The latest NBC News-Wall Street Journal poll is very bad for the Republican party nationally. Whether those numbers will spill into Texas remains to be seen.
This is the worst poll for a political party that I can recall seeing:
— By a 53%-31% margin, the public blames the Republican party for the government shutdown
–Just 24% of voters have a favorable opinion of the GOP, just 21% have a favorable opinion of the Tea Party
(Both numbers are all-time lows)
–By a margin of 8 points (47% to 39%), voters prefer a generic Democratic congressman over a generic Republican congressman
–38% of Americans believe that the Affordable Care Act is a good idea; 43% believe it is a bad idea
–Obama’s job approval: 47% favorable, 41% unfavorable
–Ted Cruz job approval: 14% favorable, 28% unfavorable
* * * *
How might these numbers affect Texas politics? What stands out is that the person who is closest to Ted Cruz is the Republican frontrunner for governor, Greg Abbott. How is Abbott going to react to his party’s attempt to shut down the federal government? Does he stand by his protege? Has the public’s reaction to the shutdown changed the governor’s race and put Abbott in danger? Since the 2012 election, I have been cautioning that the Republicans cannot build a wall around Texas.
In fact, I think Abbott could well be in danger. He has based his candidacy on his propensity to sue the federal government on behalf of Texas. It was a clever way to attract attention from some of the more extreme elements of the Republican party, but he has revealed little about what he might do as governor, other than sue the feds. You can be sure that Wendy Davis will not be shy about saying what she would do as governor. Abbott is a first-rate lawyer, and he has a heartwarming personal story of overcoming tragedy; otherwise, little is known about his positions on major issues. Indeed, the issues he has been most passionate about have not been state issues at all, but federal issues that have resulted in his bringing suit against the federal government or veering off into odd topics like a United Nations firearms treaty. What he would do for Texans remains a mystery. Still, as the likely Republican nominee for governor, he will raise plenty of money and he will attract a substantial following.
As I have pointed out before, the Republican ballot will be topheavy with white males who are not especially well known by the public. There is not a lot of star power on that ticket, zip, zilch. For the past eleven years, the star has been Rick Perry, and now Perry is a lame duck governor who has worn out his welcome. Texas still has the makings of a very red state, however. The electorate is overwhelmingly white; and dominated by evangelicals. This is not a Democrat-friendly state, but it is a state in political ferment. The issue for the Democrats is whether they can develop a party infrastructure that is capable of managing a statewide race. I am not sanguine about their prospects for doing so, but this is the best chance they will ever have. This time Democrats have the star power. That hasn’t been the case since Ann Richards won the governorship in 1990. But Greg Abbott will not make the mistakes Claytie Williams made.