AUSTIN — The last Texas governor to run for president began a new term more than a decade ago with coy words about his ambitions for the White House.
But Rick Perry, with a new book out, shuttled across the country and stormed that year’s legislative session, quickly declaring bans on sanctuary cities and limiting government denunciation of private land as urgent items. Most players in Austin thought Perry was running for president. Nearly seven months later, he made the announcement.
On Tuesday, Gov. Greg Abbott gave little hint that he was doing the same. The third-term Republican governor has few ambitions beyond trying to make the convention a success. Abbott’s aides have stymied speculation that he will start traveling to early presidential primary states to test the waters — at least, not while working in the legislature. The session that just started will end on May 29th.
In recent weeks, Abbott has raised a number of themes that other prominent red-state governors have embraced. Later this year, at least in theory, he could weave these into an elevator pitch for presidential candidates — lower taxes, parental rights in public schools, tougher laws on crime and a closure of the U.S.-Mexico border.
But nothing Abbott said Tuesday in Austin was as dramatic as this one from Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis in Tallahassee two weeks ago:
“We will never surrender to the waking mob,” said DeSantis, a conservative darling who is expected to seek the Republican presidential nomination next year. “Florida is the place to wake up.”
While Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp highlighted a similar “kitchen table problem” to Abbott’s in his inaugural address on Thursday, Kemp is selectively raising his profile. On Tuesday, he accepted an invitation to speak on a panel at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, along with six other U.S. politicians. He recently created a federal PAC, though it may be for the 2026 Senate race and the 2028 presidential race, not next year’s presidential race.
Abbott is likely to organize a national campaign later this year, as Perry did after the 2011 legislative session. Some former Perry advisers have lamented that Perry’s delayed release — which he announced on Aug. 13, 2011 in Charleston, South Carolina — hindered the ill-fated venture. Perry said his wife, Anita, encouraged him to run, even though he was happy to stay on as governor of Texas.
But just as easily, as current and former Abbott colleagues say, Abbott could stay on as governor and decide after four years to retire and go make money. Or he could seek a record-breaking fourth four-year term — something Perry never tried. Perry served as governor for 14 years, filling the final portion of George W. Bush’s second term as president. Perry alone won three full terms.
Didn’t test the waters – now
Abbott’s chief political strategist, Dave Carney, asked on Monday whether Abbott would test the waters and visit early primary states to gauge interest in his possible presidential nominee, saying Abbott’s priority now is It was a successful legislative session.
“He always said, you know, when the meeting is over, he’s going to look at the situation and see if his voice, his experience, is needed to be part of the debate,” Carney said. “But until then, we’re not going to New Hampshire, Iowa or South Carolina — or whatever you would want to do if you were blindly ambitious and wanted to run.”
Abbott touted a record revenue surplus of nearly $33 billion in Texas during its opening ceremony Tuesday.
As in his two previous inaugural addresses, he wrote poetically — and at length — about Texas’ economic and population growth. He noted that if Texas had been an independent country, as it has been, the state would have the ninth-largest gross domestic product in the world.
“The gas you put in your truck, the jeans you wear, the steak you eat for dinner, all of that is made in Texas,” Abbott said. As for the rapidly growing population in Texas, he added:
“Americans are showing that what Davy Crockett said is still true today: ‘You can all go to hell. I’m going to Texas!'”
When he considered running for president in 2011, Perry would have liked having the state’s coffers so flush. Still, he faces a $30 billion revenue shortfall. That was the budgetary hit from the Great Recession of 2008, with former President Barack Obama’s federal stimulus money for states delaying the pain in Texas. Barring the possibility of tax increases, Perry has no choice but to work with Republican lawmakers to pass a spending-cutting budget.
Abbott is in a position to propose big cuts in property taxes and a possible one-time “investment.” The state could further strengthen its electric grid and continue to strengthen school preparedness for mass shootings, a program the legislature launched in 2019, the year after the shooting at Santa Fe High School in Galveston County.
“To ensure our thriving state can meet our future needs, we must work this session to strengthen our infrastructure, including the roads we drive, the water we use in our homes and fields, and the Shipped all over the world,” Abbott said.
keep up with the governor
In Florida and Georgia, DeSantis and Kemp talked up the surplus in recent inaugural speeches. Like Abbott, both have vowed to spend some of the money on tax cuts. Like Abbott, they echoed the now-familiar Republican mantra of parental rights and the scandalous “indoctrination” of schoolchildren by liberal elites.
It helps Republican Glenn Youngkin win back Virginia’s governorship from Democrats in 2021, and Youngkin could run in next year’s Republican presidential race, as can a Republican governor. South Dakota’s Kristy Noam, Tennessee’s Bill Lee and New Hampshire’s more modest Chris Sununu and Maryland’s Larry Hogan. Former President Donald Trump has announced another run for the White House.
“We have to remember this, our schools are for education, not indoctrination,” he said. “Schools should not be pushing social agendas.”
Rather than congratulate DeSantis for his handling of the COVID-19 pandemic, Abbott touted “the free state of Florida.”
Nor has Abbott cast himself as a candidate for Flyover America, far from Washington, D.C., the way Kemp has.
“Your governor should be more concerned about safe streets, good schools and good jobs than what pundits are saying on cable,” Georgia’s governor said.
Despite today’s political polarization, Abbott ignored an ambitious Democrat’s recent shooting at him and other Republican governors who spent the past year using state funds to send unauthorized immigrants to Democracy. Cities controlled by the party.
“Red state politicians, and the media empires behind them, mistaken regression for progress and oppression for freedom . . . kidnapping immigrants,” said California Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom, inaugural in his second term said in the speech.
Abbott stayed on safe rhetorical ground, connecting his themes line by line through the state anthem “Texas Our Texas.”
In Abbott’s telling, the song written in 1924 by an English expat and a Fort Worth native “is a hymn. A hymn to the exceptionalism of our country. We strive to achieve that every day.” excellence.”
It’s unclear whether Abbott will start teaching the tune to non-Texans later this year and next year.