Sen. Ted Cruz and President Donald Trump got high marks from delegates while Sen. John Cornyn fared poorly. But what about Gov. Greg Abbott? How did he do?
Well, it’s a little complicated.
Fresh off his first full term as governor, most Texans approve of Abbott’s performance, and for good reason. Though he’s certainly made some mistakes on issues like Pre-K funding and appointments to university boards of regents, grassroots Republicans have seen in Abbott someone who will champion conservative reforms like Convention of States, ethics reform, and tax relief.
And this past session, Abbott not only spearheaded the effort to ban sanctuary cities—a top goal of Texas conservatives—but called lawmakers back to Austin when they failed to enact enough of his conservative legislative agenda. On top of that, Abbott upstaged everyone’s expectations when he went on the warpath in the primary elections to oppose some of the legislators who had stood most stubbornly against property tax reform, strengthening ethics laws, and protecting the unborn.
It’s for those reasons that Republicans hold him in high acclaim with 84.8 percent of those who voted in our straw poll approving of his record as governor. That places him in the same category as Cruz and Trump, whose approval percentages were 89.2 percent and 88.6 percent respectfully.
But unlike Trump and Cruz, whose approval percentages skew towards “Strongly Approve,” Abbott’s are decidedly weaker at 44.3 percent. 40.5 percent said they “Slightly Approved.”
|President Donald Trump
|Senator Ted Cruz
|Senator John Cornyn
|Governor Greg Abbott
Why is this so?
The answer could be in his hastily proposed gun control measures unveiled last month which have frustrated and alarmed activists across the state. Since laying them out late last month, Abbott has been mum on the proposals and his refusal to outright disavow them has frustrated grassroots activists.
One activist who spoke to Texas Scorecard identified the gun proposals as a sticking point:
“I like Greg Abbott, I’ve liked him since he was on the Texas Supreme Court, when he was Texas Attorney General, and I still like him as governor. But like clockwork he gets these wild hairs and makes decisions that are outright horrendous. All of this gun stuff is one of them!”
Such a sentiment can certainly be understood and was paraphrased by another activist, “Abbott does so much that is right, and a little that is so wrong.”
Bizarrely, occasional bad decisions by popular governors are not unique to Abbott.
In fact, his predecessor, former governor and current Energy Secretary Rick Perry, had the same habit with ideas like mandating middle school girls receive HPV vaccines and the Trans-Texas Corridor.
Certainly, these could be the result of poor staff or just foolish ideas, but one wonders if these proposals aren’t political equivalents of a “Crazy Ivan,” as popularized by the book (and later movie) “The Hunt for Red October.”
In the movie, Russian submarines would frequently make abrupt turns from their current heading in the hopes of startling and thus discovering any potential trailing American vessel. Perhaps these proposals are likewise tools through which to flush out potential rivals or test the tolerance of political supporters.
If Abbott’s gun storage and red flag proposals were one of these maneuvers they showed that Texans like their guns more than they do any politician. Indeed, delegates to the RPT convention not only strengthened the party’s pro-gun language in the platform but explicitly and unequivocally laid out their opposition to two of Abbott’s most problematic proposals: the Cuomo-aligned “red flag” program and onerous changes to the state’s existing gun storage law.
Red Flag: We oppose monitoring programs including the Red Flag (that would deprive someone of their right to keep and bear arms without being convicted of a crime or found mentally incompetent by a medical psychiatric professional) or iWatch proposals and any program that causes gun owners to be investigated by law enforcement or appear before a judge when there is no reasonable cause of a crime committed. We oppose increased background checks, as they are highly prone to “false positives” and hinder law-abiding citizens’ ability to defend themselves, rather than reduce crime.
Firearms Storage: We oppose mandates on personal firearms storage, maintaining that it is the responsibility of an individual to safely store his or her firearms and choose responsibly when and how to make them available to minors.
Both platform planks were approved by a sky-high proportion of delegates during the convention’s plank-by-plank platform vote.
What this should demonstrate to Abbott is that, while he isn’t lacking in charisma, it’s his conservative credentials that cause grassroots leaders ultimately to gravitate towards him. As long as he’s willing to champion those issues they’ll support him. Should he choose to abandon them, they’ll begin to look elsewhere.