HOUSTON - Against the painful backdrop of the highest inflation in four decades, the Texas electorate has been "whipsawed" by a succession of deeply emotional developments in a single month's time.
On May 24, a teenaged gunman took 21 lives in Uvalde, including 19 children.
And on the very next day, an excruciating discovery just outside San Antonio where 53 migrants perished within a scalding hot trailer, tragically emblematic of a border in near constant crisis.
With leadership of the state squarely on the November ballot, two recent polls (CBS/YouGov & Quinnipiac) show Democrat Beto O'Rourke creeping closer to incumbent Governor Greg Abbott, whose lead has dropped to single digits.
"Beto needs to do two things if he's to have any chance whatsoever in November - mobilize people who don't normally turnout to vote. But when they turnout, vote Democrat, such as younger voters and some Latinos, and then convince voters who always vote, but vote generally Republican, to switch their vote. That's a really tall order," said Rice University political analyst Mark Jones.
Scott Braddock of the Quorum Report is a veteran reader of the Texas political landscape and sees in issues like gun reform, abortion rights, and grid reliability, a sliver of opportunity for Democrats where there was little before.
"It seems that through a series of gaffes or missteps, the governor is making it easier for Beto O'Rourke to potentially be competitive in this race. The way I think about it is, the Democrats would have to hit the inside straight even to have a competitive race," said Braddock.
Jones went further.
"The reality is things, like the Dobbs decision and the Uvalde massacre, can lead to Beto losing by a smaller margin, but they are not going to be game changers that would allow him to beat Greg Abbott and win statewide," said Jones.
Braddock made note of Abbott's $50 million political war chest and O'Rourke's necessity of partially matching the Republican's financial firepower.
"This is Abbott’s race to lose," said Braddock.