Beto O'Rourke campaign pivots to abortion following Supreme Court leak

A small group welcomed Democratic gubernatorial nominee Beto O’Rourke to the state capitol Thursday, but he arrived with a big prediction.

"I can sense a complete change in the state of Texas," said O’Rourke.

O'Rourke's optimism is not because of his poll numbers as a recent survey shows he’s trailing Republican incumbent Greg Abbott by double digits. Abbott not only had a big lead, but also a slightly higher favorability rating with women. 

The reason for optimism is that O’Rourke is expecting the Supreme Court controversy concerning Roe v. Wade will pay off for him in November.

"Those who are going to be most affected are also overlapping with those who traditionally haven't been voting in Texas elections, the very young those who are experiencing poverty, black and brown people in communities across the 254 counties understanding now that their rights have been foreclosed by one person, Greg Abbott, and that Republican majority in the legislature. That is going to be energizing, galvanizing," said O’Rourke.

Abbott also believes a Supreme Court ruling will be monumental nationally. However, in regard to the governor's race, he said earlier this week, "My first election for governor was a referendum on the issue of abortion."

His comments were in reference to his first Democratic opponent, former state Sen. Wendy Davis, who held a thirteen-hour-long filibuster in 2013 to block SB 5, also known as HB 2, which banned abortions after 20 weeks and mandated doctors practicing abortions to have admitting privileges at a nearby hospital.

Davis was among those who joined O'Rourke's prediction of an abortion backlash. 


"I believe we're going to see an extraordinary turn out in this race. And I think, as Beto said, an extraordinary increase even in the number of volunteers who are willing to do everything they can to help direct the outcome in a way that's favorable," she said.

In response, Abbott stated in a radio interview, "She was hailed as the abortion savior, but she lost to me by 20 percentage points. The same fate will meet with Beto on the campaign trail. He's even worse on the abortion issue than Wendy Davis was."

When asked to respond to the Governor’s claim, Davis said her loss was not a referendum. She argued people in 2014 didn’t know who Abbott was and that many Republicans only voted for him out of party habit.

O'Rourke agreed there are other big issues in the state other than abortion. Political analyst Mark Wiggins also agreed with that assessment, saying it’s doubtful the campaign will become a one issue campaign. 

He also added an important observation. "You can't ignore the elephant in the room," said Wiggins.

The economy, the border and the power grid remain the hot topics. A major shift may have to wait, according to Wiggins, until after a Supreme Court ruling and after a total abortion ban in Texas.

"You know, you have a majority of Americans who support maintaining Roe, but there's also pulling out there that suggests a majority don't have really strong opinions on the issue. So the question is, when these trigger laws take effect all over the country, is that going to be a hard reality check? Is it going to motivate Democrats and moderates who may not have been interested in voting before? I think we're going to have to wait and see," said Wiggins.