Texas AG Ken Paxton's star rises after acquittal
Far from being a diminished figure, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, freshly acquitted in an impeachment trial, is about to go big.
Why it matters: Paxton, long a relatively modest fundraiser among top statewide elected officials, is in the national spotlight now, his profile among grassroots Republicans enhanced as an embattled, Trump-lite character.
- Among those congratulating him on his acquittal were U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, conservative activist and talk radio host Charlie Kirk, Trump-aligned former Arizona governor candidate Kari Lake and pro-Trump political consultant Alex Bruesewitz.
The big picture: "He's gone from an obscure attorney general in a state where people don't pay much attention to the office to having a direct line of communication" with key media outlets and conservative voters, Brandon Rottinghaus, a political science professor at the University of Houston, tells Axios.
- "It's gone from the Big 3" — the governor, lieutenant governor and House speaker, who control legislation — "to the Big 4," Rottinghaus says.
Tune in: Expect to see a lot more of Paxton on conservative media outlets — he's doing a sit-down interview with Tucker Carlson this week.
By the numbers: Paxton had $2.76 million on hand as of campaign finance reports this summer, far less than the $23.29 million in cash that Texans for Abbott reported.
- But following his impeachment, his campaign raised $1.7 million in less than two weeks when a fundraising freeze lifted and after the regular legislative session ended.
What's next: Paxton, who co-chaired Lawyers for Trump in 2020 and famously filed a dead-end lawsuit seeking to throw out election results in Georgia, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin following former President Trump's defeat, could be Trump's running mate — or his attorney general, Rottinghaus says.
- The U.S. attorney general is a Senate-confirmed position, but political forecasters currently predict the Senate will turn Republican.
- And the State Bar of Texas is seeking to sanction Paxton over his 2020 election gambit, which could result in his disbarment.
Plus: Trump will win Texas either way, so there's no real electoral benefit to picking someone from here.
- And he may want to pick a woman — such as Gov. Kristi Noem of South Dakota.
Yes, but: Trump prizes loyalty, and arguably no one has been more loyal to him than Paxton.
What they're saying: Paxton did not respond to an interview request left with his campaign.
- In a statement after the verdict, Paxton blamed his impeachment on the Biden administration and "liberal" Texas House Speaker Dade Phelan, promising to attack Biden's "lawless policies."
- Trump congratulated Paxton over the weekend on Truth Social, his social media platform, on a "great and historic Texas sized VICTORY" and "his wonderful wife and family for having had to go through this ordeal, and WINNING!"
Bottom line: The impeachment is turning into a very successful proposition for Paxton.