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CPAC convenes in Texas as Gov. Abbott expands bussing

Hi All,

Most of the marquee political action this week was in national politics. A small but interesting handful of states held primary elections, while a series of consequential bills have actually been moving through Congress. In the biggest election story, Kansans decisively rejected a ballot proposition that would have removed the state’s constitutional guarantee of the right to obtain an abortion. Meanwhile, the reduced successor to the Build Back Better Act, now rebranded as the Inflation Reduction Act, seems poised to pass the Senate, which is being billed as a significant win for the Biden administration and, along with the abortion result in Kansas, some rare bits of encouraging news for Democrats running in 2022. (Just how good remains to be seen - we'll put a pin in that for now.)

It’s not as if nothing at all is happening in Texas. But amidst the scorching weather, politics in the state have been at a comparatively low boil over the last couple of weeks. For many folks I’ve talked to, this has been something of a relief after a busy, often terrible political summer that started with the horrific events in Uvalde. Of course, the 2022 election campaign grinds on. In this week’s Second Reading podcast, Josh Blank and I talk about the recent uptick in interest in the gubernatorial race, and where it seems to stand in this dog days stage.

The Conservative Political Action Conference event happening in Dallas through Sunday isn’t likely to have much of a direct impact on policy or politics in the state. But the gathering of conservative activists, politicians, and opinion leaders provides a chance to assess the mood and interests of conservatives as the election looms. For some Texas context, I compiled some polling data from the Texas Politics Project archive that illustrates conservatives' attitudes on a range of issues, and toward the Texas figures scheduled to speak, in a post on our website.  


Donald Trump is the headline speaker at CPAC, which isn’t an especially surprising booking. A little more interesting: another prominent speaker is Hungarian Prime Minister Victor Orban, widely viewed as the standard bearer for reactionary nationalism in Europe. American conservatives' attraction to Orban isn’t news – he’s a favorite of Tucker Carlson, for example, and has an established relationship with Trump. But it is remarkable that the prime minister of Hungary, a country with a population about a third the size of Texas, who is widely recognized as a democratic backslider (and not just by progressives), might be embraced in Dallas as a political model. Last month, he attracted attention with a speech in which declared that Hungarians "do not want to become a mixed race." (Subsequent events suggested he did not speak for all Hungarians.) In his Dallas speech, Orban called Hungary "the Lone Star state of Europe." Parse that as you will. Earlier this week, the Pew Research Center's Laura Clancy posted a short but interesting analysis of the politics of Orban’s project as seen in public opinion polling in Hungary, which I’ve borrowed a graphic from below.

Gov. Greg Abbott and Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick were also on the bill at CPAC Thursday, with Senator Ted Cruz and Attorney General Paxton speaking Friday, per coverage by Jack Fink for CBS DFW. The post I put together yesterday includes different slices of conservatives’ views of the statewide Texas speakers. CSPAN is streaming the event, so you can find speeches and soak in the general ambience at their still oh-so-useful site – "cable's gift to the nation" keeps on giving. (Here’s a link to day one that will get you started if you’re so inclined). 


Abbott’s CPAC comments, coming on the heels of a seeming burst of national interest in the race a couple of weeks ago (e.g. David Goodman’s piece in the New York Times last month), delivered yet another instance of his campaign’s efforts to keep their base focused on immigration and border security. The governor received (at least to my ear) the most enthusiastic applause when he bragged on Texas paying to bus asylum-seeking migrants apprehended at the Texas-Mexico border to Washington, D.C. (which has, predictably, caused still more misery for many migrants and problems for local authorities in D.C., per coverage this week by The New York Times and NPR’s Morning Edition). By comparison, his trumpeting of Texas's pro-business environment was received...politely.

The Abbott campaign stayed on the hotter message the next day with an announcement that Texas is now paying to bus migrants to New York City, too. Patrick Svitek reported Friday in The Texas Tribune on the Abbott announcement, including a recap of the public sparring between Abbott and mayors Muriel Bowser (of D.C.) and Eric Adams (of New York) that led up to Friday’s announcement. While state politics has left Abbott well-practiced at trolling big city mayors, the policy took some unexpected incoming from a Republican would-be governor visiting Dallas. Svitek recounts a swipe from the newly-minted (and Trump-endorsed) GOP nominee for governor in Arizona, Kari Lake, that speaks to the contest among Republican governors to see who can be most draconian on immigration and border security. "It makes for a cute photo op," Svitek quotes Lake saying at CPAC, "but it just takes people who shouldn't be here and moves them further in." (For those who like intra-party and intra-state political intrigue, the current GOP incumbent in Arizona, Doug Ducey, who isn't running for re-election, is also paying to bus migrants out of state - so Lake is throwing shade at him, too.) One suspects, however, that this would be seen as a distinction without a difference among most Texas Republicans, however formally logical the critique.

Have a good weekend, stay well, and keep in touch.


Jim Henson
Executive Director, The Texas Politics Project
College of Liberal Arts / Department of Government
The University of Texas at Austin
The Texas Politics Project
Copyright © 2022 The Texas Politics Project at UT-Austin, All rights reserved.

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