AUSTIN (KXAN) – Texas Gov. Greg Abbott is in the polls when it comes to his handling of the pandemic, and it poses a challenge to his political rivals, who are desperate for a damaging blow to voters.
According to fresh poll from Texas Politics Project at the University of Texas at Austin, of the 1,200 respondents in early February, 45% said they approve of Abbott’s job performance when it comes to COVID. Forty-one percent declined.
His approval jumps to 73% only among Republicans.
“His first handling of COVID, and the way it annoyed elements from the party’s far right, helped generate some of his primary opposition that we see now, especially Don Huffines and Allen West,” said James Henson, director of The Texas Political Project.
Henson said that as the governor went from supporting restrictions in the early days of the pandemic to taking a tougher stance on keeping businesses open and masks and vaccines optional, Huffines and West had to turn to other issues, such as border security.
“The governor foresaw this match and has moved pretty steadily to the right,” Henson told KXAN.
While Abbott’s COVID policies remain deeply unpopular with many Democrats, said a professor of political science at St. Louis. Edward’s University, Brian W. Smith, that he does not expect Democratic candidates like Beto O’Rourke to accept Abbott over the pandemic.
“If you have to defeat Governor Abbott this fall, someone like Beto O’Rourke must come up with a problem that really resonates with all Texas across all party lines, not just Democrats, ”Smith said.
“It’s going to be hard for Beto O’Rourke to really want to raise this issue,” Henson said, adding that O’Rourke could face the greater risk in terms of the subject of the virus and the government’s response.
The Abbott campaign and the governor [will attempt to] to saddle Beto O’Rourke with ownership of presidential and national [COVID-19] policies that come from the Biden White House. “said Henson.
Texas Politics Project showed Abbott ahead of O’Rourke by 10 percentage points in a potential November showdown and 45 points ahead of his closest primary opponents in March.