It was just a matter of time, really, and the time has come. The latest polling finds that Texas Governor Greg Abbott, a Republican, has widened his lead over his Democrat challenger, Robert Francis “Beto” O’Rourke. A new poll from The Dallas Morning News and the University of Texas at Tyler shows Abbott leads O’Rourke 47% to 38%. 

Abbott has the power of the incumbency and that includes a large financial war chest. He began 2022 with $65M in that war chest. Even for Texas politics, that’s a lot of money. This is a high stakes race, as the demographics of Texas are changing. Texas is still a reliably red state in statewide races, in my opinion that won’t change in this cycle. But, district races and local elections are showing Texas to be a more purplish state than a solid red state. Fortunately, there is a trend of Hispanic voters shifting to voting for Republicans as Democrats move to more extreme progressive ideas, so that is good news. Abbott has consistently bested O’Rourke in polls. This latest poll is a 2 point improvement. Last month Abbott was up by 7 points, now it is 9 points. The election is 48 days away. Early voting in Texas begins in a little more than a month from today – Monday, October 24th to Friday, November 4th.

Real Clear Politics aggregate averaging shows Abbott with a 7.7 point lead. The DMN-UTT poll surveyed registered voters, which is usually less accurate than polling likely voters.

One advantage for Abbott has been the abundance of his ads which went unanswered by the O’Rourke campaign for a long time. Beto’s campaign only recently began running ads on television, at least in the Houston market. The ads focus on predictable subjects. Beto’s speak to abortion 24/7 and gun control while Abbott’s focus on border security, spikes in crime, and inflation. The majority of Texas voters want the candidates to focus on the border and the economy, which Abbott focuses on.

Abbott’s recent flood of TV ads, which for weeks went unanswered, and voters’ slight rightward tilt on abortion, the border and crime may have helped the two-term incumbent build on a 46%-39% lead in August, two political scientists agreed.

“A clear change in the election is that the Abbott campaign started advertising and they went negative, while being the only campaign on the air,” said poll director Mark Owens, who teaches political science at UT-Tyler. “Registered voters who say they saw the advertisements supported Gov. Abbott 23% more often.”

University of Houston professor Brandon Rottinghaus said Abbott’s “solid and even growing lead” is a natural result of “the incumbency advantage” — his edge in money, broadcasting airtime and name recognition.

Texas voters approve of Abbott’s handling of the border. And, they are sick and tired for paying for work to secure the border that should be paid for by the federal government.

As has been the case for months, a majority of Texans approved of how Abbott is handling immigration at the Texas-Mexico border, 52% to 39%, and of many of his actions, such as truck inspections and deployment of National Guard and state police. Only a plurality of 48%, though, backed using state money to extend the border wall. Joe Biden’s non-actions on the border are not popular in Texas.

The governor’s net favorable rating for his border security push is 13 percentage points, up from 9 points last month.

Meanwhile, President Joe Biden’s net unfavorable rating among Texans on his handling of the border grew worse: Just 30% approved while 59% disapproved, a slide of 8 points from August, when the split was 34%-55%.

The bus travel to Washington and other northern cities he’s provided for migrants was endorsed by 54% of respondents, while 29% disapproved

Eva McElhearn, a 47-year-old insurance company employee from Denison, said she supports Abbott because she likes how he’s handling the border.

Of Abbott’s highly publicized busing of migrants to Harris’ residence, she said, “Actually, that’s a good step because someone needs to address the situation and Texas shouldn’t just be the only one having to deal with the illegal immigrants coming over the border. … I have no objection to people wanting to come to America but they need to do it legally.”

The O’Rourke campaign is conserving its money until later in the campaign. Its most effective ad so far is one in which an alleged mixed marriage – Republican husband and Democrat wife – claim to support Beto because of the new trigger law against abortion in Texas. Abbott’s most effective ads so far have been ones in which he voices support for law enforcement because no one believes that O’Rourke is pro-law enforcement after speaking up for the Defund the Police movement. And, Greg Abbott’s biographical ads are effective. In one he talks about the death of his father when he was in high school and how he worked at a diner to help support his family while going to school. The other ad is one where Cecilia Abbott (the first Latina First Lady of Texas) speaks about the time when the tree fell on Abbott while he was jogging, early in their marriage, and he was paralyzed for life. Beto, by the way, has not released any biographical ads.

Abortion will likely not be the top issue on the minds of Texas voters that the Beto campaign thinks it will be.

“The abortion access issue certainly cuts in O’Rourke’s favor, but it’s not clear it’s going to be the number one issue for voters in the midterms,” Rottinghaus said. “If that’s the case, then O’Rourke is going to struggle to rally the groups that he needs to peel off from Abbott’s coalition to win.”

O’Rourke has outraised Abbott in campaign contributions in the last few months but, as noted above, Abbott started out with $65M. O’Rourke is leaning heavily on out-of-state donations and even a big one from George Soros. Entertainment industry liberals are still holding fundraisers for their beloved Beto. Let them throw away their money on him. He still isn’t going to be governor.

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