According to a report from Politico, Texas Republicans are beginning to panic about the upcoming November election as the state reels from a double hit that includes a massive economic downturn due to the reeling oil industry and a bumbling response to the coronavirus pandemic by GOP lawmakers, ranging from President Donald Trump to Gov. Greg Abbott.
According to the report, "The twin economic shock of the coronavirus pandemic and a collapsing oil market has upended the political landscape in Texas — driving Republicans into an unfamiliar defensive crouch and giving restive Democrats an unexpected election-year lift," adding, "Republicans who'd been running on a familiar platform of gangbusters job growth and small government suddenly find themselves without a clear message as unemployment skyrockets and plummeting oil prices ravage the state budget. Their fealty to limited government is under threat with Congress’ massive stimulus spending — and they likely will have to defend even more government spending or slash state spending on core services like education and health care."
One GOP consultant wrapped it the party's problems by admitting, "This pandemic has put Republicans in a tough position."
Noting that the "pandemic is exceedingly unlikely to swing the biggest contests in 2020," Politico reports that multiple Texas lawmakers and strategists claimed "fallout from the virus could hasten the state’s drift away from Republicans spurred by demographic shifts in burgeoning areas repelled by President Donald Trump."
"The economic impact threatens to hurt down-ticket Republicans, who for decades have hitched their fortunes to a robust economy. Democrats are targeting seven U.S. House seats and defending two, mostly in the suburbs of the largest cities: Houston, Dallas, San Antonio, Austin, El Paso and Fort Worth. Winning the state House is not out of the question for Democrats. They need to flip nine seats and are targeting districts that [Beto] O'Rourke carried two years ago to get there," the report states.
Asked what is happening in the state, O'Rourke claimed, "We have yet to feel the full brunt of this pandemic in Texas," before adding, "That’s really going to affect a lot of what you see in November up the ballot — we’ve got 38 Electoral College votes on the line for [Joe] Biden or Trump and down the ballot for these statehouse races. ... People are horrified at Republican leadership right now.”
According to Texas lobbyist Chad Cantella, "We were leaning blue after O’Rourke ran. But people felt like that was the high-water mark,” before admitting that the pandemic crisis has become a major game-changer, stating, "It could really charge up the Democratic base to get over the hump.”
"Democrats are hopeful that many of their social programs now resonate with voters who are used to championing limited government. Nathan Johnson, a Democratic state senator, has called on Abbott to expand Medicaid — Texas is one of 14 states that has opposed doing so and the governor is suing to overturn Obamacare. Advocates, meantime, are also calling on conservatives to drop a lawsuit against Austin and San Antonio’s paid sick leave ordinances," the report notes before adding, "Democrats have also looked to expand vote-by-mail rules to more people to help shape the November vote. Right now, to qualify for a mail-in ballot, Texas voters must either be 65 or older, have a disability or be traveling outside the country during voting."
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