Just months before voters decide whether to keep or fire him, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott has found a new role to help rally his conservative base and turn back Democrat Beto O’Rourke in November.
Abbott has been sparring with New York City Mayor Eric Adams the governor sending busloads of undocumented migrants from the Texas-Mexico border in the Big Apple, where Adams faces a crisis on how to deal with the situation. The governor has also extradited migrants to Washingtonin an attempt to draw attention to the federal government’s inability to stem the flow of thousands of migrants across the border.
While he hasn’t solved the problem, Abbott has developed a show designed to appeal to conservatives concerned about illegal immigration and border security. It’s their top issue, even as the state grapples with ways to prevent mass shootings, the stability of Texas’ power grid, rising property taxes, inflation and the need for assistance affordable healthcare.
And 51 percent of voters approve of Abbott’s handling of the border, according to a new Dallas Morning News/University of Texas-Tyler poll released Sunday.
Adams has unwittingly become a star of Abbott’s political theatre, complaining about concentration Texas voters to retaliate against Abbott.
“I already called all my friends in Texas and told them how to cast their votes,” Adams said during a news conference last week. “I’m seriously contemplating taking a bus load of New Yorkers to Texas and doing some good old fashioned door slamming because we need to … get him out of the office.”
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott speaks at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in Dallas, Thursday, Aug. 4, 2022. (LM Otero/The Associated Press)(LM Otero / ASSOCIATED PRESS)
Abbott and campaign staff had to smile when they heard Adams’ comments. mission accomplished
On Fox News, he told Adams to “handle it.” And last week he defended his tactics.
“In addition to Washington, DC, New York City is the ideal destination for these migrants, who can receive the abundance of city services and housing that Mayor Eric Adams has touted within the sanctuary city,” Abbott said Friday.
Mayor Eric Adams speaks during a graduation ceremony at Madison Square Garden on July 1, 2022, in New York. Two Republican governors from border states who are pouring billions of dollars into immigration enforcement and hours at the podium blasting Biden administration policies have found two unlikely allies: Democratic Mayor Muriel Bowser of Washington , DC and Eric Adams of New York. The mayors’ recent proposals for federal aid are a response to Texas and Arizona busing migrants away from the border, a practice that has been going on for months. (John Minchillo/The Associated Press)(John Minchillo / ASSOCIATED PRESS)
Aside from California, there is no bigger role for Texas Republicans than New York. It’s a state that’s losing population, with some residents moving to Texas, a more tax-friendly environment.
Texans and New Yorkers don’t like each other for many reasons. Many coastal residents are horrified by the state’s conservative policies, including its anti-abortion laws, illegal carrying of guns, voting restrictions and, of course, the Dallas Cowboys soccer team
Related: Abbott touts Texas, mocks California as conservative CPAC gathering kicks off in Dallas
Conservatives and other Texans see New York as a heavily taxed, overregulated metropolis full of liberal elites. And Texans swear New Yorkers can’t barbecue and don’t understand good Tex-Mex cooking.
The flap between Abbott and Adams reminded me of the old Pace picante commercials. Do you remember these? They feature cowpokes sitting around the campfire talking about how Salsa Picante Pace, or Salsa Picante, is “made in San Antonio…by people who know what Salsa Picante is supposed to taste like.” Then a wayward cowboy offers an unnamed brand from the Northeast.
“Are these things made in New York City?” says an actor. “New York! Grab a rope.”
“It’s that old commercial that’s being played in this Abbott-Adams fight,” said Texas Democratic consultant Colin Strother. “Greg Abbott’s narrative is that it’s him against the world, that he’s the only one protecting us from these evil big-city liberals who want to change our way of life.”
Strother said Abbott’s “fear in the dark stories” are an effort to obscure his political responsibilities in Texas. He noted that the governor’s race is close, according to most polls.
And he said most Texans disagree with his refusal to push for some form of gun control to stop mass shootings like the May massacre that killed 19 children and two teachers at the Robb Elementary School in Uvalde. The Dallas Morning News-UT Tyler poll showed Abbott with a 7-point lead over O’Rourke, but most Texans want him to call a special session to address gun violence.
“All he’s trying to do is distance himself from Uvalde,” said Strother, who acknowledged that Abbott’s discussion with Adams was working from a political standpoint. “Uvalde is the 1,000-pound anchor around his neck right now. He’s cutting his numbers across the board, because he’s so far removed from the issue of gun safety.”
Related: Texas Gov. Greg Abbott still leads Beto O’Rourke, new poll shows
Strother said Adams should point to Texas’ poor record of providing affordable health care, securing schools, picking up voters and curbing the maternal mortality crisis, particularly among women of color. And he pointed out that with Operation Lone Star, Abbott owns the border security problem.
“I would go down the list and say, ‘Thank God for you and Mississippi,'” Strother said.
Republican consultant Vinny Minchillo said Abbott was giving cities like New York a taste of what’s happening on the Texas border.
“New York City is seeing what our state has dealt with for decades and they don’t like it,” he said.
Related: Despite national criticism, Abbott’s border policies backed by Texans, poll shows
Minchillo said Abbott’s plan to ferry migrants to so-called sanctuary cities has made him a public enemy of national Democrats, improving his standing with conservatives across the county.
“Now Abbott is in this mix of evil Republicans,” Minchillo said. “His image has really crossed state lines and he’s a national Republican figure.”
Minchillo and Strother said Abbott could have aspirations to run for the White House or be part of the national GOP ticket.
None of that happens, though, if he can’t get past O’Rourke.