Why Texas’ Republicans primaries will be referendums on Trump’s influence and the state of the GOP

Why Texas’ Republicans primaries will be referendums on Trump’s influence and the state of the GOP
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Tuesday, March 1 finds Texas holding a variety of Republican and Democratic primary elections, from U.S. House races to Texas’ 2022 gubernatorial battle to its state attorney general race. And on the Republican side, journalists stress in articles for Axios and Politico, the outcomes will offer a glimpse into the state of the GOP this midterms year.

In Axios, Alexi McCammond and Andrew Solender report, “It’s still eight months until November, but we'll soon have the first glimpse of several important factors for the 2022 midterm cycle: (former President Donald) Trump's lasting power, which faction of the Republican Party voters will reward and whether overall turnout reflects future voter enthusiasm or apathy.”

Well-known incumbent Texas Republicans who are facing primary challenges include Gov. Greg Abbott, State Attorney General Ken Paxton and Rep. Dan Crenshaw. Trump has endorsed Abbott and Paxton as well as Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick.

McCammond and Andrew Solender explain, “The former president’s involvement in state and local races reflects his larger '22 midterm strategy: to install loyalists throughout federal and state government, as Axios’ Jonathan Swan and Andrew Solender have reported…. Trump is backing Republicans up and down the Texas ballot, from U.S. House to statewide office to state legislature — some in races where you wouldn’t normally see buy-in from a former president.”

Conservative Rep. Van Taylor has been slammed by MAGA Republicans and Trump loyalists for refusing to go along with the Big Lie and acknowledging that President Joe Biden legitimately won the 2020 election. And it remains to be seen whether or not he will survive the GOP primary challenges he faces.

Politico’s Zach Montellaro notes that in Texas’ March 1 primaries — some of which will go to runoffs in May if they are close — Trump’s “influence over the Republican Party will be on display in races that will shape the direction of the Party going forward.”

“There’s plenty on the docket in the first 2022 test of Trump’s power in the Republican Party,” Montellaro observes. “He has backed a slate of statewide incumbents, throwing his support behind Gov. Greg Abbott, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, State Attorney General Ken Paxton and Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller — even though some of them are facing serious primary challenges.”

On the Democratic side, Montellaro notes, progressives are trying to increase their influence in the more Democratic parts of the Lone Star State. And U.S. House primaries will find centrists and progressives battling for Democratic nominations.

In Texas’ Democratic gubernatorial primary, the frontrunner and likely nominee is former Rep. Beto O’Rourke — who sent political shock waves through Texas when he came within striking distance of Sen. Ted Cruz in Texas’ 2018 U.S. Senate race. But Montellaro emphasizes that if O’Rourke and Abbott win their primaries and go up against one another in the general election, O’Rourke will have his work cut out for him.

“Then-Rep. Beto O’Rourke’s challenge to Sen. Ted Cruz in 2018 galvanized Texas Democrats, with his near-miss, 1.6-point loss fueling their hope of a blue Texas in the future,” Montellaro notes. “This year, the one-time presidential candidate is running statewide again, challenging Abbott for the governorship. But it will be under an entirely different political environment…. For O’Rourke’s second statewide go-around, Abbott is the favorite heading out of the gate. A recent poll from The Dallas Morning News/University of Texas at Tyler had the governor 7 points ahead of his likely challenger.”

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