Derek Ryan, a Texas Republican data analyst, echoed Fleming in assuming that the governor’s primary opponents “are all hoping to peel away enough votes from Abbott to force him into a runoff, where only the most conservative of voters will participate and give them a shot at beating Abbott — similar to how [Texas Sen.] Ted Cruz was able to win in 2012” over David Dewhurst, the state’s former lieutenant governor.
West is the best-known of the Abbott challengers, but Abbott’s team privately welcomes his candidacy. One Abbott adviser, who was not authorized to speak on the record, said West and all the other primary candidates will just dilute the anti-Abbott vote.
“The more the merrier,” said the adviser. “They’re dividing up about a quarter of the Republican vote that always votes against the incumbent.”
West has higher name ID than Huffines, according to Brendan Steinhauser, a Texas Republican strategist, but “Abbott is very well known among Texas voters and will have a huge war chest to make use of during the campaign. It’s going to be very difficult for West and Huffines to get their name ID up significantly among GOP primary voters.”
A recent University of Texas/Dallas Morning News Poll shows that, in a head-to-head matchup against Huffines, Abbott beats him 77-13 percent with Republican voters. The survey, which was conducted late last month, didn’t poll West because he wasn’t an announced candidate.
The poll, however, indicated that Abbott is essentially tied in a theoretical general election matchup against actor Matthew McConaughey, and Texas Republicans are privately nervous about Abbott going too far right because it might cost him in a general election.
With West and the others in the race, Abbott cannot afford to moderate his stances. He called legislators back into special session Thursday with a grab bag of primary-friendly bills to restrict voting, take on social media companies that “censor” Texans and fight critical race theory in schools.
At the same time, West is feuding with members of his own party. Not only did some demand he quit his party post immediately, but he also engaged in a war of words with the party’s vice chair, Cat Parks, in a disagreement over a GOP scorecard rating lawmakers, according to the Texas insider publication Quorum Report.
When a Republican posted the scorecard without party approval, Parks wanted West to intervene, but he blasted her instead, via email, saying that she was doing “nothing but seek to advance yourself and never raised any funds for the Republican Party of Texas. It is obvious your goal is to protect the failures of certain Republican legislators.”
Parks struck back and essentially accused West of using his “position at the Republican Party of Texas in an attempt to advance” his own political brand.
“You Ma’am are a cancer, do not EVER email me again,” West emailed back, claiming Parks does “nothing but create chaos and confusion.”
Parks — a cancer survivor — then asked the question that Abbott’s team has privately posed about West: “If you cannot perform your duty to make a ruling as Chair of the RPT [Republican Party of Texas], how in the hell do you expect to serve as Governor?”
Though West’s pugilistic style is new to Texas, Florida Republicans remember it well.
Florida state Rep. Chip LaMarca, a top Republican in West’s former home in Broward County, said West was sometimes his own worst enemy.
“He said all the right things about being a patriotic American and veteran. Then he would list 70 of his colleagues being communists,” LaMarca said, calling West a principled conservative who refused to stop making counterproductive remarks.
“Allen was making them every day,” LaMarca said. “I'm scratching my head, wondering why he would run against the incumbent governor Trump endorsed and who is committed to building the border wall. What puts him in position to beat that guy?”
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