AUSTIN, Texas—The most interesting place to watch election results come in this evening will be in the Lone Star State’s capital, which for at least one night has a rightful claim as the center of the Republican universe.
On Tuesday evening, some of the brightest future stars of the Republican Party—for 2016 and beyond —will be gathering in Austin to attend Texas gubernatorial candidate Greg Abbott’s Election Night watch party.Establishment figures, Tea Partiers, evangelicals, and libertarians will all be rubbing elbows at a single theater. It’s a diverse crowd, but they have one thing in common: They’re Republican elites that could influence the trajectory of the party for decades.Some of the most prominent 2016 contenders are expected to attend: Sen. Ted Cruz, a Tea Party favorite; former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush; and outgoing Texas Gov. Rick Perry.
Cruz, Texas’ firebrand junior senator, is beloved by the party’s right wing and recently won the straw poll at the Values Voter Summit, a key early test of evangelical support in a Republican presidential primary. His natural base overlaps in many ways with Perry’s, who saw his 2012 presidential run fall apart amid a series of embarrassing gaffes.
But Perry’s spectacular flameout last cycle hasn’t precluded him from once again acting like a presidential candidate. Like Cruz, he is widely seen as a real contender for the Republican nomination in 2016.
Bush, meanwhile, hails from the more moderate “establishment” wing of the GOP. Long understood to have presidential ambitions, Bush is openly flirting with a 2016 run of his own, and would be an early favorite for the nomination despite his support for causes despised by much of the Republican base, such as Common Core educational standards.
Candidates worth watching for elections beyond 2016 will also be in attendance. Jeb Bush is in town supporting his son’s campaign for Texas land commissioner, a powerful statewide office. With speculation swirling around his father’s potential candidacy, it’s not hard to imagine that higher political office might be in the cards for George P. Bush.
Abbott, not yet elected governor, has himself already been flagged as future presidential material. Texas governors have a habit of running for president: Just ask Perry or former president George W. Bush.
“[I]f Democrats keep the White House in 2016, a Republican governor of Texas could find himself ideally placed to make a play for the next Republican presidential nomination,” wrote The Washington Post’s Reid Wilson. The likeable, wheelchair-bound Abbott has proved himself to be a dogged campaigner, and will likely defeat Wendy Davis, the much-hyped Democratic gubernatorial candidate, in a landslide Tuesday night. Disabled in a freak accident while attending law school, Abbott has been able to unite the sometimes-fractious Texas GOP behind him while aggressively courting the Hispanic vote, an ability seen as key to reviving Republican fortunes nationwide.
Also attending Tuesday evening will be Sen. John Cornyn, who is up for re-election this year and expected to easily win a third term. Cornyn is currently the second-ranking member of the GOP in the Senate, and would become an even more powerful lawmaker if Republicans retake the chamber after the midterms. It’s good optics for all involved, and Election Night in Texas is expected to be exuberant. If the GOP retakes the Senate, the excitement in Austin will mirror that felt by Republicans nationwide. In addition to Cornyn and Abbott, George P. Bush will likely coast to victory. It’s not expected to be a long night: Republicans expect the results will be quickly called in their favor. With local favorite Bert’s BBQ being served and victory in the air (as well as the musical stylings of Texas country musician Pat Green), the Abbott watch party in downtown Austin is the place to watch the 2014 midterms go by.