Trump allies want to rescind Greg Abbott’s endorsement

Texas Governor Greg Abbott speaks to former President Donald Trump during a border security briefing to discuss further plans to secure the southern border wall June 30, 2021 in Weslaco, Texas.

Brandon Bell | Getty Images

Former President Donald Trump is facing pressure from Republican donors and operatives to rescind his endorsement of Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, who is entrenched in a primary election for his seat.

Trump’s team has heard from allies who are trying to encourage the former president to withdraw his support for Abbott, according to people familiar with the matter. These people declined to be named in order to speak freely about the behind-the-scenes campaign to confront Abbott.

Trump endorsed Abbott for governor last year because the Texas Republican was one of the president’s most vocal supporters. Abbott faces numerous Republican rivals in the primary, including former Texas Republican Party chairman Allen West and businessman and former state senator Don Huffines.

The governor of Texas is in the in the middle of 60 campaign stops statewide as he heads into the primary. Abbott, 64, has led many recent polls in the primary as he seeks a third term.

With many polls in favor of Abbott, Trump is unlikely to back down and withdraw his endorsement. In a GOP where Trump wields enormous influence and can single-handedly sway large swaths of Republican voters, maintaining the former president’s endorsement could be critical to Abbott’s chances of winning the primary for office. of governor. The primary takes place on March 1 and early voting begins next week.

Those lobbying Trump include some of his political organization’s wealthiest donors, including those who regularly hang out with him at his private club in Florida, Mar-a-Lago, people briefed on the matter have explained. .

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Abbott has come under intense scrutiny for his handling of the coronavirus pandemic from conservative Democrats and Republicans. He was also criticized for the way he handled last year winter stormwhen the state experienced massive blackouts, and for the deployment Texas National Guard troops on the southern border with Mexico.

Representatives for Trump and Abbott’s campaign did not return requests for comment.

As Abbott faces some heat for his professional performances, Huffines has received endorsements from at least two Trump allies: Jenna Ellis, one of the former president’s legal advisers, and Katrina Pierson, a former adviser to Trump’s 2020 campaign. Pierson ended up working as a consultant for the Huffines campaign.

Beyond policy differences Abbott’s opponents may have with him, including the governor’s handling of the pandemic, various Trump allies have also taken issue with Abbott campaign staffer Mitch Carney. They shared reports with the former president’s office that Carney tweeted and retweeted posts critical of Trump.

Those tweets from Carney were part of opposition research created by opponents of Abbott, one person noted.

One of online articles about Carney was published by Just the News, a digital website founded by John Solomon, who, as an opinion columnist for The Hill, wrote articles describing conspiracies involving the Ukrainian government, President Joe Biden and other Democratic leaders, including Hillary Clinton.

After reviewing Solomon’s work, The hill said the veteran journalist “failed to identify significant details about the main Ukrainian sources, including that they had been charged or were under investigation. In other cases, the sources were his own lawyers”. Solomon maintained his reporting.

Polls suggest Abbott has a comfortable lead with Trump’s support in his pocket. A poll from the University of Texas at Tyler taken in January revealed that 59% of registered voters participating in the GOP primary would support Abbott.

West was the second choice, with a distant 6% of support. The survey had a margin of error of 3 percentage points.

If no candidate obtains more than 50% of the votes, the primary will go to a second round.

It’s unclear now how widespread Republican support would be for Trump to rescind his endorsement. A Paradigm Partners poll conducted for the West campaign found that 73% of more than 1,000 likely Republican voters in Texas polled think Trump should backtrack on his support for Abbott. The poll has a margin of error of just over 2.5 percentage points.

The Western campaign pointed CNBC to the candidate’s background declaration on the survey results and declined to comment further on the survey.

“Lt. Col. West is more than happy to discuss the issues facing Texans. He is currently on the road listening to those he wishes to serve. The campaign is not focused on any other topic,” said Luke Twombly, the campaign spokesperson. told CNBC on Wednesday in an email.

Although Abbott has been one of Trump’s most vocal supporters on a variety of issues, his opponents have taken aim at some of his positions from the start of the pandemic.

A Texas-based conservative outside group called Grassroots America: We The People posted on its Facebook page last year that it would not endorse Abbott and has since held forums with his opponents.

The band claimed that Abbott went too far in how he closed businesses in Texas at the start of the pandemic and criticized him for his overall handling of previous closings.

Abbott would later become a vocal opponent of Covid-related mandates. He issued executive orders prohibiting companies from requiring their employees to get vaccinated and to forbid government entities to require people to wear masks that could protect them from the coronavirus.

Government entities that the executive directed have attempted to prohibit enforcement of mask mandates included school districts.

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