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One debate, two candidates for Texas governor. Did anything change?

While O’Rourke is asking for more debates, Abbott says he’ll only do one. And our most recent poll might help explain why.

EDINBURG, Texas — Republican Gov. Greg Abbott and Democrat Beto O’Rourke spent 57 minutes together in an empty auditorium on the campus of The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley in their first and only debate before the November election.

While O’Rourke is asking for more debates, Abbott says he’ll only do one. And our most recent poll might help explain why.

“Texas Decides,” a joint effort between the Texas Hispanic Policy Foundation (THPF) and Tegna Texas stations WFAA, KHOU, KENS and KVUE, found that Abbott leads O’Rourke by 7% (51% to 44%) among likely voters.

Perhaps most significant in the gubernatorial race is the fact that voters seem hardened in their choices, with little room for movement come November. 95% of all likely voters who say they’ll vote for Abbott tell us they are “certain” about their vote choice. 94% of all likely voters who will back O’Rourke say they are “certain” about that choice.

Since the debate was held on the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley (UTRGV) campus in Edinburg, the Y’all-itics team turned to Dr. Clyde Barrow, Chair of the UTRGV Political Science Department.

Our poll shows that border policy is a winning issue for Republicans.

And Dr. Barrow agrees, especially when you think about it as a pocketbook issue.

“If you put it just in simple terms that the ordinary citizen thinks about is my job. Well where’s the job growth in the Valley and the government sector? It’s all in this border security complex. That’s primarily a Republican issue,” professor Barrow said on Y’all-itics.

While Governor Abbott’s Operation Lone Star has sent thousands of members of the Texas National Guard and state police to patrol the border, Barrow says the border security complex is much larger than that.

“So, if you’re voting your job and you’re in that sector, which is enormous down here right, it’s the border patrol, it’s ICE, it’s the state troopers, it’s the detention centers, it’s the jails, it’s local police, it’s thousands and thousands of jobs, you’re going to vote Republican and your family’s going to vote Republican, not because you’re, quote, conservative, because you’re going to vote your job,” he told us.

And our poll found that an absolute majority of likely Texas voters support six border policies implemented by Abbott, including sending the Texas National Guard and Department of Public Safety to patrol the border.

54% of likely Texas voters support the state spending $1.5 Billion every year on border security.

Only 34% approve of the way President Joe Biden is handling the situation at the U.S.-Mexico border, while 56% approve of the way Abbott is handling it, including 54% of Independents and 93% of Republicans.

And it means something that the one, and so far only, gubernatorial debate was held in south Texas, miles from the border.

South Texas has become a symbol of the debate between Democrats and Republicans.

But Dr. Barrow tells us GOP success would only mean so much in a state like Texas.

“If the Republicans could flip the Valley red, I think in practical terms, it would have absolutely no impact on state level politics because it’s already two-thirds Republican in the state legislature,” Barrow said. “But symbolically, it would be a great victory that they could carry with them in the state and nationally as well.”

The Jasons watched the debate in its entirety. For more of their analysis and interesting observations about what happened, listen to our latest episode of Y’all-itics, out now. Cheers!

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