How Beto O'Rourke, Matthew McConaughey Compare in Polls for Texas Governor

Former Democratic Rep. Beto O'Rourke is preparing to run for governor of Texas in 2022, Axios reported on Sunday, but a new poll suggests that Hollywood actor Matthew McConaughey may have a better shot at beating Republican Governor Greg Abbott.

Citing unnamed "Texas political operatives," Axios reported that O'Rourke, a 2020 Democratic nomination candidate, would make a formal announcement later this year.

Although David Wysong, O'Rourke's adviser and former House chief of staff, told Axios no decision had been made, he added: "[O'Rourke] has been making and receiving calls with people from all over the state."

A new poll for the Dallas Morning News shows that O'Rourke has narrowed the gap with Abbott in a hypothetical context. Thirty-seven percent of respondents, across all political parties, said they would vote for O'Rourke, while 42 percent said they would vote for Abbott, 63, and 21 percent said they would vote for someone else.

In July, Abbott had a 12 percent lead over O'Rourke, with 45 percent likely to vote for him and 33 percent likely to vote for O'Rourke, with 22 percent saying they would vote for someone else.

In the recent poll, 18 percent of respondents described O'Rourke as "very favorable," while 16 percent said "somewhat favorable." Sixteen percent said "neither," seven percent "somewhat unfavorable," 35 percent "very unfavorable" and eight percent "don't know enough."

"We hope that [O'Rourke is] going to run," Texas Democratic Party chair Gilberto Hinojosa told Axios. "We think he'll be our strongest candidate. We think he can beat Abbott, because he's vulnerable."

However, the poll suggests that O'Rourke will not be Abbott's strongest challenger. Hollywood actor Matthew McConaughey, 51, has also hinted he would run for Texas governor. It is unclear under what party banner the actor would run under if he decides to run.

But the Dallas Morning News poll suggests McConaughey may have a better shot at winning than O'Rourke. The poll found that 44 percent of the respondents would vote for the Dallas Buyers' Club and True Detective actor if he went head-to-head with Abbott, who only gets 35 percent of the vote in that scenario.

When asked about what the most important quality McConaughey has that means it's worth voting for him, 48 percent of his supporters said his honesty and ability to "tell it like it is" was his main strength. Sharing voters' values was also another important quality, according to the poll. Abbott, meanwhile, didn't score as highly on honesty but more on sharing values, scoring 35 percent of respondents across parties and genders.

Abbott is the architect of a controversial new law that prevents women from legally being able to get an abortion after six weeks. He has also been criticized for his handling of the Texas winter storm that damaged the state's grid system and killed at least 111 people.

A separate poll shows that over the summer, Abbott saw his approval rating sink to 41 percent, with 50 percent disapproving.

Another poll shows the governor's approval dropping to record lows since he first took office. A new survey from The Dallas Morning News and the University of Texas at Tyler found that just 45 percent of Texans approve of Abbott's performance as governor, down 14 points from his approval rating before the COVID-19 pandemic ravaged the state and killed over 60,000 people.

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Beto O'Rourke concedes his Senate race while addressing a 'thank you' party on Election Day at Southwest University Park on November 6, 2018, in El Paso, Texas. O’Rourke is preparing to run for governor of Texas in 2022, Axios reported on Sunday, Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images