Governor Abbott in the wings.

Photographer: Erich Schlegel/Getty Images

The Governor of Texas Is Up to Something

Jonathan Bernstein is a Bloomberg View columnist. He taught political science at the University of Texas at San Antonio and DePauw University and wrote A Plain Blog About Politics.
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Yes, they do things bigger in Texas. Greg Abbott, the first-term Republican governor, not only supports a new U.S. constitutional convention, but has nine -- nine! -- proposed amendments he’d like such a gathering to endorse.

Putting aside what a bad idea a convention would be, or the wisdom of rolling back the federal government designed by Madison and Hamilton and the rest of the Constitutional Convention of 1787, I still have one question: What is Abbott up to?

Maybe he’s running for re-election. Abbott isn’t up until 2018, but that means he’s just two years away from the primary in a state with plenty of Republicans who have little loyalty to party leaders. Not only that, with oil prices in the dumps, there may be a chance of a local recession, even if the U.S. economy does fine. There’s not much a Texas governor can do about the world oil market, but he can pander to Tea Party types and remind conservatives he's no Republican in Name Only.

Maybe he’s running for vice president this year. He only took office last January, but he wouldn’t be the first to win the veepstakes with little experience under his belt. Granted, Texan Ted Cruz would not select him, but if a more mainstream conservative is nominated, Abbott might be a logical choice to unify the party.

Or maybe he’s already running for the 2020 presidential nomination. Perhaps Abbott thinks Donald Trump (or Cruz) will be nominated and lose badly; perhaps he just thinks 2016 will be a good year for Democrats. Either way, if the 2020 field is open, the governor of the largest Republican state is a logical front-runner if he can start to build some national credentials. Pushing constitutional amendments to allow states to overturn decisions by the U.S. Supreme Court and to limit the scope of the Commerce Clause is one way to start.  

Abbott is a talented politician. If he thinks this is a smart move for him, there’s a good chance it is. He sees the value of pushing ideological buttons now. And he might also be telling us he doesn't think a Republican president will be running for re-election four years from now.

This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the editorial board or Bloomberg LP and its owners.

To contact the author of this story:
Jonathan Bernstein at jbernstein62@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story:
Katy Roberts at kroberts29@bloomberg.net