Politics: High stakes for O'Rourke in Texas governor's debate Friday

The Megastate G.O.P. Rivalry Between Abbott and DeSantis

  The Megastate G.O.P. Rivalry Between Abbott and DeSantis AUSTIN, Texas — Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida wanted to irritate a set of wealthy, liberal elites when he flew migrants to Martha’s Vineyard from Texas, delivering them a slice of the humanitarian crisis simmering along the nation’s southern border. © Office of the Texas Governor Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida, left, and Gov. Greg Abbott of Texas in 2021 in Del Rio, Texas. But Mr. DeSantis’s stunt also annoyed an entirely different group — fellow Republicans in Austin, including some of the allies and aides of Gov. Greg Abbott of Texas. Publicly, Mr. Abbott has not criticized Mr. DeSantis’s migrant flights from his state.

AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — Beto O'Rourke spent his 50th birthday this week behind the wheel of his pickup in Texas, fast approaching a big moment in his uphill climb for governor.

FILE - Texas Democratic gubernatorial candidate Beto O'Rourke shakes hands at a Democracy is Indigenous DFW event in Dallas, Tuesday, Sept. 20, 2022. The former El Paso congressman is scheduled to hold a debate with Republican Gov. Greg Abbott on Friday night. (AP Photo/LM Otero, File) © Provided by Associated Press FILE - Texas Democratic gubernatorial candidate Beto O'Rourke shakes hands at a Democracy is Indigenous DFW event in Dallas, Tuesday, Sept. 20, 2022. The former El Paso congressman is scheduled to hold a debate with Republican Gov. Greg Abbott on Friday night. (AP Photo/LM Otero, File)

While a road trip through college campuses showed how the Democrat continues to draw big crowds — a photo line at the University of Texas snaked across an outdoor plaza in 90-degree heat — O'Rourke is still trying to close in on Republican Gov. Greg Abbott with six weeks until Election Day, Nov. 8.

Abbott holds lead over O'Rourke in Texas race: Poll

  Abbott holds lead over O'Rourke in Texas race: Poll In terms of top issues, 40 percent of Texas voters said the economy was their top issue, while 16 percent said the same about abortion access. Another 12 percent and 8 percent name immigration and health care as their top issue, respectively. "Among those much more likely to vote because of Roe overturning, 62% plan to vote for O'Rourke. For those whom it makes no difference, 72% plan to vote for Abbott," Spencer Kimball, the executive director of Emerson College Polling, said. The Emerson College Polling/The Hill survey was conducted Sept. 20-22 among 1,000 likely voters. The poll's margin of error is plus or minus 3.

That raises the stakes for O'Rourke on Friday night in his only debate against Abbott, who has tried to refocus the race to his hard-line immigration measures on the U.S.-Mexico border as anger in Texas over a new abortion ban and the Uvalde school massacre continues flaring.

With early voting set to begin in just over three weeks, some O'Rourke supporters are looking for significant swings during the debate, which the former 2020 presidential candidate knows better than most can leave a lasting impression.

“Here's the way I see it: Most Texans are just beginning to tune into this election,” O'Rourke said in an interview. The Democrat emphasized that Abbott started running television spots before his campaign, which has pulled in at least $30 million and put has the two-term governor in the rare position of being outraised.

GOP Gov. Greg Abbott and Democrat Beto O'Rourke square off in Texas gubernatorial debate: recap

  GOP Gov. Greg Abbott and Democrat Beto O'Rourke square off in Texas gubernatorial debate: recap Republican Texas Gov. Greg Abbott and Democratic challenger Beto O'Rourke face off in a gubernatorial debate as the November elections near.They went head-to-head at the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley in Edinburg.

Abbott, who wants to stomp out Democrats' latest attempt to flip America's biggest Republican-led state, isn't ready to say this may be his tightest race.

"This game ain't over yet, and we'll see how close it is when all is said and done," he told reporters this month.

Like many Democrats running in November, O'Rourke is drawing on outrage over abortion access and mass shootings, issues that have energized voters elsewhere. But as Texas Democrats also know, those same issues have failed to carry them in past elections.

A new Texas abortion ban is threatening GOP support with women and has already caused stumbles for Abbott over unpopular restrictions that make no exceptions for rape victims. The Uvalde school shooting that killed 19 children and two teachers has also elevated emotions in the race, with grieving parents scolding Abbott and O'Rourke swearing at a heckler who laughed over gun control.

