(The Center Square) – A majority of Texas Republicans would vote for Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis over Texas Gov. Greg Abbott if the two Republicans were to run for president in the 2024 election, a recent poll conducted by CWS Research found.
A plurality, 46%, said they’d vote for DeSantis. The next greatest percentage, 23%, said they weren’t sure, followed by 18% who said they’d vote for another candidate. Abbott received the smallest support of 13%.
The survey was conducted between Feb. 5 and 7 through a series of interactive voice response calls and SMS messages among 715 likely primary voters in Texas.
The primary election in Texas is March 1. Early voting started Monday.
Abbot, who is seeking a third term, has more primary challengers this election than he’s ever had, and in a race that could lead to a run-off election. County Republican parties have censured Abbott, former GOP county chair and leaders have sued him, parents continue to express outrage over mask mandates imposed on their children, and COVID-19 shot mandates have forced Texans out of work, despite any executive order Abbott’s issued.
DeSantis is running for re-election in Florida unopposed by anyone in his own party. He and the Florida legislature did something Abbott and the Texas legislature didn’t: banned COVID-19 vaccine mandates.
DeSantis called a special legislative session to ban COVID-19 vaccine mandates; Abbott did not.
Only after pressure from grassroots conservatives did Abbott add vaccine mandates to the agenda of the third of four special legislative sessions last year. He also issued an executive order prohibiting “government entities and certain others” from implementing vaccine mandates on the same day, months after Texans had already lost their jobs for not complying with private sector mandates. The legislative session ended Oct. 19 without the legislature ever addressing vaccine mandates.
More than 30 lawmakers called on Abbott to call a special session to ban vaccine mandates last year; more than 70 called on him in 2020 to end what would become a year-long lockdown. Sen. Bob Hall and Rep. Kyle Biedermann, both Republicans, have told The Center Square that calls and emails to Abbott went unanswered. And requests for comment from The Center Square and other news organizations about their calls went unanswered.
Secretary of Agriculture Sid Miller, who’s sued the governor over his executive orders, said he hasn’t been able to meet with Abbott for official state business ever.
“I’ve tried numerous times to get a meeting with the governor,” he told Texas Scorecard. “In the seven years that we’ve both been in our offices, I’ve never got a meeting with the governor, never got a phone call returned, never got an email or letter returned.”
“Governor Abbott’s refusal to communicate with other elected officials is consistent with how he has dealt with coronavirus related issues over the past year,” Houston-based attorney Jared Woodfill and former Harris County Republican Party Chair, who’s sued Abbott multiple times, told The Center Square. “His ‘go at it alone’ philosophy has resulted in businesses being shuttered, kids locked out of their schools, mask mandates, election dates being unilaterally changed in violation of the United States Constitution, and much more.
Abbott first imposed a statewide mask mandate via executive order effective July 3, 2020, carrying a $250 fine per violation. The mandate remained in effect until March 2, 2021. He then banned schools from imposing mask mandates, also levying fines per violation, but many districts didn’t comply and sued.
Abbott’s claim last May that no public schools would be allowed to require masks as a condition of in-person instruction, proved not to be correct. Parents in Houston, San Antonio and Dallas are still fighting mask mandates being imposed on their children.
Meanwhile, health-care workers lost their jobs when Texas hospitals imposed COVID-19 vaccine mandates before the federal government ever did. Those in Houston who were the first to sue, represented by Woodfill, argue Abbott could have protected them, but didn’t. Abbott’s position has been to let the vaccine mandates play out in court.
DeSantis and the Florida legislature passed a law prohibiting COVID-19 vaccine mandates as a condition of employment, including for health-care workers. As a result, major health-care systems in Florida dropped their mandates, and health-care workers kept their jobs.
Abbott’s lead primary challenger, former congressman and retired Army Lt. Col. Allen West, announced he was running for governor last year after he’d already participated in protests against Abbott’s lockdown in 2020. He maintains, “We don’t live in a constitutional monarchy. We live in a constitutional republic.”
West, who got the COVID-19 shots and also contracted COVID-19, argues, “As Governor of Texas, I will vehemently crush anyone forcing vaccine mandates in the Lone Star State. … Our bodies are our last sanctuary of liberty and freedom, I will defend that for everyone …”
Talk radio host and The Dallas Morning News columnist Mark Davis argues, “In Texas, Abbott is now in the unfamiliar role of second fiddle – and he faces the additional complication of primary challengers, to boot.” Texas conservatives “took aim at him during the COVID summer of 2020 for issuing orders far less constrictive than blue states, but not as free as Florida and some smaller states that did not shut down at all,” he writes in a column published by Newsweek.
Claremont Institute fellow David Reaboi also argues, “It’s remarkable that Texas’ once-nonpareil position in the conservative imagination has been displaced so quickly – and by a place that was long thought of as a blue-leaning swing state,” referring to Florida.
“Just as many national Republican leaders saw their images shrink as the juggernaut of Trump set a new standard, the stardom of Ron DeSantis is a force to be reckoned with two and a half years before the 2024 Iowa caucuses,” he also wrote for Newsweek.
The CWS Research poll randomly selected likely Republican Texas voters from a demographically proportionate sample. It has a 3.7% margin of error and confidence level of 95%.
The majority of those polled, 51%, were female.