Talks with voters and activists in Hidalgo County indicated that there was not one but many answers: women who strongly oppose abortion voted for the first time; Border patrol wives believed the Trump administration was firmly on their side; Mothers picked up enthusiasm for Republicans from friends they knew through church or their children’s school.
There is a deep sense of cynicism for many voters in the region – a feeling that no matter who is responsible, things will not change. After all, the border has been the scene of a humanitarian crisis among both Democrats and Republicans. Almost everyone here knows both undocumented immigrants and border guards, occasionally even within the same family. And for many here, law enforcement remains one of the easiest avenues to reach the middle class, and Republicans have portrayed National Democrats as police.
Both Republicans and Democrats are likely to pour a lot more money into the region this year, where the excitement for the G.O.P. 2020 wasn’t limited to Mr. Trump. For the first time in recent history, a Republican nearly defeated the Democratic incumbent in the 15th Congressional District of Texas, which encompasses most of Hidalgo County and runs north from McAllen to San Antonio.
In the race for next year’s seat, Republican candidate Monica De La Cruz-Hernandez once again challenges Democrat Vicente Gonzalez – but they may compete on different political terrains if the shape of the district’s “streak of fat” is changed to later on this year.
At the local Republican dinner in Lincoln Reagan in March, Mr. Abbott raised support for Ms. De La Cruz-Hernandez and encouraged other women like her to join the G.O.P. Wrinkle, spoke brightly about her political potential and said he was “never so impressed” by the leadership of a county party.
“I’ve never been on stage with so many accomplished, articulate Latinas as I was tonight with this group of ladies,” he told an enthusiastic crowd. “That’s great. If I were the Democrats, I would be very scared now because there is a storm coming, a storm that will win Hidalgo County. I wanted to be here personally, wanted to say thank you.”