Abbott Shows Trouble Signs with Pledge
to Show for One Debate with Democrat
August 9, 2022
Governor Greg Abbott demonstrated that he's nervous about a re-election race on Tuesday when he agreed to face Democratic foe Beto O'Rourke at a lone debate on September 30 in the Rio Grande Valley on a high school football Friday night.
O'Rourke - a former congressional member from El Paso - applauded the incumbent's decision to face off with him on the stage in at least one debate before they do battle in the November 8 general election. But O'Rourke stopped short of actually accepting the invitation from Nexstar Media Group for the debate that Abbott has said he would attend at the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley in Edinburg.
"Great to see that Abbott has finally agreed to join me for a debate," O'Rourke tweeted Friday night. "Looking forward to holding him accountable for his indefensible record during 3 town hall-style debates across the state where we'll both take questions directly from voters."
Abbott's campaign indicated that the debate in the South Texas border city would be the only one of its kind in the fight for the state's top job in 2022. But that's one than the oddsmakers would have predicted based on the fact that the governor has led from the outset in the polls and would have more to lose than gain at a public forum like a televised debate.
Abbott has spent less time in public in the past six months than he had in his first seven years as the governor. After a humiliating experience with angry booing from a far right audience at a Donald Trump rally in Congress in January, Abbott has limited public appearances almost exclusively to roundtables with selective state and local officials that parrot his words with token speaking parts.
The governor was embarrassed by his performance at a news conference in Uvalde on the day after a mass school shooting in May when he waxed falsely about courageous police behavior without a clue that everything he reported to the national media was wrong. Abbott was booed at the elementary school several days later when he met President Joe Biden there for a memorial service.
A debate is a risky proposition for any incumbent who's the favorite in a race. Abbott squared off in two debates with Democrat Wendy Davis that fall. But Abbott had established himself as a prohibitive favorite at the time a fight with Democrat who failed to live up to massive hype. The governor agreed to one debate with Democratic nominee Lupe Valdez in 2018 when he had a lead that appeared all but insurmountable.
While Abbott won by an ever larger margin that the pollsters forecast in 2014, he beat Valdez by 13 points after leading her by almost 17 points on average in polls before the election four years later.
But O'Rourke presents Abbott with his toughest test by far in a long political career that featured stints as a state Supreme Court judge and attorney general before the promotion to governor almost eight years ago. After trailing Abbott by double-digits at the start of 2022, O'Rourke has narrowed the gap to a deficit of only 5 points in two of the most recent polls on the race.
more to come ...