Keyword: Republican Party

The Second Reading Podcast: How Far Right is Too Far for the Texas GOP?

Shadows and Absences: Governor Abbott’s State of the State Speech Also Says a Lot About the State of the Texas GOP

| By: Jim Henson and Josh Blank

Greg Abbott’s “State of the State” speech, simultaneously an update to Texans and a notification to the Texas legislature of what he will designate as "emergency items," added one more instance to the many examples of the effects of Donald Trump’s continued possession of the Republican Party – with nary an exorcist in sight. The governor’s speech found him embracing a strategy that relies on holding close an activated Republican base who are willing to go along with downplaying the pandemic, particularly in the presence of other partisan specters, like the made-up theft of the presidential election or the threat to social order posed by ineffectual and largely overstated efforts to “defund the police.” On some issues, divisions among Republicans provide opportunities for Abbott to nudge the party away from the extremes of such fever dreams. But so far, Abbott has generally spent little effort doing so, and, as the GOP turns inward for the Legislative session and the business of governing the state moves front and center, the speech shows the governor remaining most attentive to those who are loudest and most disruptive. There were explicit signals in what Abbott said in the speech, but just as significant were his silences.

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The Elephant in the Room: Texas Republicans Were Pretty Trumpy Before Trump

| By: Jim Henson and Joshua Blank

After four years of most major Texas Republican elected officials kowtowing to Donald Trump out of a mixture of deference and fear, Texas Republicans now seek paths for moving forward in his turbulent wake. They are in a different position than their national counterparts vis-a-vis Trump’s exit and how the experience of his presidency is to be incorporated into both the party’s identity and Republican elected officials’ political strategies. Trump has left the national party bereft, having lost the White House and presided over the GOP relegation to minority status in both houses of Congress (albeit narrowly in the Senate). But Republicans still reign in Texas, and are in a better position to navigate post-Trump politics than their national counterparts.

The key to understanding Texas Republican political leaders advantage is the fact that many invoked the central elements of Trump’s appeal in their rhetoric and policies long before Trump was a presidential candidate. Texas Republican voters respond positively to these themes, and, based on what years of Texas public opinion data tell us about their attitudes, a good chunk of them can be expected to continue responding to them even if Trump is not the one doing the articulating. 

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Five Snapshots from the Opening week of the Texas Legislature (Plus One)

| By: Jim Henson and Joshua Blank

Even as unprecedented challenges to the Constiutional order unfold in national politics, the policial world in Texas was focused on the convening of the 87th Texas Legislature in Austin amidst a surging pandemic, a faltering economy, and shockwaves of Donald Trump's political imposion rippling through Republican Party politics at all levels. Here are five snapshots from the week the legislature came back to town.

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After years in the wings, independent voters take center stage in Texas in 2020

| By: Jim Henson and Joshua Blank

For those who focus on the historical arc of partisan competition in Texas politics, it’s hard not to cast independents as somewhere between the ultimate anti-heroes and a group of extras and bit players suddenly thrust into the spotlight in the drama of 2020. For the better part of the last two decades of Texas elections, political independents were, if not irrelevant, at least a pretty distant thought in handicapping election outcomes. The increased level of competition in races, both statewide, but especially down ballot in 2018, the consistently tight margins in polling on the presidential race in Texas, and the inherent unpredictability of independents as a group have suddenly made them the focus of both campaigns and those who prognosticate about them. That unpredictability makes it very tough to anticipate their impact on this, or any, election. But as polling shows a large group of them soured on Donald Trump, the preferences of independents now loom large over the 2020 contests in Texas.

