Beto O’Rourke announces run for Texas governor

Image+from+Fox+News

Image from Fox News

Jackson McCoy, Staff Writer, Editor

Former democratic El Paso representative and 2020 presidential candidate Beto O’Rourke has announced his bid for governor of Texas, challenging republican incumbent Greg Abbott. This will be O’Rourke’s second statewide campaign, following his narrow loss in a senate race against Ted Cruz (R) in 2018.

O’Rourke announced his candidacy in a video released on Monday, November 15th. In the video, O’Rourke starts off by mentioning the electrical grid failure in Texas, saying that Texans were “abandoned by those who were elected to serve and look out for them.” He also took aim at Abbott’s recently passed near-ban on abortions, and the restrictive voting law that led to Texas State House democrats to fly to Washington, D.C. to ask Congress for voting rights protection.

Abbott, the former Texas Attorney General and member of the Texas Supreme Court, is running for a third term. The current governor quickly responded to O’Rourke’s announcement with an ad that morphed a picture of the democratic candidate into a picture of President Biden, who has a very low approval rating in Texas. 

“Abbott doesn’t need to run against O’Rourke when he can run against Joe Biden instead,” says Brandon Rottinghaus, a political science professor at the University of Houston and an experienced political campaign worker, told Slate (O’Rourke has already started to separate himself from Biden, though). Rottinghaus says to expect to see similar attacks that tie O’Rourke to Biden’s performance as president as the campaign heats up.

While Abbott is likely to campaign on an anti-Biden message and similar culture wars seen in the Virginia governor’s race, O’Rourke’s platform is still a toss up between moderate and progressive, and specifics still haven’t been released. During his 2020 presidential campaign, O’Rourke famously said “Hell yes, we’re going to take your AR-15, your AK-47,” despite the relatively low popularity of an assault weapons ban among Texas voters.

O’Rourke’s comments on gun rights and border security during his 2020 presidential campaign will likely need to be changed in order to win Texas’ working class voters, Rottinghaus says. “O’Rourke has to talk about the issues that affect people in these communities, not repeat points from a progressive party platform. He’ll have to shade some of his past liberal statements.” 

However, O’Rourke also needs to turn out the young, more progressive voters of Texas. “The 2020 exit polling said that more people who were first-time voters in Texas voted for Joe Biden,” Rottinghaus says. “I also think he hopes to harness the tremendous amount of young energy that’s emanating from the progressive wing of the Democratic Party in Texas.”

Within the first 24 hours of announcing his candidacy, O’Rourke’s campaign raised $2 million, while Abbott currently sits on a $55 million war chest of campaign funds. Spending will likely be high for the governor’s race in Texas and governor’s races across the country, as the Democratic Governors Association and Republican Governors Association have raised a combined total of $46.6 million, and already spent $28.2 million. There is also currently no limit on spending for state-level elections in Texas, so both campaigns will likely have large sums of money spent on things ranging from commercials to signs to media appearances.

In 2013, The Atlantic published an article about the relationship between money spent on political campaigns and victories. While their findings pointed to a number of variables affecting losses and victories, what they found was a general correlation between money spent and closeness of races; the closer the race, the more money each candidate spent. And in these races, the candidate who spent more money won. Depending on how tight the Texas governor’s race will be, the more money spent by each candidate. All it might come down to is who raises more money in this race, and that will likely be close.