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       CNN | 4/11/2021 | Listen
       Did Ted Cruz's Cancun trip distract from the biggest political
       failure in Texas?
       Analysis by Chris Cillizza, CNN Editor-at-largeUpdated: Thu, 25 Feb
       2021 17:02:28 GMTSource: CNN
       Unless you have been living on another planet for the last few weeks,
       you know that Texas Sen. Ted Cruz (R) went to Cancun -- for a day --
       while his state was in the grips of extreme cold weather and massive
       failure of its power grid. 
       Cruz's terrible judgment -- and weak attempt to explain that poor
       judgment -- drew national (and international) headlines. 
       But, did it also obscure the stumbles and poor decision-making by Texas
       Republican Gov. Greg Abbott? As in, did Cruz's bad publicity make
       us miss the real story of the grid failure -- Abbott's own
       failures amid crisis?
       After all, Abbott, as governor, has far more actual influence in the
       way the state makes (and made) decisions about its power supply -- and
       oversight over the groups that are responsible for ensuring that a
       catastrophe like the one that happened earlier this month in Texas
       don't happen. Abbott, for instance, appointed longtime aide DeAnn
       Walker to head the state's Public Utility Commission, one of the
       entities with oversight of the Electric Reliability Council of Texas
       (ERCOT), which runs the Texas power grid and has come in for the
       lion's share of blame for the outages. 
       And it was Abbott who tried to initially blame liberal energy policies
       for the crisis -- after ERCOT reported that some wind turbines has
       frozen in the cold weather. "This shows how the Green New Deal
       would be a deadly deal for the United States of America," Abbott
       told Fox News' Sean Hannity, neglecting the fact that the primary
       reason for the electricity shortage was due to issues with the
       state's natural gas supply.
       And it was Abbott who aside from that Hannity interview, was largely
       absent from the airwaves amid the teeth of the crisis. As the
       Washington Post noted on February 21:
       "It was clear by Tuesday afternoon that Texas was in a full-blown
       crisis — and Gov. Greg Abbott (R) had largely been out of sight.
       "More than 4 million households did not have power amid
       dangerously low temperatures, and an increasing number did not have
       heat or running water. Some families were burning furniture to stay
       warm, grocery stores were emptying, and people were dying. In the
       freezing darkness, many desperate Texans felt they were left to fend
       for themselves.
       And it is Abbott who, according to an analysis by the National
       Institute on Money in Politics, has collected more than $26 million in
       campaign contributions from the oil and gas industry. And who has
       received thousands of dollars in contributions from three members of
       ERCOT's board. (Five members of the board resigned earlier this
       And it is Abbott -- along with the rest of the Republican elected
       officials in the state -- who ignored recommendations to winterize
       their energy operation following a 2011 winter storm that seized up a
       decent chunk of the state's power grid. As the Texas Tribune wrote
       "In 2011, Texas faced a very similar storm that froze natural gas
       wells and affected coal plants and wind turbines, leading to power
       outages across the state. A decade later, Texas power generators have
       still not made all the investments necessary to prevent plants from
       tripping offline during extreme cold, experts said."
       To be clear: The blame here is not Abbott's alone. There's
       plenty blame to go around when something this catastrophic happens. But
       by any objective measure, Abbott's actions (and lack of action)
       should leave him with far more blame than, say, Cruz who, as a sitting
       Senator has virtually no formal role to play in the crisis. (As I noted
       last week, Cruz still should have understood that his job is to comfort
       struggling constituents, whether or not he can do anything specific
       about the problem.)
       How much of a hit -- if any -- has Abbott taken for his
       less-than-stellar performance amid the crisis? It's not clear
       because there hasn't been any quality polling done since the power
       problems hit. 
       But according to a Texas Tribune/University of Texas poll released in
       October, Abbott's approval numbers were on the decline.  A total
       of 47% of Texans approved of the job he was doing as compared to 40%
       who disapproved. That's not terrible but it's a far cry from
       the 56 percent favorable/32% unfavorable rating that Abbott had in the
       same poll back in April 2020. Much of Abbott's declining numbers
       was explained at the time as the less than stellar ratings he was
       getting on the coronavirus crisis; 44% approved of how he was handling
       the virus while 46% disapproved in the October Tribune poll.
       Even if Abbott's numbers take a further hit in the wake of the
       electricity crisis (and it seems likely they will), he still has to be
       considered a favorite to win a third term next November given
       Texas' (still) Republican tilt.
       That said, former Rep. Beto O'Rourke (D) has been making noise
       about a potential run for governor and, if he does run, could make
       Abbott's life much more difficult between now and November 2022.
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