COVID absent from campaign messaging in Texas
Texans are still testing positive for the coronavirus, but candidates up and down the ballot are staying far away from talking about masks, vaccines and other pandemic topics that were a staple of campaigning over the last two years.
The big picture: Dwelling on COVID could seem out of touch with an electorate that is now more concerned about the rising cost of groceries than about mask wearing.
Between the lines: In Austin, signage requesting masks in businesses has disappeared, events are at full capacity and there are few debates surrounding vaccines and testing in the workplace.
- That shift is also clear in campaign messaging.
Flashback: Ahead of the 2020 election, in the throes of the pandemic, campaign ads for both Democrats and Republicans in a Hill Country congressional district race between Wendy Davis and incumbent Chip Roy featured mask-wearing.
- In January of this year, GOP candidate Don Huffines ran a GOP primary ad that said "When other Republicans are siding with Dr. Fauci" — over an image of Gov. Greg Abbott wearing a mask — Huffines "stood for your freedom."
Yes, but: This year's general election ads haven't had the same tone.
- Even Democrat Beto O'Rourke, who previously criticized the governor's handling of the pandemic, has been quiet on COVID in his TV ads.
What they're saying: "There isn't much to be gained either way on this issue," Daron Shaw, a professor of government at the University of Texas, tells Axios.
- "Public attitudes in Texas are ambivalent: There is some sense that things were locked down too long — especially with respect to the public schools — but there is disagreement on this. More to the point, other issues — prices, crime, border security, education — have eclipsed COVID."
Of note: In the latest round of polling from UT's Texas Politics Project, conducted in late August and early September, 1% of respondents named COVID as the most significant problem facing Texas. Border security and immigration ranked as the top issues.
- The same poll found that 21% of Texans describe COVID as a "significant crisis" — down from 43% at the start of this year.
By the numbers: New cases in Texas are in decline.
- The Texas Department of State Health Services reported 473 new daily confirmed cases on Monday, the latest data available. At this time in 2020, there were more than 6,600 new daily cases.
- As of Oct. 13, the latest data available, local health officials reported a 7-day rolling average of 48.7 coronavirus patients in area hospitals, which include Bastrop, Caldwell, Hays, Williamson and Travis counties. That figure was around 100 patients in October 2020.
The bottom line: COVID is still slowly spreading, but that doesn't mean candidates want to talk about it.
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