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Daily Records in Past 2 Weeks
Cases Increase in Past 2 Weeks
Cases Per 100,000 Population
June 21, 2020
Abbott Pressure Intensifies with Trump Anti-Testing Call
as Rally Fuels Odds for Texas GOP Convention Calamity
By Mike Hailey
Capitol Inside Editor
Governor Greg Abbott and the Republicans in Texas find themselves at the ultimate political crossroads in the wake of the campaign rally that President Donald Trump's campaign staged on Saturday night in Tulsa where the event was an epic disaster in almost every way imaginable.
Abbott for starters must decide if he's going to spurn the president's call for a reduction in coronavirus testing at a time when the state has accelerated it in a frantic game of catch-up in the midst of a record-devouring resurgence that caught the governor by complete surprise despite expert warnings in advance.
The Republican governor sought for almost two weeks to dismiss the massive Texas spiking as a function of a significant testing boost that simply made it appear like the spread had escalated. But the actual numbers convey a dramatically different story in a state where the daily count of new cases on Sunday was 110 percent higher than it had been just one week ago compared to a mere hike of 10 percent in diagnostic testing in the same span of time.
Texas broke the record on Sunday for the eleventh straight day in terms of the number of people who are hospitalized here with COVID-19 infections. The daily tally of new coronavirus cases in Texas hit its second highest point today since the initial outbreak in March after setting records in four of the five previous days.
The Republicans who are planning to converge on Houston in three weeks for their biennial state convention face decisions on whether they love Trump enough to put their lives at potentially serious risk by following the lead of Trump's Tulsa loyalists who abandoned social distancing and refused to wear masks despite pleas from local health officials.
After watching Trump try to fire up the true believers in an arena where two-thirds of the seats were empty at his first major public pandemic event, Texas GOP Chairman James Dickey could be presiding over a state convention with a historic amount of no-shows if a substantial number of people at the Tulsa rally fall ill as expected.
Texas party leaders probably can expect substantially more protesters outside the George R. Brown Convention Center than the state confab would have attracted if Trump hadn't laced a speech of nearly two hours in Tulsa with blatant race-baiting and rants that characterized the social justice movement as a left-wing anarchist mob.
Trump blamed the dismal turnout in Tulsa on dangerous crowds outside the BOK Center where his own supporters outnumbered demonstrators who were actually marching around the arena peacefully. But the president's fear of protesters prompted him and Vice-President Mike Pence to cancel speeches that they'd planned outside the building for supporters who would not be able to get into the arena that Trump had promised to pack.
Will GOP leaders in Texas take a page from the Trump campaign playbook by recruiting young black people to space among the delegates in Houston for the appearance of diversity on television news coverage like the president's team had obviously done in Tulsa?
Trump mostly ignored the worst pandemic in more than a century in a speech that focused almost exclusively on self-admiration including a claim that he was more qualified to be president that Democrat Joe Biden because he's more handsome and has better hair. Trump devoted an incredible amount of time to an explanation of why it had appeared that he needed help getting down a ramp from the stage at a speech at West Point Academy last weekend. Trump appeared to diminish the military when he repeated numerous times how he'd been somewhat fatigued after being compelled to salute 600 times as a token gesture at West Point.
Trump portrayed himself as a world-class negotiator with a long and highly-detailed account on how he got a great deal with the expenditure of taxpayer funds on two brand new Air Force Ones that Boeing wanted to sell to the U.S. for $5 billion before he bargained down the price to $4 billion.
But Trump's most troubling claim in Tulsa might have come when he revealed that he'd ordered a decrease in COVID-19 tests across the U.S. as a way to curb the surge in Texas, Oklahoma, Florida, Arizona and other southern states with Republican governors.
Abbott has been learning the hard way about the dangers of false impressions as the coronavirus surges to new heights on a daily basis in a Lone Star State that could have a shortage of intensive care beds in hospitals at some point this week. The Republican governor knows that he set the stage for massive Texas virus spiking by declaring that the state had the virus under control for a month while allowing testing to slack off and appearing to prohibit local mask orders that were desperately needed in hindsight.
Abbott's removal of the roadblock on face-coverings last week in the midst of a virulent second outbreak is a passive admission that he was dead wrong with the creation of an appearance that the coronavirus had subsided as the justification for a reopening timetable that the public probably would have supported if he'd been honest about it.
But the governor's turnabout on masks came just days after he'd said that personal responsibility would be the key to pandemic survival in the same statement that conceded that the less government strategy had failed with young adults abandoning social distancing and other protocols based in large part on Abbott's rhetoric and actions.
Abbott is an intelligent person who appears to care about the health and safety of the people he represents despite his on-again, off-again leadership during the coronavirus crisis. The governor appears to be admitting the errors of a lax approach with a significant increase in coronavirus testing in the past week. Will the governor comply with Trump's plan to fight the virus by pretending that it doesn't exist? Or will Abbott resurrect his original pandemic priorities and do everything in his power to try to contain the spread regardless of what Trump thinks about it?
The president's most prominent Texas supporters like Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick and U.S. Senators John Cornyn and Ted Cruz have been uncharacteristically silent so far today as politicians who've sought to praise the president at every recent turn. Cornyn has the most to fear in the Trump rally aftermath as the only member of that group who will be running this fall on the same ticket with Trump.
Dickey faces an all but impossible balancing act in the meantime as the chief organizer of the Trump pep rally in the state's largest city in mid-July when the state convention has massive disaster potential.
But the governor will feel the most pressure as the leader of a state that's paying the price now for letting the guard down based in significant part on Abbott's moves and words when it needed to be more vigilant than ever. Abbott has to choose now between Trump and the public health and safety in Texas where the Democrats odds of taking over have never been higher than they are on the day after the calamitous Trump campaign rally in Oklahoma.