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Thumbs on the scales: Texas Data Points for the Week in Politics (August 29, 2020)

| By: Jim Henson and Joshua Blank

State Senator Pat Fallon’s Senate seat is not only still warm, it’s not even technically vacated, which made Governor Abbott’s thumb-on-the-scale calling of a snap election for his replacement the major political preoccupation inside the Austin beltway (such as it is) this week. We take a look at the district, presumed frontrunner State Rep. Drew Springer’s positioning there, and possible spoiler Shelly Luther’s potential audience among the Texas GOP. Meanwhile, in Charlotte and on several public properties in the Washington, D.C. area, Donald Trump and his political party attempted to rally fervid Trump Republicans while shoring up some key corners where they fear attrition in November, a tricky task, even if you do have the White House as a backdrop. Hurricane Laura came ashore big, though luckily appears to have inflicted less damage than anticipated. Still, some Texas areas adjacent to the major disaster areas in Western Louisiana were hit hard; we gingerly consider the possible political consequences of the disaster in Texas, along with other data points from the week in politics.

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The Republican National Convention Through the Eyes of Texas Republicans, via the Texas Politics Project Poll Data Archive

| By: Jim Henson and Joshua Blank

In advance of the convention’s effort to mobilize voters behind the top of the ticket while finding the sweet spot between defining and channeling the mood and agenda for GOP campaigns across the country, we’ve gathered public opinion data on Texans’ attitudes. As both the base and the broader electorate spend the week receiving the messages transmitted by the national party via the convention, we’ve focused on Texas Republicans and conservatives, though where appropriate have also included independents, moderates, and the occasional snapshot of the broader electorate. 

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Data Points from the Week in Texas Politics (August 7, 2020)

| By: Jim Henson and Joshua Blank

The week started with the Comptroller releasing revenue numbers that invited cherry picking by the desperate, manipulative, and just plain inattentive. But they weren’t really very sweet if you looked closely. Governor Abbott held events and press conferences on two separate days as he continued his attempts to manage the COVID-19 crisis and the  politics surrounding it, which have not gotten any easier, as illustrated by the fact that he got sued this week by five legislators ostensibly on his team. Those legislators are a thorn in the governor’s side, but the whole affair points to the larger question of whether we can expect to see a less obstructionist, more constructive vision of the role of the legislature restore some balance between the two main branches of government in 2021. Part of the answer to this question depends heavily on the outcome of the 2020 election. Speaking of the election, we very seriously doubt that Donald Trump’s efforts to persuade Black voters to take another look at him as a candidate, while claiming that he is more of a civil rights hero than John Lewis, are going to help him move his lopsided numbers among Black Texans. 

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Sheltering in Plain Sight: Some Data Points from the April 2020 University of Texas/Texas Tribune Poll

| By: Jim Henson and Joshua Blank

The latest University of Texas/Texas Tribune Poll focused almost exclusively on Texans’ attitudes about the Coronavirus, its impact (including the economy), and the response of government and elected officials to the pandemic. We’ve already written about Texans’ struggle to reconcile powerful economic concerns with the widely (if not quite universally) acknowledged seriousness of the public health hazard confronting the country and the state, and provided a compendium of poll results related Texans’ views of Governor Greg Abbott as the twin crises wrack Texas. And, of course, Ross Ramsey and Brandon Formby wrote five stories about the poll in The Texas Tribune last Friday and Saturday (link, link, link, link, link). We pulled out several data points that might have gotten missed in the wealth of results from the first public poll in the state to focus on the coronavirus —  and one point that no one should forget.

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A quick primary election day look at Texas Democrats' and Republicans' ideological assessments of their elected officials

| By: Jim Henson and Joshua Blank

With at least some Texans going to the polls to vote in primary elections, it's a good time to take a look at the ideological orientation of Texas partisans. In a piece in the Texas Tribune yesterday, we looked at the ideological dispositions of Texas Democrats in the context of the Democratic presidential nominating contest. That exercise informed (some of) the selection of the particular data snapshots presented below (like the perhaps suprising results from Democrats by location and age). But with the related processes of ideological sorting and increased polarization taking place in Texas (as in much of the rest of the US) and a number of contested primary races in Congressional and state legislative seats taking place, it's worth revisiting the state of ideological play in both parties – particularly given that judgements about the liberalism of Democratic voters and the conservatism of Repulican voters in the state will be part of the unfolding punditry and post-election analysis over the next 48 hours. 

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