San Antonio Express
Originally Posted: January 26, 2016
GEORGETOWN – In Williamson County, long perceived as the buckle on Texas’ conservative Republican belt, the lunchtime conversation on a recent day was about Donald Trump and why he should be president, instead of Ted Cruz, the well-liked home-state senator.
Cruz and Trump, the New York real estate magnate, are leading a pack of candidates battling for the GOP presidential nomination.
“(Trump’s) an outsider. He’s a sharp businessman. I think he could do the job,” said Butch Owens, 51, a small business owner and self-described “genetic conservative,” as he hiked across the courthouse square. “We need an outsider as president, someone who’s not part of politics. Ted’s close, but Trump’s closer.”
Similar sentiments are not hard to find in surrounding communities, from Taylor, an east-county farming center, to Pflugerville and Round Rock, urbanized bedroom communities near Austin, in a week when Trump garnered the highly-coveted endorsement of conservative GOP icon Sarah Palin.
And while plenty of Cruz campaign signs hint at his support in the county, political observers say Trump has helped trigger another trend: Conservative voters are reassessing just what it means to be a Republican in this presidential election year, a trend that could trickle down to voting in state and local races.
As Southern Methodist University political scientist Cal Jillson sees it, those distinctions will play a role in who wins Texas’ Republican primary, a contest where national polls have shown Trump leading Cruz, but where the latter holds an advantage as a Texan and a proven vote-getter with the conservatives and tea party activists who will anchor the GOP turnout. READ MORE