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Texas Politicians Objected To The Electoral College Results. What Could That Mean For Their Futures?

Ted Cruz speaks in front of microphones, standing in front of several American flags on stands at the Capitol.
Graeme Jennings/AP
/
Pool Washington Examiner
Sen. Ted Cruz

Many of Texas' national politicians objected to the results of the electoral college vote on Wednesday, even after pro-Trump extremists stormed the Capitol. That choice could influence how well they do in 2022's midterm elections.

President Donald Trump and his allies have been insisting for months — without evidence — that the presidential election was rigged.

Texas Sen. Ted Cruz was one of the chief objectors during the certification of the electoral college votes Wednesday. In the House, 16 of Texas's 23 Republican representatives objected as well.

The certification is usually a ceremonial process, but that all changed with the objections and an attack on the Capitol by pro-Trump extremists.

KERA's Miranda Suarez spoke to Matthew Eshbaugh-Soha, professor and chair of the political science department at UNT, about how Wednesday's historic events will impact Texas politics.

How did you feel, watching what happened at the Capitol?

Well, the events of Jan. 6, 2021, were intense. I, however, tend to be a relentless optimist. And so I looked at the situation and understood that it was a small group, however threatening, that eventually was contained, the Capitol was secured, and our representatives went back to doing what they were constitutionally obligated to do — which was to certify the electoral college votes in a duly constituted, legal, and fully binding presidential election.

How would you explain Texas' big role in the objections?

The state of Texas is still solidly Republican. It went clearly for Donald Trump, even though there are areas of blue and purple in the state.

If you look at those representatives, these are fairly solidly Republican, conservative districts. Representatives and Sen. Ted Cruz are making sort of a judgment about their future political prospects. They know that salient issues are going to drive voters. They're trying to decide which voters are likely to be most effective and engaged by their decisions. And I think they calculated, even after the incursion on the Capitol and the violent protests, that they were better off sticking with their guns, staying with their intent to challenge the electoral college votes, because under their best judgments, two years from now, they're more likely to excite voters who would approve of their actions, versus being at risk to being opposed by those who didn't.

It's always an electoral calculation. I think they maintain that it was better politically for them, and more representative of their constituents, to stay the course that they had outlined previously.

Even though Trump lost, how will his presidential legacy affect politics?

People will remember Trump. Some people even have hopes that Trump will run again in 2024. These are very active voters. These are people who will vote in two years. That's the group of people that these representatives need to keep their eyes out for.

Are they likely to be challenged from the left? Probably not. Is it more likely that they could have sort of a far-right challenge? Yes. Not all, but many of them. And I think that's part of the calculation.

Will there be any fallout for the lawmakers who objected?

Beth Van Duyne, that's a good race to watch. She was in a close call district. Winning that first reelection is difficult. So I think that'll be a key race to watch, and see how she continues to evolve and think about this particular issue. She's vulnerable already after the 2020 elections, but I think this might make her even more vulnerable. But again, it really depends on who's likely to turn out in 2022.

How could this affect Ted Cruz's presidential ambitions?

I think the biggest, biggest issue or biggest problem for any of those individuals actually concerns Ted Cruz. Earlier this week, I think he saw this effort to call for an emergency audit as his way to appeal to Trump supporters going into 2024 and the Republican nomination. I think it's extremely difficult for a sitting U.S. Senator, to have taken actions that — whether directly or not — certainly encourage the actions of Jan. 6, 2021.

Is he going to be able to garner any kind of support in the Republican Party that would allow him to be the Republican nominee? Prior to this, I think there was a chance, because he might be able to consolidate those Trump supporters behind him if Trump doesn't run again. But I think now he, in some ways, is a discredited figure. He hasn't been well liked in the U.S. Senate anyway. And I think his political career is definitely in jeopardy.

I think that the fundamental question is, do you really want to support somebody for the highest office in the world's greatest democracy, when they don't even embrace the institutions that they would be constitutionally obligated to defend?

Some representatives objected to the Electoral College votes but also condemned Wednesday's violence on social media. Can they reasonably do both, when casting doubt on the election threw fuel on the fire?

Some want to have their cake and eat it too. You aren't appealing to national public opinion. You're not even necessarily appealing to state public opinion. You're appealing to the opinions of your constituents. And representatives are very good at getting reelected. They know their constituents' opinions. I think that they understand what they're doing. It might seem inconsistent, and hypocritical to many. But the key group of voters, of course, are those constituents. And I think many of them would say, yes, we don't support violence. They will say that the actions of their representatives didn't lead to that.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

Got a tip? Email Miranda Suarez at msuarez@kera.org. You can follow Miranda on Twitter @MirandaRSuarez.

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