Gov. Greg Abbott plans 60 reelection campaign stops, fewer than 60 days before the GOP primary

Gov. Greg Abbott speaks to supporters at a meet-and-greet at a University Draft House restaurant in Edinburg on Nov. 30. (Eddie Gaspar/The Texas Tribune, Eddie Gaspar/The Texas Tribune)

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Gov. Greg Abbott is preparing to rev up his reelection campaign — including 60 campaign stops in under two months — as he readies for the March 1 Republican primary before a likely general-election battle against Democrat Beto O'Rourke.

Abbott is set to officially announce his bid for a third term this weekend in the Rio Grande Valley, where he will discuss his goal to win the Hispanic vote, according to his campaign. Then he is launching a statewide media blitz Monday. And before the primary, he plans to appear at 60 campaign events.

Abbott's campaign says the objective is to supercharge turnout in the GOP primary.

"It's fundamental math and science that the more voters vote in the primary, the more voters will vote for you in the general election," said Dave Carney, Abbott's top political adviser.

Before Abbott can directly confront O'Rourke, who faces minimal opposition in the Democratic primary, Abbott has to get through a nominating contest that features several critics on his right, including former state Sen. Don Huffines of Dallas and former Texas GOP chair Allen West. Abbott has publicly ignored his primary challengers, and his campaign insists that everything it is planning is focused on the general election.

Huffines, who has self-funded his campaign with millions of dollars, has already been airing TV ads, including an attention-grabbing spot during the Dallas Cowboys game Sunday.

Abbott's formal announcement that he is seeking another term is scheduled to happen Saturday at his campaign's Hispanic Leadership Summit in McAllen. He is expected to discuss his agenda for another four years — and how he wants to capture a majority of the Hispanic vote in November. He won 44% of the Hispanic vote in his 2014 campaign and 42% in 2018, according to exit polls.

The media buy will unfold across TV — broadcast and cable — and radio through the primary, his campaign said. The campaign has already booked $1.3 million in air time through the end of January, according to Amplify Media Strategy, a Democratic media-tracking firm. Huffines has spent $560,000 on TV time since December.

News of Abbott's TV buy got out Wednesday, and O'Rourke seized on it to raise money, reminding donors in an email that he "started this race with $0 when Greg Abbott already had $55 million."

O'Rourke wants to visit all 254 counties like he did during his 2018 U.S. Senate campaign and has hit over two dozen since launching his latest campaign in November.

As for Abbott's visit to the Valley — a place where the governor has gone all in on border security under President Joe Biden — O'Rourke said Abbott "should trust border communities to make their own decisions in their backyard."

"Everything Abbott has meddled with for his own political gain has failed. Look no further than ... the Texas National Guard deployed for Operation Lonestar," O'Rourke said in the email, referring to recent reports of suicides and pay issues among the National Guardsmen that Abbott has sent to the border.

After his visit to McAllen, Abbott is expected to stay in the area for an event Monday in Edinburg with the Border Patrol Council.