CONROE, Texas (Nexstar) — With 31 days until the Texas primary election, the state’s top elected Republicans took the stage with former President Donald Trump to ramp up their GOP base.
Gov. Greg Abbott, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, Attorney General Ken Paxton and Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller spoke at Trump’s “Save America” rally on Saturday evening in Conroe, a town 45 miles north of Houston.
The four incumbent Republicans already enjoy endorsements from the former commander-in-chief — who is still seen by most as the leader of the party. Trump also highlighted other candidates receiving his backing, including state Sen. Dawn Buckingham, who is running for Texas Land Commissioner. Buckingham is running to replace current commissioner George P. Bush, who is running in a four-way primary for attorney general.
Brian Smith, a political professor at St. Edward’s University, said it’s still strategically sound for Republican candidates to align themselves with Trump — at least for the primary election.
“For a lot of conservatives, Donald Trump is not only the most popular Republican out there but he’s the presumptive nominee for 2024,” Smith said. “We’ll see after the nomination where candidates go. But for right now, Donald Trump still has a lot of cards to play here in Texas.”
The program began around 4 p.m., with Trump’s remarks starting around 7:30 p.m. Saturday.
Latest polling among GOP primary voters
A January poll from the University of Houston’s Hobby School of Public Affairs shows all four incumbents in a likely comfortable position for reelection among Republican primary voters. However, Ken Paxton appears to have the most vulnerabilities, polling two percentage points away from a runoff election in a four-way race to unseat him. He faces challenges from Land Commissioner George P. Bush, Congressman Louie Gohmert and former Texas Supreme Court Justice Eva Guzman. Twenty-four percent of primary voters said they are undecided.
Smith says Paxton’s polling could be attributed to the legal troubles he faced throughout his tenure as attorney general. Paxton is still facing a criminal case, for which he was indicted on securities fraud charges in 2015, as well as a newer FBI investigation and whistleblower lawsuit brought against him by his former aides.
However, Paxton appears to still enjoy strong support amongst the most conservative of Republican voters — who are most likely to be the ones turning out for primary elections. An October 2021 poll found 44% of “strong Republican” voters strongly approved of Paxton’s job performance, surveyed by the Texas Politics Project/University of Texas-Austin. Amongst all voters, that percentage drops to 19%.
For the GOP gubernatorial candidates, incumbent Abbott enjoys support from 58% of primary voters, according to the Hobby poll. Abbott faces challenges from seven other candidates; although Don Huffines and Allen West have been his most vocal opponents, trying to frame the governor as not conservative enough. Seventeen percent are undecided.
That same trend follows for the Lieutenant Governor primary — where 52% of GOP primary voters plan to re-elect Patrick. Thirty-six percent said they are undecided.