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Cynthia M. Allen: Texas Gov. Abbott for Trump VP? Buzz has quieted, but here's why he's a good choice

Cynthia M. Allen, Fort Worth Star-Telegram on

Published in Op Eds

When Donald Trump visited the southern border in February, he told a Fox News host in an interview that Gov. Greg Abbott was among those being considered as his running mate.

It wasn’t much of a surprise. It was almost a courtesy.

Of course Trump would consider (or at least say he was considering) Abbott while visiting the state he governs, especially given Abbott’s early endorsement of Trump and his supportive rhetoric on one of the most salient national issues this election cycle — the border.

Abbott downplayed the veep mention, telling NBC news hosts on Super Tuesday that he is deeply committed to governing Texas and focused on nothing else. As he should be.

Since that time though, Abbott hasn’t enjoyed much consideration from Trump, at least not according to those who have insight into the Trump campaign’s machinations.

That’s to the relief of many in Texas, particularly those who flinch at the suggestion of Abbott’s more pragmatic conservatism mingling any further with Trump’s MAGA right.

But there’s a case to be made in favor of the Texas executive, especially as Trump — the inevitable GOP nominee — considers some weaker and more problematic candidates.

To start, it’s no secret that Trump doesn’t have any particularly deep interest in policy or governing.

His first term illustrated that. The actual work of being president will be left again to his Cabinet and advisers, which means he’ll need to be surrounded with serious people, not sycophants or attention-seekers.

Abbott, to his credit, is neither of those things.

Whether you appreciate all of his decisions as governor, Abbott isn’t histrionic or bombastic; he would lend a seriousness and sobriety to the ticket that is lacking in Trump.

Unlike some of the other potential VP picks, several of whom are senators, Abbott also has the kind of executive experience that would be needed in a second Trump White House.

Texas is one of the most populous states in the country, growing by leaps and bounds due, in many ways, to Abbott’s good governance.

While there are other governors being considered for VP — South Dakota’s Kristi Noem, Sarah Huckabee Sanders of Arkansas and North Dakota’s Doug Burgum, for instance — they each manage a much smaller state with fewer political complexities than Abbott faces in Texas.

Former President Donald Trump arrives in Eagle Pass, Texas, in Febrauary, where Texas Gov. Greg Abbott greeted him. Abbott’s expertise and record on the border could be valuable to a Trump ticket and administration. Omar Ornelas USA TODAY NETWORK

Then, of course, there is the border.

 

No issue will loom larger in this campaign than how the government should manage the influx of migrants pouring across the border and into the nation’s interior.

And no other VP contender shoulders that burden more acutely or has the relevant knowledge and experience necessary to manage the border crisis than Abbott.

That makes him uniquely qualified in a way that other prospects, not to mention current vice president Kamala Harris, who was charged with managing the border (and has failed spectacularly), are not.

The conventional wisdom on VP picks is that while a poor selection can hurt a candidate, a VP selection often doesn’t provide much in the way of electoral help.

That’s mostly true. And Abbott says he can be of more help to Trump if he remains in his current role.

But this election is different.

Both Biden and Trump are, shall we say, very senior, and from an actuarial perspective, there is significant risk that neither would finish a full second term.

That makes their seconds-in-command a more important consideration than perhaps any election in recent memory.

As some analysts have suggested, the election is likely to come down to a handful of critical counties across a few battleground states.

America is choosing between two highly polarizing candidates, both of whom have sought to appeal to the furthest reaches of their respective parties.

While Abbott has gravitated further right on a handful of issues, like school choice, his pro-business policies and his strength on the border have broad appeal to more mainstream Republicans. And he hasn’t alienated the party center with outrageous rhetoric or policies designed only to attract support from the fringes.

Abbott probably still has presidential aspirations of his own, as well. And the next vice presidential nominee — especially if Trump wins — will be strongly positioned to be the GOP successor.

That should be incentive enough to select a serious VP candidate. The party could do a lot worse than Abbott.

Texas would suffer losing him as governor, but assuming a Trump victory, the nation would be a lot better off.

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©2024 Fort Worth Star-Telegram. Visit at star-telegram.com Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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