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Why Texas Gov. Greg Abbott turned hard-right ahead of the 2022


Greg Abbott, Texas’s dependably conservative Republican governor, is running for reelection this year. He’s campaigning on the back of a record packed with recent far-right wins that can help him fend off his most serious challengers, all of whom are coming from his right.

It’s a dynamic that can be seen across 2022’s Republican primary contests, where candidates are clamoring to convince voters that they are the most conservative, most Trump-like option available. And Abbott has given his fellow incumbents a powerful playbook for combating rivals on the right: Pursue an ultraconservative agenda and align yourself as closely as possible with former President Donald Trump.

In Texas, a state where Republicans have held trifecta control for more than two decades, incumbent Republicans like Abbott have more to fear from their own base than from Democrats. That’s especially true in a year where Democrats are facing a challenging midterm election season nationally and President Joe Biden’s low approval ratings have Republicans believing they have an edge with independents and moderates.

The March 1 primary in Texas will therefore likely decide whether Abbott will serve a third term — Abbott is favored in the general election against the expected Democratic nominee, former presidential candidate Beto O’Rourke. Abbott appears poised to win the primary in light of his efforts to prove his conservative bona fides and allegiance to Trump, who remains the most popular Republican in Texas. Abbott’s campaign did not respond to requests for comment.

Abbott has been a staunch conservative for his entire career in Texas politics and made a name for himself by suing the Obama administration at least 44 times. The fact that even he feels pressure to move to the right demonstrates just how much Republicans are at the mercy of their pro-Trump base in 2022. A decadeslong conservative record isn’t enough to persuade Trump voters; they are demanding displays of loyalty to the former president from every incumbent.

“Arguably one of the principal leaders of the national Republican Party, the governor of the largest red state, has felt compelled to leave as little daylight between him and former President Donald Trump as possible, which highlights the extremely dominant role that Trump continues to play within the Republican Party,” said Mark Jones, a political science professor at Rice University.

Over the last year, Abbott led Texas Republicans through one of the most conservative sessions of the state legislature in decades. The GOP majority passed legislation addressing a slew of right-wing priorities — including guns, abortion, “critical race theory,” and sweeping restrictions on voting — in a performance that left little for Texas conservatives to complain about.

Once tepid on Trump, Abbott has also sought to attach himself to the former president. He has backed some of the former president’s key political priorities, like…


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