“Look at my polling numbers, they are very, very strong. In addition to that, I have $55 million in the bank already, and I’m a very aggressive fundraiser,” Abbott touted during an interview on “Fox News Sunday” as he pointed to his standing among Texas Republicans in public opinion surveys and the amount of cash in his campaign coffers.
While he noted that “I take everybody very seriously, and it shows,” the governor pledged that he “will have the resources and the backing of a lot of people across the state of Texas to ensure that, whoever decides to run against me, we will be able to win.”
Abbott is facing primary challenges from the right from outgoing Texas GOP chair Allen West, former state Sen. Don Huffines, and political commentator Chad Prather.
Huffines, speaking Saturday at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in Dallas, jabbed at Abbott.
“We don’t have a Donald Trump as governor, we don’t have a Ron DeSantis as governor,” the former one-term conservative lawmaker charged. “Unfortunately we’ve got a career politician that’s a political windsock, a RINO.”
West, who served a politically charged single term in Congress representing a Florida district, didn’t mention the governor as he addressed the crowd of conservative activists and leaders at CPAC on Sunday morning.
West, who is stepping down as Texas GOP chair now that he’s challenging the governor, last year made the extremely unusual move of vocally criticizing Abbott’s efforts to battle the coronavirus pandemic. He even took part in an anti-Abbott protest outside the governor’s mansion.
In an interview with Fox News on Friday, he criticized the governor over the volatile issue of border security and emphasized that “a lot of Texans were not happy with” the governor’s COVID restrictions.
Abbott’s made the headlines the past six weeks – signing into law bills restricting the teaching of critical race theory in his state and allowing Texas to carry weapons without a license. And a top item on his to-do list for state lawmakers during the special legislative session, which kicked off Thursday, is to pass GOP-backed legislation tightening voting access rules that was scuttled at the end of the regular session by a walkout of Democratic lawmakers.
Abbott recently pledged to finish construction of the border wall begun under former President Trump’s administration, amid the surge this year in migrants crossing the border. And a week and a half ago he grabbed national headlines as he joined Trump for an event at a unfinished portion of the border wall in Texas.
Some conservatives in Texas say that Abbott’s muscular moves are an effort to protect his right flank, after taking plenty of incoming fire last year from furious Texas conservatives over his mask mandates and COVID-19 restrictions on businesses. The governor was also dinged earlier this year for the state’s handling of a deadly winter storm, which triggered a electrical grid collapse that left millions of Texans freezing amid abnormally frigid temperatures.
But longtime Abbott political adviser David Carney said campaign politics was not a motivating factor behind the governor’s flurry of activity.
“We have zero focus on all the chatter,” Carney told Fox News recently. “We are 100% confident we know where the Republican primary voters are. We’re not worried at all about the primary.”
Abbott is not speaking at CPAC Dallas this weekend.
“Where is Greg Abbott?” Huffines said on Saturday. “Why isn’t he here?”
Answering his own question, he charged that the governor’s “not here because he doesn’t want to face you.”
The governor, who was invited to speak at CPAC in Dallas, is not attending as he’s staying in the state capital city of Austin overseeing a special session of the Texas legislature that he requested to complete unfinished business left over from the regular session. And on Saturday the governor briefed state lawmakers and sheriffs from counties along the southern border with Texas about the state’s ongoing efforts to deal with the crisis at the U.S.-Mexican border.
While not attending CPAC allowed Huffines’ charges to go unanswered, Abbott has another powerful piece of ammunition as he runs for reelection – the endorsement of Trump, who remains extremely popular with GOP base voters in Texas and nationwide.
Veteran Austin-based Republican strategist Brendan Steinhauser told Fox News that Abbott’s “currently on pretty solid ground… We’ll see if any of these guys get any traction. I’m not a betting man but I don’t think I would bet today that he’s going to lose.”
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