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Texas Republicans want Biden to play the bad guy.  They just need to make it hold.

Texas is mounting its offenses earlier and more aggressively than it has against former Democratic president – including a new challenge on Tuesday. It’s the same role California and New York played when Donald Trump was president, suing for abortion restrictions, Obamacare changes, and immigration measures. California did not let go, filing nine lawsuits against the federal government on the last day of Trump’s tenure.

Yet Biden’s long years in the public eye, the more subdued tone he struck on the election track in the face of liberal pillars like Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) And Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) And the fact that he’s white made him less polarizing than Obama.

And while Biden may still prove to be a useful villain for GOP leaders frustrated with more liberal policies than Obama’s, they’re also trying to fend off a far-right insurgency as Republicans court suburban voters. more moderate.

“There was more popular opposition to Obama, Stimulus and Obamacare,” said Republican consultant Brendan Steinhauser, who worked on campaigns for Senator John Cornyn and Representative Dan Crenshaw, both Republicans from Texas. Trump has activated a different kind of Republican voter, he said – a voter who cares less about promoting the conservative economy and more about the sore spots of the culture war.

Where Texas Republicans used the legal system ten years ago to deliver a steady stream of red meat to their base, Biden is a much less popular target after losing Texas by less than 6 percentage points in 2020, an unusually close result in the reliable red state. .

The coronavirus also has many Texans, long an autonomous race, rethinking the role of the federal government to intervene during a crisis. About 48% of Texans approved of Biden’s handling of the pandemic, compared to 44% for GOP Texas Governor Greg Abbott, according to March polls from the Texas Politics Project.

“It’s a different time and a different place,” Steinhauser said.

Still, Texans’ perspective on the administration could change quickly if Biden decides to limit guns or relax abortion restrictions. One thing that the fractured GOP base can agree on for now is to try to counter the president’s platform.

When Biden marked his first 100 days in office, celebrating the reopening of K-8 schools, economic recovery, and vaccination efforts, he also started lawsuits from Texas over the Keystone XL pipeline, restrictions on drilling on federal lands and an immigration issues.

Late last month, Texas filed another lawsuit against the White House over Covid protocols at immigration facilities and joined a multi-state lawsuit challenging the administration’s plans to start calculating the cost again. social carbon emissions. A new lawsuit was launched on Tuesday challenging restrictions in the latest Covid relief law that prohibits states from using the money to offset tax cuts. And Abbott and Paxton blamed the White House for the increase in the number of migrants traveling to the southern border.

Texas Land Property Commissioner George P. Bush said state agencies were “very vigilant” over the actions of the Biden administration.

“Sadly, we’re off to a precarious start,” said Bush, who is considering a run for the Texas attorney general that would face him against Paxton in the Republican primary next year, said in an interview. “We are setting up a legal defense task force that is looking at many of the same issues that we tackled during the Obama days.”

It’s a familiar role for Texas officials who have long bragged about pursuing legal action against the Obama administration. It is one way of presenting itself as a bulwark against the overbreadth of the federal government, even though the lawsuits themselves have a mixed record.

The Texas Public Policy Foundation, a conservative think tank, has hired more lawyers to prepare lawsuits against the Biden administration and plans to be “active,” said Chuck DeVore, vice president of national initiatives at TPPF.

He and other Texas Republicans say the lawsuits are not about politics, but are being used to counter the leftist policies of the Biden administration.

“We don’t see anything from the current administration that makes us think they don’t care about the state of Texas,” Texas Republican Chip Roy said., a former assistant to Paxton.

Yet the pandemic has also created a rift in the Texas Republican Party, reducing Abbott’s grip on the state’s GOP and leaving room for far-right party leaders who have criticized his mask mandates. and his order to stay home. Last summer, former Florida Rep. Allen West was elected president of the Texas GOP and has since used his perch to chastise traditional pro-business moderates in the state. Like Republicans elsewhere, his allegiance to Trump has shaken the shrinking portion of mainstream GOP loyalists eager to overtake the former president.

Abbott is well funded as the 2022 governor’s race draws near. But to survive the primary and general elections, he will need to chart a path between disparate factions that include Republicans who have crossed party lines to vote for Biden – a president whose overall approval in an April ballot rivals Abbott’s and who didn’t have to fight. with the litany of racist animosity that Obama faced.

A health care divide

The adversarial relationship between Texas and the federal government dates back to the New Deal, said Brandon Rottinghaus, a professor of political science at the University of Houston, who is writing a book on former Texas Governor Rick Perry. The state, which has no income tax, gets about a third of its budget from the federal government, a higher share than many other states, he said. This is in part due to farm aid and federal aid disbursed after natural disasters, but also because Texas has a large portion of people enrolled in law programs like Medicaid.

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