Former Rep. Beto O’Rourke is planning to run for Texas governor in 2022, Axios reported Sunday, though a new poll shows the one-time presidential and Senate candidate still faces an uphill battle against Republican Gov. Greg Abbott—but actor Matthew McConaughey could have a better shot.
Citing unnamed “Texas political operatives,” Axios reports O’Rourke, a Democrat, is “preparing to run” in the gubernatorial election and will announce his run “later this year.”
A poll from the Dallas Morning News and University of Texas-Tyler finds 37% of registered voters in Texas would vote for O’Rourke while 42% would back Abbott.
That’s up from 33% of voters who said in a July poll they would vote for O’Rourke, versus 45% for Abbott.
The poll, conducted September 7-14 among 1,148 registered voters, also found Abbott would lose a head-to-head matchup against McConaughey, with 44% saying they would vote for the actor while 35% would back the current governor.
While an April poll showed McConaughey beating Abbott with 45% of the vote, Abbott narrowly beat out McConaughey in July with 39% of the vote to McConaughey’s 38%.
Most McConaughey supporters (48%) said “his honesty, to tell it like it is” was the “most important quality” that made them want to vote for him, while Abbott supporters were most likely to appreciate that the Republican “shares [their] values” (35% said it was the most important quality).
McConaughey’s support was primarily driven by Democrats—65% said they’d back him, versus 44% of Independents and 26% of Republicans—though the actor is not affiliated with either party and has described his views as “aggressively centric.”
54%. That’s the share of Texas voters that think things in the state are “headed off on the wrong track,” the poll found, while 44% say they’re on the right track.
“We hope that [O’Rourke is] going to run,” Texas Democratic Party chair Gilberto Hinojosa told Axios. “We think he’ll be our strongest candidate. We think he can beat Abbott, because he’s vulnerable.”
What To Watch For
McConaughey has not yet committed to a gubernatorial run. The actor said on Ellen in May he was giving the idea “honest consideration” but had not yet decided on his next steps, though the Sunday Times reports political consultants were present at a recent barbecue McConaughey held in early September. The actor has not publicly commented on his gubernatorial plans in recent months but recently wished Abbott well in late August after the Republican governor contracted Covid-19, saying on Twitter he was glad Abbott was now testing negative and praising the governor for acknowledging “the vaccination you received made your infection brief and mild.”
Though Axios’ unnamed sources said the former Texas congressman is preparing a run, O’Rourke advisor and former House Chief of Staff David Wysong told the outlet that “no decision has been made” regarding whether O’Rourke will run. “He has been making and receiving calls with people from all over the state,” Wysong said.
The Texas poll comes as Abbott has increasingly come under fire in recent weeks, as the state’s near-total ban on abortion has become a national controversy since going into effect on September 1 and the governor signed new voting restrictions into law that had faced heavy opposition from Democrats in the state. The GOP leader has also come under fire for his Covid-19 policies after banning mask and vaccine mandates despite the delta variant surge. A separate Morning Consult poll found Abbott’s approval rating—48%, similar to the 45% approval in Dallas Morning News’ poll—has been more impacted by the governors’ lax approach to Covid restrictions than the abortion and voting laws, however, with his approval rating virtually unchanged after those policies were passed or went into effect. The Dallas Morning News’ poll found a 55% majority of voters disagreed with Abbott’s ban on mask mandates, though voters were split 49%-49% on whether they support the governor’s ban on vaccine mandates. Should O’Rourke win the gubernatorial race or McConaughey win as an Independent or Democrat, it would mark the first time Texas has had a non-Republican governor in more than 25 years, since Gov. Ann Richards left office in 1995. A shift of power out of GOP hands may now be more likely, however, as the state has increasingly trended more purple in recent years.
As Texas comes under scrutiny for its restrictive abortion law that outlaws abortions after approximately six weeks, the poll found Texas voters were almost evenly divided on abortion. A narrow majority of 50% of respondents believed the landmark abortion ruling Roe v. Wade should not be overturned, which would keep the right to an abortion in effect, while 48% said it should be.
Texas Abortion Ban And Voting Restrictions Haven’t Hurt Gov. Greg Abbott’s Approval Rating, Poll Finds (Forbes)
Matthew McConaughey’s Bestselling Memoir Suggests Why He Could Become Texas’ Next Governor (Forbes)