The Conroe Trump rally was an opportunity for the former president to tout his endorsed candidates for various statewide offices. Trump endorsed all the incumbents facing contested primaries, including Governor Greg Abbott, Lt. Governor Dan Patrick, Attorney General Ken Paxton, and Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller. Noticeably absent was any mention of any of the candidates running in Texas’ 8th Congressional District where the rally was held.
Conventional wisdom among the political chattering class leading up to the rally was that Trump would use the event as an opportunity to coronate his chosen candidate for the open congressional seat being vacated by Congressman Kevin Brady (R-TX). Conroe is a medium sized town, and many thought it was just too much of a coincidence that the town where Trump would hold his rally happened to be right in the heart of CD-08.
Opinion was split, however, on which candidate Trump was expected to endorse. Most expected that the former president would back front runner Morgan Luttrell, the candidate of GOP House leadership. Luttrell has the strong backing of former Secretary of Energy Rick Perry, under whom he actually worked in the Trump administration. Luttrell is also being pushed by Patrick, who’s advice Trump often heeds when making endorsements in Texas.
A case could also be made that Trump would endorse Collins, who has the backing of the House Freedom Caucus’ political action committee and has been endorsed by top Trump allies such as Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Green (R-GA).
When it comes to Trump endorsements though, Patrick is the most influential player in the state. Trump usually takes Patrick’s advice when making endorsements in Texas, a fact he even admitted during the rally Saturday night. Trump said when Patrick asks him to endorse a candidate, he usually replies, “Absolutely, Dan. Whatever you want.” He joked that the Lt. Governor has, “gotten a hell of a lot of endorsements” out of him.
In fact, Patrick is the one who orchestrated for the rally the be in Montgomery County. Patrick’s involvement in the rally and influence over Trump only fueled speculation that the main purpose of the event was for Trump to play kingmaker in the CD-08 race and announce his endorsement of Luttrell.
However, as Trump’s remarks drew to a close, it became apparent that the former president was not going to weigh in on the CD-08 race- at least not that night. While he name-checked dozens of elected officials, from members of the state’s congressional delegation down to local officials, Trump made no mention of the CD-08 race or any of the candidates in it.
Both Luttrell and Collins could be seen emerging from the backstage area shortly before Trump took the podium. Both candidates sat in the VIP section while Trump spoke.
While Luttrell has Perry and Patrick to vouch for him, it is possible that Trump is wary of him due to a donation his campaign received from anti-Trump Republican Congressman Adam Kinzinger (R-IL). Luttrell’s campaign returned the donation, and he has made it clear he doesn’t share the Illinois congressman’s views concerning the 45th president. Luttrell has also been endorsed by Congressman Dan Crenshaw (R-TX), who Trump seems to have deliberately snubbed at the rally.
Trump has been burned by endorsing in Texas congressional contests before. In a 2021 special election to fill the seat of Congressman Ron Wright (R-TX) who died of Covid-19, Trump endorsed the late congressman’s widow, Susan Wright. However, while Trump’s endorsement gave Wright a boost, she ultimately lost to Jake Ellzey, a state representative endorsed by Perry. The defeat was a humiliation for Trump, and it has reportedly made him more cautious when it comes to endorsing in Texas congressional races.
Surrogates for both Luttrell and Collins have been in Trump’s ear for months now, urging the former president to back their guy. However, The Donald, having been burned in Texas before, is reportedly unsure which camp to trust. As of January 29, the night of his rally, Trump was apparently still undecided. He may never endorse in the CD-08 primary, or he could simply be waiting to see how the race develops further before weighing in. Either way, there is only one thing you can predict when it comes to Donald Trump: he can be completely unpredictable.
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