HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- In the middle of a crowd that his campaign estimated at more than 600, Democrat Beto O'Rourke hit on familiar themes during his stump speech at the Fort Bend County fairgrounds.
O'Rourke talked about Texas' electric grid, voting rights, gun laws, and challenged the state's current leadership. Afterward, ABC13 asked him what singular issue most interests those who attend his rallies.
"Overwhelmingly," he said, "people are talking about jobs and talking about the kind of jobs we want to see here. The kind that actually pay."
But the job O'Rourke himself seeks won't be easy to earn. Incumbent Gov. Greg Abbott has a large campaign chest and governs a solid Republican majority in both the Texas House and Senate.
"It looks as though in the current landscape, Democrats, Texas Democrats have a real challenge," said Prairie View A&M assistant professor Eddy Carder. "It's going to be an uphill battle with regard to them making any significant reversals in the Republican leadership in the next cycle."
While O'Rourke's path is clear through the primary and into the general election, Gov. Abbott does face challenges from within his own party. Notably, they come from former Texas GOP Chair Allen West and former State Senator Don Huffines, both of whom paint Abbott as not conservative enough.
"In order to get out of the primary you have to cater to the left in the Democrat primary and to the right on the Republican primary," said GOP strategist Court Koenning. "And so he's having to do that because he has a challenge but when the primary election is over he will likely moderate a bit. "
There are factors that could drastically change the dynamics. Another grid failure or a worsening pandemic could hurt Abbott. Voting rights and abortion could motivate some to the polls. O'Rourke doesn't seem to think it would take any of that if he talks about what he thinks all Texans care about most.
"When we keep the focus on jobs, on great schools, and on making sure that everyone can see a doctor," O'Rourke said. "Then we give everyone a reason to participate in the election and to decide the outcome."