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Gov. Greg Abbott on Sunday backed Donald Trump’s campaign to return to the White House while hosting the former president on the Texas-Mexico border.
“We need Donald J. Trump back as our president of the United States of America,” Abbott said during a speech in Edinburgh, promising that Trump would secure the border and “restore law and order.”
Trump said the endorsement was a “tremendous honor” given how hard Abbott worked to strengthen the border under Democratic President Joe Biden.
“Mr. Governor, I’m going to make your job a lot easier,” Trump said. “You’re going to be able to focus on other things in Texas.”
Abbott made the endorsement after he and Trump served meals to service members deployed for Operation Lone Star, Abbott’s sprawling border security mission. As part of the effort, which cost Texas billions of dollars, Abbott sent state troopers and members of the National Guard to the border to arrest migrants crossing the Rio Grande. Some of the arrests are the subject of civil rights lawsuits against the state.
Before Trump’s visit, Democrats redoubled their criticism of him and the governor’s immigration strategy. During a news conference Saturday, Julie Chavez Rodriguez, Biden’s campaign manager, said Trump would introduce “extreme, inhumane and fundamentally un-American” immigration policies if he wins a second term.
In recent months, the former president has vowed to reinstate his ban on travelers from Muslim-majority countries and refused to commit to reinstating a controversial policy that has led to family separations.
“Trump’s trip to Texas is not about securing the border,” Rodriguez said. “This is just another snapshot of what we know to be one of the most anti-immigrant governors whose policies have forced vulnerable women and children into horrific conditions.”
Abbott’s endorsement comes as Trump’s lead widens among other Republicans seeking the 2024 presidential nomination. Both nationally and in Texas, Trump is far ahead of his closest rivals, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and Nikki Haley, former ambassador to the United Nations.
Abbott’s support is notable because he has not embraced Trump as much as some other state officials such as Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, who twice chaired Trump’s Texas campaign. Abbott has not often attended Trump campaign events in Texas, such as the stop he made in Houston earlier this month. Instead, Abbott made a surprise trip to Israel at the time, saying he wanted to show solidarity after the October 7 attack on Israel by the Palestinian militant group Hamas.
Trump and his allies have also shown occasional signs of frustration with Abbott over the years. Most recently, Trump asked in May on his Truth Social platform why Abbott was not speaking out about the Texas House impeachment of Attorney General Ken Paxton, a top Trump ally in Texas.
But Abbott and Trump have already found ways to strengthen their relationship during the election. Trump gave an early and decisive endorsement to Abbott in his contested re-election primary last year, and Abbott appeared at a Trump rally in the Houston area weeks before the primary, which the governor easily won.
Trump called Abbott’s nod “a big endorsement,” saying the governor is “not free and easy with endorsements.”
Earlier this year, Abbott’s relationship with DeSantis was also the subject of political intrigue. As DeSantis rose to the top following his landslide re-election in Florida, Abbott and his agenda faced regular comparisons to his newly installed fellow GOP governor. DeSantis visited Texas in March and played down the tension in remarks at a GOP fundraiser in the county, hailing the two states as leading partners against the political left.
Abbott also knows Haley from her time as a fellow GOP governor in South Carolina. They have made several appearances together in Texas, including in the final weeks of his re-election bid last year.
Earlier this year, Abbott himself was considered a possible presidential candidate in 2024. Although he has never ruled it out, speculation faded when his legislative agenda stalled on Capitol Hill, prompting four special sessions.
Abbott stayed out of the presidential primary all year, even as DeSantis and Haley toured the state for fundraisers and cut corners with some of Texas’ biggest donors. When asked in August whether he preferred DeSantis or Trump on border policy, Abbott dodged the question.
“We just want a Republican president,” he said.
Uriel Garcia contributed to this report.