The fight for the Lone Star State – Texas 2022

The fight for the Lone Star State – Texas 2022

Chart from the University of Texas

Next year the US midterms take place, with the entire House, one third of the Senate, and 36 governors up for (mostly re)election. While the House and Senate generally get the media focus given their importance for what the President can or cannot pass, an interesting story is developing in Texas.

I’ll give you the spoiler up front: The bookies are getting too excited about a fun but rather unlikely scenario and the incumbent is value to be re-elected.

The Incumbent

The Lone Star State is led by Greg Abbott, a Republican running for his third term after being twice elected with solid, if not crushing, wins (59% and 56% of the vote in a FPTP system). A reliable Trump supporter, it would be fair to say that Abbott has pursued a core vote strategy over his career, perhaps smartly given the state historically is one where the Republican primary is the real contest.

Though rumours of a primary challenge did circulate during Texas’s worst periods of COVID, when Abbott’s very Trumpian approach was questioned, they have faded – in no small part thanks to Trump endorsing him for re-election. Primary polls show him at no risk right now, with 50%+ leads in the ones currently undertaken.

Abbott is 2/5 to win re-election.

The Opposition

Given this is Texas, until recently it didn’t really matter what the Democrats were doing. After all, they haven’t won the governor’s mansion or a senate seat for almost 30 years. However, the growing hispanic vote in the state as well as growing urban areas around Houston and Austin have changed things.

The watershed moment for Democrats came, or almost came, in 2018, when Beto O’Rourke was within 3% of unseating Republican senator Ted Cruz. This capped off steadily narrowing margins for Democrats, and ever since they’ve believed Texas is flippable.

O’Rourke has publicly flirted with running for governor, though other prominent Texas Democrats are also in the frame. He is 9/2 to win. Even given demographic shifts, it’s going to take something very unexpected to unseat a Republican governor of Texas.

The Wildcard

Matthew McConaughey is thinking of challenging the Republican governor of Texas. Which…would qualify as very unexpected.

It’s not as crazy as it sounds. After all, Arnold ‘The Governator’ Schwarzenegger was elected as a Republican governor of true-blue California – twice. And McConaughey, with massive name recognition and general likeability from the public, has actually led in one poll (though was narrowly behind in the most recent).

But I’m very skeptical. For now, he is a blank slate which people can project positively on to. But running for election means making choices, starting with party affiliation. If he runs as a Democrat he loses goodwill among the clear majority of GOP-leaning voters. Challenge Abbott as a Republican, and he fights against the party machine and Trump himself in a battle for those voters – a massive uphill struggle. He could run as an independent, but that risks getting squeezed by both parties who have massive resources to run negative ads and organisations he lacks.

McConaughey is 5/1 to be elected.

Put bluntly, McConaughey would be better off not running at all. If he does, he has a very tough path to victory. Democrats, likewise, shouldn’t let hope become expectation. Abbott is more popular than Cruz was, and while nothing is impossible this probably isn’t the moment that Democrats will break through.

Even 2/5 is much too long. I’m betting on Abbott to cruise to re-election. McConaughey’s main contribution to this election is creating unexpected betting value on what should be a dull election in a safe seat.

All odds via Skybet

Pip Moss posts on Political Betting as Quincel. He has bets on Greg Abbott to be re-elected at 1/2 and 4/9. You can follow him on Twitter at @PipsFunFacts

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