Trump’s visit to Texas will inflame GOP diehards, but at what cost?

No one is more powerful than former President Donald Trump when it comes to getting Republican voters to vote in Texas, as evidenced by his two record-breaking campaigns for the White House.

Yet, at the same time, there is no one more dangerous to Republican prospects in November than the former president who will be in Corpus Christi on Saturday night for one of his free Make America Great Again rallies in front of thousands of supporters. worshipers.

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With early voting beginning Monday, Trump’s mission is to get Republicans in MAGA to vote, as he did earlier this month in Arizona.

“If you want to stop the destruction of our country and save the American dream, you have to vote Republican all the way,” Trump said at the rally.

But political pundits warn he is also inflaming Democrats and risks making the election on his own instead of a referendum on President Joe Biden’s low approval ratings in Texas. Midterm elections are historically bad for the incumbent’s party. Trump is risking that advantage by putting himself at the center of the conversation by holding rallies in places with potentially nearby races, they say.

“That’s what Trump does everywhere he goes, even if it’s in deep red territory,” said Larry Sabato, director of the Center for Politics at the University of Virginia. “He thrills Republicans and motivates them to vote. And it infuriates and disgusts Democrats and motivates them to vote.

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There’s no doubt that Trump is boosting GOP turnout, but Republican political strategist Brandon Scholz said it’s best to keep him in staunchly red areas where he’s less likely to produce a Democratic reaction in blue or blue areas. even in rough areas.

“The last thing I need is for Trump to launch the Democratic base in a tight election,” Scholz said.

Scholz, who is based in Wisconsin, said he was convinced Trump fired the Democrats and cost the GOP dearly in that state. He said with tighter races this year, he advises Republicans to keep Trump away.

But in Texas, Republicans ignored that kind of advice, planting Trump in Robstown in Nueces County, which has been a swing county in recent election cycles. While Trump won the county in 2020 with nearly 51% of the vote, it’s also a county that Democratic gubernatorial candidate Beto O’Rourke won in 2018 with 50% of the vote against U.S. Senator Ted Cruz. .

Governor Greg Abbott and his campaign appear to have had little say over where Trump decided to speak. Abbott’s senior campaign adviser Dave Carney said he had heard of Trump’s appearance but said he did not believe their input had been solicited. He added that “anytime the president can travel and piss off the base and get people to show up, that’s a good thing.”

Yet Abbott will be 1,000 miles away when Trump lands in Corpus Christi.

“I welcome President Trump to Texas, although I will not be able to host him personally as I will be out of state on a pre-planned fundraising trip to Florida,” Abbott said in a statement later. early in the week.

“Toxic for many voters”

Sabato says he’s not surprised Abbott is skipping the event so close to Election Day. It’s one thing to attend a rally with Trump during the primary, but so close to the election, it’s unclear what he might talk about and who a campaign needs to respond to, especially among suburban voters who have been rebuffed by Trump.

Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick and Attorney General Ken Paxton will be at the rally, according to a statement from Trump. Both are in tight re-election races according to the limited public polls that have been released. Patrick runs against Kingwood Democrat Mike Collier and Paxton is challenged by Brownsville Democrat Rochelle Garza.

Patrick was Trump’s campaign chairman in Texas during his two campaigns and Paxton was at Trump’s January 6, 2021 rally in Washington, DC the morning before the attack on the US Capitol. Paxton also tried to get the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn election results in other states on Trump’s behalf.

What makes Trump so risky is his impact on independent voters, said Trump’s former national security adviser John Bolton.

Over the summer, a Bolton-led political action committee released a poll of key battleground states that showed that among independents, 38% had a favorable view of Trump and 48% had an opinion unfavorable to him. Bolton said Republicans needed to distance their brand from Trump’s, especially in places where independents might decide the races.

“I think he’s toxic to a lot of voters that you need in a competitive race,” Bolton said.

Trump’s poll numbers are even worse in Texas, according to the latest Quinnipiac University poll released last month. In this poll of 1,327 likely Texas voters, 44% had a favorable opinion of Trump and 55% had an unfavorable opinion. Among independents, only 38% had a favorable opinion of him.

Trump is also not well received by Hispanic voters or women. Either way, just 38% of voters had a favorable opinion of Trump, according to the Quinnipiac survey.

Still, with Trump leading the ticket, Republicans set records for getting voters to the polls in 2016, and again in the 2018 midterm elections. In 2016, Trump won nearly 4.7 million voice in Texas, a record. Four years later, he broke that record, winning 5.9 million votes as he carried the state by 6 percentage points over Biden.

However, Trump also pushed Democrats to register a turnout. Biden won 5.3 million votes in Texas in 2020, more than any other Democrat in Texas history. In other states, Democratic voter turnout was so high it cost Republicans races, as was the case in previously red Georgia, where the two U.S. Senate seats swung from Republican to Democratic control.

“You can’t ignore the fact that he’s the reason Republicans lost both the United States House and the Senate — and of course, the presidency,” Sabato said.

Scholz said the only good reason to bring Trump in so late in the campaign would be like Hail Marys if the GOP is really struggling to get voters to the polls. But Scholz said it was a warning sign that something had gone horribly wrong.

“If you don’t have Trump voters now — in less than three weeks — for me, you’re just too late.”


jeremy.wallace@chron.com

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