Constitutional Carry vs. gun ban: Abbott, O'Rourke cruise to victory in Texas primaries

AP Photo/Eric Gay

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott easily swatted away conservative challenges to his gubernatorial reign on Tuesday, winning the Republican primary for governor outright by capturing about two-thirds of the almost 2-million votes cast. Robert Francis “Beto” O’Rourke, meanwhile, reached the high water mark of his own candidacy for governor by handily winning the Democratic nomination over a handful of relative unknowns.

That’s going to be the last taste of victory for O’Rourke this year, given the anemic turnout by Democrats across the state. More than 1.8-million votes were cast in the Republican primary, while only about 1-million voters cast a ballot in the Democratic primary. Now, O’Rourke can argue that the Democratic primary wasn’t as contested as Abbott’s re-election bid, but given the fact that the incumbent governor beat his closest competitor by more than one-million votes, I’m not sure it’s fair to describe the Republican primary as competitive either.

The biggest reason for the disparity in the turnout between the two parties is the simple fact that support for Democrats is cratering around the country, including in the Lone Star State.. And let’s be honest; while Robert Francis “Beto” O’Rourke was the best known candidate on the Democrats’ thin bench, after losing to Ted Cruz in the U.S. Senate race in 2018 and then failing to make much of an impact in the 2020 Democratic presidential primary there’s a decided stench of failure wafting off of the candidate.

O’Rourke is expected to largely downplay his support for gun control during the general election, though it’s going to be impossible to escape his “Hell yes, we’re coming for your AR-15” pledge made during his abortive run for president. And bashing Greg Abbott for signing off on Constitutional Carry isn’t likely to have much of an impact, given that a) there’s no chance of Democrats winning back the Texas legislature, making the idea of repeal a moot point and b) many voters who might not fully embrace permitless carry still prefer it to Beto’s big idea of banning and confiscating guns.

If O’Rourke wants to try to use the Second Amendment as an issue against Abbott, Republicans will be more than happy to accommodate him. This is Texas we’re talking about, and it’s still a conservative state even in blue wave elections. 2022 isn’t shaping up to be one of those years. In fact, it’s looking more like a crimson tsunami is going to come crashing down on Democrats in a few months.

That’s the conclusion that should be drawn from new ABC News/Washington Post polling that shows a generic Republican candidate leading a generic Democratic one by a 49% to 42% margin among registered voters nationally. (That gap expands to 13 points when you limit the sample to registered voters who say they are “certain” to vote.)
That’s known as the generic ballot test. For decades, it’s been a reliable weathervane as to which way — and how hard — the partisan winds are blowing.
And what the ABC/Post poll makes clear is that the wind is blowing against the Democrats — and hard.
Those are some brutal numbers, but they don’t seem too out-of-whack either, especially when you look at the enthusiasm gap between Republican and Democrat primary voters in Texas on Tuesday. For his sake, I hope Robert Francis “Beto” O’Rourke enjoyed his victory party last night, because it’s going to be the only one he gets to throw this year.