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2022 Midterm Elections | Races to follow: Greg Abbott vs Beto O’Rourke

The Texas gubernatorial race has heated up in recent weeks, with two opposing visions for the country presented in traditional Republican stronghold.

Campaign signs are posted, along with a free flu shot announcement, near a polling station in Round Rock, Texas on November 7, 2022, the eve of the midterm elections.. (Photo by SUZANNE CORDEIRO / AFP) (Photo by SUZANNE CORDEIRO/AFP via Getty Images)

The most recent polling from FiveThirtyEight suggests that incumbent Texas governor Greg Abott holds a 53%-47% advantage over challenger Beto O’Rouke as the hours count down to the 2022 midterms.

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Although Abbott remains the front-runner, he is facing his greatest threat to date as he seeks a third term in office. If O’Rouke were to pip him to the post it would be a major scalp for the Democrats in what was expected to be a painful set of midterm elections for President Biden’s party.

Key national issues at play in Texas

The Democrats have been seeking to make social issues like abortion rights and gun control a prominent part of debates in the midterms and Texan voters have had experience of both in 2022.

Some of the first challenges to the constitutional right to abortion were launched in Texas in the aftermath of the overturning of Roe v Wade in June. Even in a traditionally conservative state the removal of abortion rights has proven effective at galvanising support for the Democrats.

Gun control debate have also be brought back to the surface this year, in large part due to the horrific murder of 21 children and teachers at a primary school in Uvalde, Texas. Countless studies have shown that a majority of Americans are in favour of implementing greater controls on gun ownership but the Republican Party has broadly sought to block those efforts.

“We lead the nation in school shootings,” O’Rouke said in a stump speech in Houston. “So numbingly common it has become in Texas that we somehow tacitly accept this as the price of living and dying in this state right now.”

Success in Texas would be an historic victory for the Democrats

Since 1980 Texas has voted for the Republican nominee in every single presidential election and the last Democrat to be elected state governor was Dorothy Richards in 1990. However recent events in the Lone Star State threaten to turn voters away from the GOP and O’Rouke has considerable name recognition in the state.

Abbott won by 20 points in 2014 and enjoyed a 14-point winning margin in 2018 so a defeat to O’Rouke, who also ran last time out, would be a great embarrassment for the Republicans.

As such the fundraising efforts have ramped up in recent months and the two candidates have raised more than $100 million between them. This makes it one of the most expensive races in this year’s midterm elections.

The race is also a battle between two different visions for the country, with each candidate seeming to signify where their party is heading. Abbott consistently outperforms O’Rouke on concerns over crime and immigration, but the challenger’s outspoken position on gun control and abortion rights could help the Democrats animate younger voters.