Business and Finance

Greg Abbott: a savvy GOP governor navigates a storm

At the start of the week — as almost 3m Texans sheltered at dwelling, with out energy — Greg Abbott, the state’s Republican governor, went on Fox News to supply an evidence for the deepening disaster.

Asked whether or not renewable vitality was responsible for the rolling blackouts, Abbott, 63, launched into an attack of the Democrats’ Green New Deal local weather proposal. He claimed that the shutdown of the state’s wind and photo voltaic vitality had “thrust Texas into a situation where it was lacking power in a statewide basis”. He warned that each US state could be “constantly” experiencing the identical type of challenges if President Joe Biden tried “to eradicate fossil fuels” — one thing the Biden administration has not stated it can do.

Abbott’s rationalization for the state’s blackout was rapidly debunked. According to the Electric Reliability Council of Texas, which manages 90 per cent of the state’s grid, wind energy has accounted for less than 13 per cent of the overall outages, with frozen devices and restricted provide at pure fuel and coal services creating a greater a part of the issue. “He’s actually wrong,” the billionaire Bill Gates said.

By Wednesday, Abbott was strolling again his earlier rationalization. He had solely singled out renewables due to the way in which the query had been phrased: “Every source of power that the state of Texas has has been compromised,” he said.

For longtime Abbott observers, the manoeuvre was the newest instance of the governor’s political dexterity. He has concurrently managed to domesticate the state’s hardcore conservatives with out alienating Texas’s extra reasonable enterprise group, which has given generously to his campaigns. That positions Abbott as a potential 2024 presidential contender.

Abbott’s adroitness has been notably evident through the age of Donald Trump. The governor was among the many only a few Republicans who succeeded in neither distancing nor aligning himself with the forty fifth president.

Brendan Steinhauser, a Republican strategist who has travelled with Abbott on the marketing campaign path, describes him as a “prolific fundraiser” who’s “very smart” and “very cautious”. He provides that Abbott is aware of when to “test something” and when to “pull it back”. While Abbott would face a crowded subject in 2024, it’s naive to imagine he isn’t taking a look at federal workplace, Steinhauser says: “He clearly has higher ambitions.”

Born in Wichita Falls, Abbott excelled as an honours scholar and a observe star and was voted by classmates to be “most likely to succeed”. He met Cecilia, his spouse of 40 years, when each have been college students on the University of Texas at Austin, earlier than he went on to legislation college at Vanderbilt in Tennessee. They have one daughter.

His life modified on the age of 26, when he was again in Texas learning for the bar examination. While he was jogging round his Houston neighbourhood, a 75-foot oak tree collapsed on him, out of nowhere. “The pain”, Abbott remembers in his memoir, “was immediate, excruciating, and unrelenting”. To save his life, docs reassembled his vertebrae and inserted two metal rods alongside his spinal wire. Abbott was left in a wheelchair, paralysed from the waist down.

Abbott declined to pursue experimental remedy that may have restored motion or feeling in his legs, as a substitute accepting his destiny and deciding, as he wrote in his memoir, “to do as much as possible with it”. After serving as a lawyer in a non-public follow, he turned a choose on the Texas Supreme Court and efficiently ran for Texas attorney-general in 2002. During three phrases because the state’s high lawyer, Abbott gained prominence for suing the Obama administration greater than 30 instances on points akin to environmental regulation, transgender rights and healthcare reform. As he once put it: “I go into the office in the morning, I sue Barack Obama, and then I go home.”

In 2014, he was elected governor by a margin of greater than 20-percentage factors, and gained re-election in 2018. He is up for a third time period subsequent 12 months. During his tenure, Abbott has battled a sequence of crises, notably Hurricane Harvey in 2017, and extra not too long ago the coronavirus pandemic, the place he confronted criticism for reopening the state too early, forcing the governor to hit the pause button.

The present outages, which left tens of millions with out energy in temperatures as little as minus 18C, symbolize one in every of Abbott’s greatest challenges thus far. But on Thursday, the governor was rescued from the headlines by a fellow Texan Republican, Senator Ted Cruz, who briefly escaped the disaster by flying to a Cancún beach resort together with his household, solely to return after a public outcry.

Still, Abbott is more likely to return to the highlight. “Governors, like presidents, often get more credit for good things and blame for the bad things than they actually deserve but in the end, like Harry Truman said, the buck stops here,” says Mark Jones, a political science professor at Rice University in Houston.

Jones notes that the present disaster places Abbott and his allies in a notably robust spot. The GOP has had full management of the state’s government and legislative branches since 2003, but it has not required or incentivised vitality firms to put money into back-up capability.

The “one saving grace” for Texas Republicans, together with Abbott, is that they don’t need to face voters once more till November 2022, Jones says. “Much will depend on how long people’s memories are — and what else occurs in the interim.”

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