O'Rourke: I will work to return Roe vs. Wade

  O'Rourke: I will work to return Roe vs. Wade During their only debate before the November election, Texas Republican Gov. Greg Abbott and his Democratic challenger Beto O'Rourke addressed their opposing views on abortion. Some health care advocates say emergency contraception, such as Plan B, is often unavailable, or it's too costly for some women to afford. NewsNation asked "Is emergency contraception a viable alternative to abortion for victims of rape or incest?" Texas Gov. Greg Abbott responded that his state "pays for survivors of sexual assault." "Not only should it be readily available," Abbott said, "but the state of Texas is going to pay for it.

O’Rourke, shrugging off recent polls that showed him trailing, pointed to traditionally conservative Kansas rejecting an abortion ban and Democrats winning special congressional elections in New York and Alaska as a sign of a shift in the electorate heading into November’s midterms.

To say O'Rourke has been here before would be true of just about anywhere in Texas.

Just as he did in his breakthrough U.S. Senate campaign in 2018, O'Rourke has spent months visiting nearly every corner of the almost 800-mile-wide state, driving into the most strongly Republican counties in an effort to weaken the wall of rural support that has helped the GOP offset losses in booming big cities and suburbs.

FILE - Texas Gov. Greg Abbott speaks at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in Dallas, Aug. 4, 2022. Abbott is scheduled to hold a debate with Texas Democratic gubernatorial candidate Beto O'Rourke on Friday. (AP Photo/LM Otero, File) © Provided by Associated Press FILE - Texas Gov. Greg Abbott speaks at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in Dallas, Aug. 4, 2022. Abbott is scheduled to hold a debate with Texas Democratic gubernatorial candidate Beto O'Rourke on Friday. (AP Photo/LM Otero, File)

He stunned both parties four years ago by finishing within 3 percentage points of unseating Republican Sen. Ted Cruz. In the governor's race, O'Rourke has run a more attacking campaign but also has been forced to confront his past positions, none more than his promise to ban AR-15-style weapons during a Democratic presidential debate in 2019.

Abbott, O'Rourke spar on border, guns and abortion in only debate

  Abbott, O'Rourke spar on border, guns and abortion in only debate Texas Gov. Greg Abbott and challenger Beto O'Rourke addressed several issues that transcend the Texas election and speak to a larger national audience, including border security, access to firearms and abortion. The debate, hosted at the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley, was broadcasted nationally exclusively by NewsNation. O'Rourke said Abbott is "scared" to lose his re-election campaign in November and claimed that's why the governor scheduled the debate for a Friday night - when attention is usually turned to high school football.

In the aftermath of the Uvalde shooting, O'Rourke has called to raise minimum age to purchase such weapons to 21, something Abbott has already ruled out.

“If Beto can coax Abbott into a moment where there's a stark difference on, say, gun control I think that can have a big impact,” said Jason Villalba, a former Republican state lawmaker. “But to do that you have to be aggressive and take large risks."

Villalba, who now runs the Texas Hispanic Policy Foundation, said O'Rourke has had to overcome “baggage” from his presidential campaign. Villalba believes the fortunes of the former El Paso congressman are in the hands of newly registered women voters and whether he can close the gap in rural counties.

Friday's debate is in Edinburg, along the southern border, where Abbott and Republicans are trying to make aggressive inroads with Hispanic voters after the region, traditionally a Democratic stronghold, made big swings toward then-President Donald Trump in 2020. It will be first time the two candidates have been face to face since O'Rourke confronted Abbott in Uvalde after the shooting, which drew a mix of boors and cheers from the crowd at the time.

“I think he just feels like, 'I've had enough' and we all feel that way,” said Mary Zambrano, 32, who dropped in to see O'Rourke at an Austin gymnasium on Saturday. “At this point, you have to go all in.”

___

Associated Press writer Acacia Coronado contributed to this report.

___

Follow AP for full coverage of the midterms at https://apnews.com/hub/2022-midterm-elections and on Twitter, https://twitter.com/ap_politics

Yankees star Judge hits 62nd homer to break Maris' AL record .
ARLINGTON, Texas (AP) — Aaron Judge took a smooth, mighty swing, then broke into a big smile as he trotted around the bases. Heading home, his teammates backed away, letting him touch the plate alone. At last, the New York Yankees slugger had the American League home run record all to himself. Judge hit his 62nd home run of the season Tuesday night, breaking Roger Maris’ American League record and setting what some fans consider baseball’s “clean” standard.

See also