AP Photo/Evan Vucci
- After Trump’s indictment in Manhattan, his recent rally in Texas seems all the more prescient.
- The ex-president’s support among Texas Republicans will be deeply consequential for his White House bid.
- Trump has previously indicated that he wouldn’t leave the 2024 presidential race if he was indicted.
As former President Donald Trump looks to the 2024 presidential primaries, Texas is poised to be the key to his electoral success.
With a population of more than 30 million people, second only to California, the Lone Star State will play a decisive role on Super Tuesday in steering the trajectory of the GOP.
The dilemma? While Trump has secured endorsements from many top state officials, others are looking instead at anointing the next generation of Republican talent.
Trump’s legal troubles — most recently an indictment from Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg Jr. following an investigation related to hush-money payments made to the adult film actress Stormy Daniels — are sure to complicate things for the former president. It will likely rally his base, but could also imperil his standing among some GOP leaders.
Either way, the Texas primary will likely be a pivotal firewall for the former president.
Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick is one of Trump’s most prominent Republican supporters in Texas.
AP Photo/Nathan Howard
The significance of Trump’s endorsement rollout
After Trump stepped onto the stage at his rally in Waco, Texas, last weekend, he gave the usual speech, decrying his political foes and dismissing the multiple criminal investigations into his conduct.
But the event in the Lone Star State had a deeper meaning; Trump was there to reassert his strength with Texas conservatives ahead of the 2024 Republican presidential primaries.
During the 2020 presidential election, virtually every GOP politician stood firmly behind Trump’s reelection bid, touting his economic policies and praising his three conservative Supreme Court appointments.
After the January 6 riot at the US Capitol in 2021, along with Trump’s continued refusal to acknowledge his 2020 loss to now-President Joe Biden and his less-than-stellar endorsement record in key 2022 general election races, some Republicans have either demurred on taking sides for 2024 or have indicated that they want to support a new candidate.
Among the bold-named Texas figures who have signed on to Trump’s 2024 campaign are Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, state Attorney General Ken Paxton, Reps. Wesley Hunt, Ronny Jackson, and Troy Nehls, and former Rep. Mayra Flores, among others.
Last week, Trump hailed the show of support as one bolstered by grassroots conservatives across Texas, the most populous Republican-leaning state in the country.
Absent from the list, however, were Sen. Ted Cruz, who challenged Trump in the 2016 primary and told RNC attendees that year to “vote your conscience” before eventually becoming an ally of the former president. Also absent was Sen. John Cornyn, who has signaled an openness to considering other presidential candidates next year.
Gov. Greg Abbott, who has been floated as a potential 2024 presidential candidate, was also not on the list.
After Trump’s indictment by the Manhattan district attorney’s office, however, Republicans united to criticize the decision, whether they had signed on to his campaign or not. Trump at the Conservative Political Action Conference in early March said that he would not leave the 2024 contest if he were indicted in any of the ongoing probes.
Patrick called the indictment a “perversion of our system of justice,” while Cruz warned that “more presidents will be indicted” in the future. Paxton said that the courts have been weaponized in an attempt “to silence conservative voices.” Hunt echoed similar claims, remarking that the US judicial system has been “weaponized by dangerous people hellbent on remaking our nation into something unrecognizable.”
The GOP rallying effect will undoubtedly boost Trump with swaths of conservatives in the short-term, but it also reveals the significance of the former president having strong surrogates on the ground. As long as the Manhattan case remains a top talking point for Trump’s supporters, the more it keeps a potential candidate like Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida from making the sort of inroads that he’ll need to move the needle in the race.
Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas won his home state in the 2016 Republican presidential primary. Trump came in second place in that race.
AP Photo/Alex Brandon
It’s all about the delegate count
In 2024, Texas is slated to have 162 delegates, and with neither Cruz nor Abbott now in the presidential race, the former president could win a larger share of delegates than he did in 2016, depending on his ability to retain and expand his conservative support in the state.
When Cruz won the Texas Republican presidential primary in 2016, he captured 104 of the 152 delegates allotted to the state at the time, with Trump winning 48 delegates and Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida securing three.
Cruz took home the lion’s share of Texas’ GOP delegates in what is a winner-takes-most system. In such a process, delegates are allocated to the respective candidates based on who wins individual congressional districts. The statewide victor usually wins the bulk of the delegates.
Trump was aided by the winner-takes-most system in Texas in 2016, as it allowed him to gain delegates by district even as Cruz dominated the overall statewide vote. And in the winner-takes-most states that Trump didn’t carry that year, he was still able to peel off delegates in the multicandidate field, which eventually gave him the requisite votes to win the GOP nomination.
If Trump can put up a strong performance in Texas and win a large share of winner-take-all states — which award the entire share of delegates to the top vote-getter — he’ll be in a strong position to capture the nomination.
But the former president’s continued support among Republicans in the most conservative parts of the state, especially in the Texas Panhandle — which covers much of the district represented in Congress by Trump ally Jackson — will be crucial if he is to win a sizable share of delegates in the primary.
While the minutiae of delegate counts may seem minor at this point in the campaign, it could play a decisive role in the nomination process if a major challenger emerges that could topple Trump as he seeks a second term amid his swirling legal issues.