Former Rep. Beto O’Rourke is getting ready to join the race for governor of Texas in 2022, according to Axios. An announcement is expected later this year, Axios reports, citing “Texas political operatives.” His allies say nothing has been decided yet but O’Rourke has been making calls to Democrats and others about a potential challenge against Republican Gov. Greg Abbott, reports the Dallas Morning News, which says Democrats are feeling confident he will join the race. That marks a change from earlier this year, when it seemed unlikely O’Rourke was all that eager to launch what would be his third major campaign in four years.
One reason O’Rourke and his allies seem more willing to push his candidacy is because new polls suggest Abbott is more vulnerable than ever before. the governor’s job approval rating has been falling sharply with only 45 percent of Texans approving of his performance as governor, according to a new poll by the Dallas Morning News and the University of Texas at Tyler. His approval rating before the COVID-19 pandemic was at 59 percent and has been steadily dropping since January. What’s more, 54 percent of Texans believe the state is headed in the wrong direction.
O’Rourke’s numbers are far from stellar but they’ve been improving and now he only trails Abbott by five points in a hypothetical matchup, 42 percent to 37 percent. That is a sharp improvement for the El Paso Democrat since July, when he trailed Abbott by 12 points. O’Rourke served three terms in the House of Representatives before resigning to run for Senate in 2018. He lost that and then had a go at the Democratic presidential nomination. Despite a strong start to the campaign, O’Rourke’s candidacy quickly faded into the background and he dropped out before voting began.
Even though O’Rourke’s numbers have improved they’re nothing compared to what actor Matthew McConaughey enjoys as he continues to flirt with the idea of joining the race for governor. In a hypothetical matchup, McConaughey is nine percentage points ahead of Abbott. McConaughey could run as a Republican, leading Democrats to be concerned he could end up snapping up some of the anti-Abbott votes. But for now Democrats are optimistic about O’Rourke’s chances. “We hope that he’s going to run,” Gilberto Hinojosa, the state chair of the Democratic Party, told Axios. “We think he’ll be our strongest candidate. We think he can beat Abbott, because he’s vulnerable.”