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The two brutal challenges Texas' Abbott may not know how fix

Between a suspect power grid and a disastrous Guard deployment, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott is confronting challenges he doesn't know how to fix.


It was about a year ago when Texas was slammed by a harsh winter storm, which carried deadly consequences. As we discussed at the time, the Lone Star State experienced widespread power outages, which had drastic consequences for families and communities, and which was responsible for hundreds of deaths.

Soon after, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott turned to Fox News to complain about, of all things, renewable energy. The Republican's rhetoric didn't make any sense.

Nearly a year later, as winter approached, the governor made clear that the state had learned valuable lessons from the tragedy. The day after Thanksgiving, Abbott boasted that he could "guarantee the lights will stay on."

This week, as The Texas Tribune reported, the GOP governor started walking back his "guarantee."

With freezing weather expected to hit a large portion of Texas this week, Gov. Greg Abbott on Tuesday tried to assure Texans that the state is better prepared this year than last, but said there could be local power outages throughout the state.... "No one can guarantee there won't be [power outages]," Abbott said Tuesday, just over two months after he promised the lights would stay on this winter.

It was against this backdrop that the governor's Democratic rival, former Rep. Beto O'Rourke, kicked off a new statewide 20-city tour in support of his candidacy. It's called the "Keeping the Lights On" tour.

This is not, however, Abbott's only crisis. The Wall Street Journal reported last week:

Texas Republican Gov. Greg Abbott is being blamed by GOP opponents and Democrats for bungling the deployment of thousands of National Guard troops to the border under his signature program Operation Lone Star after a recent spate of suicides among the troops. The deployment was hasty, Guardsmen say. Some stationed on the border say they have little to do, which is leading to low morale. As well, the state has been slow to pay them, Guardsmen say.

When the governor launched the initiative nearly a year ago, it appeared to be a massive political stunt, intended to impress conservative media and would-be primary voters. Now, Operation Lone Star is a real-world disaster, with Texas National Guard troops condemning the "deplorable conditions" and an "unclear mission," all of which is drastically disrupting the troops' lives.

Obviously, what matters most about stories like these are the effects felt by people, their families, and their communities. Power outages don't have party affiliations. National Guard deployments aren't supposed to be inherently ideological.

That said, it is an election year. The latest Dallas Morning News-University of Texas at Tyler poll found Abbott leading O'Rourke by double digits, 47 percent to 36 percent.

That's a sizable advantage, but political winds sometimes change direction in a hurry.