9 million.

While Abbott nonetheless has a decisive benefit in money available, the O’Rourke marketing campaign has gained momentum from two main occasions that occurred throughout that interval: a tragedy and a court docket resolution. The Uvalde faculty taking pictures in May, which left 19 kids and two lecturers useless, and the Supreme Court resolution hanging down federal abortion protections in June have mixed to vary the dynamics of the gubernatorial race.

“Abbott is at his highest unfavorables over both terms as governor,” Evans mentioned, noting that his internet approval has dropped 9 factors for the reason that finish of April, and 59% of Texans consider the state is on the mistaken observe.

“There’s a big opening, there’s real dissatisfaction after Uvalde, after the trigger law on abortion, with the power grid, with property taxes going up 40%,” he added. “Nowhere is it more clear than in small towns in Texas, which have seen the cost of Abbott.”

O’Rourke and his marketing campaign listing statistics to make their case, citing that 24 rural hospitals have closed in Texas, and that Abbott’s push for college vouchers would have an effect on faculty districts, that are the state’s largest employers, and the place 40% of lecturers already must work an extra job with a purpose to get by.

And in rural Texas additionally they speak about how Republicans and Democrats within the legislature got here collectively to shore up the common service fund to assist stabilize telephone and broadband web service, but it surely was vetoed by Abbott.

“Costs are going up on phone bills and internet in rural Texas, there’s a direct impact,” O’Rourke’s spokesman mentioned. “It’s powerful because the legislature did their job and then he vetoed it.”

O’Rourke’s marketing campaign believes it may lower down margins in small rural communities, the place Cruz ran up the rating, and win over unbiased voters within the suburbs. They level to Hillary Clinton dropping in Tarrant County by 9 factors in 2016, whereas O’Rourke gained it two years later by 1 level.

But John Wittman, a former Abbott spokesman, mentioned in 2018 nobody actually knew who O’Rourke was and the positions he held.

“He became very exposed in the 2020 election,” Wittman mentioned of O’Rourke’s short-lived run for president.

He mentioned that from the Green New Deal, to embracing “elements” of the defund the police motion, to his border positions, O’Rourke has taken “absurdly liberal stances that don’t fly in Texas.”

“I just don’t think there’s much of a lane for him to pick up those independents he would need,” Wittman mentioned, “because he has boxed himself in and won’t be able to get those crossover voters he would need.”

O’Rourke’s pivot to a rural tour dovetailed with a viral tweet final week that was retweeted greater than 8,000 instances with 74,000 likes, of a Texas Beto supporter who shared that over lunch her male Republican-voting coworker mentioned, “I hate Beto,” however added that he would in the end vote for him over fallout from the Uvalde taking pictures, and since “Abbott doesn’t care.”

Reached by Newsweek, the creator of the tweet mentioned she is a trainer in a college district in a rural city exterior Odessa, Texas, and her pal is a janitor who served within the army.

The tweet ended along with her coworker declaring, “I actually believe that skinny mother*****r will fix that grid.”

Jacob Monty, a Houston lawyer and longtime Republican donor, who left the Party through the rise of Trump in 2016 and have become a Biden supporter and donor in 2020, mentioned he understood the sentiment shared within the viral tweet.

“I’m a Democrat now,” he instructed Newsweek. “I can empathize with what her coworker felt like.”

While Monty acknowledged that he has not heard the sorts of Republican Party folks he is aware of say they are going to swap over to O’Rourke, he has heard conservative ladies and younger folks say they’re enthusiastic to vote for him. He mentioned he has heard the sentiment notably from ladies within the wake of the Supreme Court’s resolution on abortion.

He mentioned that the college taking pictures additionally had a big effect.

“There’s a palpable change in momentum since Uvalde,” Monty mentioned, “which we’ve seen reflected in fundraising.”

He added that the fixed warnings telling Texans to preserve vitality by ERCOT, the corporate that operates the Texas electrical grid, helps Beto as nicely.

“People have a short memory, but it reminds people about the winter storms,” he added. “Hearing a message from ERCOT is good because people wonder, ‘Oh yeah, how safe is our grid?'”

O’Rourke’s go to to so-called purple cities and counties reminded Leal that whether or not on the native, state, or nationwide degree, Americans have to determine methods to talk to one another in a extra civil method. He mentioned that whereas he doesn’t help O’Rourke, his spouse and sons do.

When he met with O’Rourke on the Chamber of Commerce occasion, Victor Leal didn’t know that the candidate can be stopping for lunch at his household restaurant in Muleshoe, Leal’s Mexican Food Cafe.

Upon listening to about it, one among Leal’s pals messaged him, saying they noticed O’Rourke “was in your restaurant. I hope he didn’t stay long.”

“My answer was he stayed as long as he liked,” Leal responded. “All people are welcome in my restaurant.”

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