“The reason I came is because he was a premature baby, and I am now considered a high-risk pregnancy,” said Azucena Salinas, 20, a pregnant substitute teacher who stood at the back of Mr. O’Rourke’s event in Pittsburg with her 8-month-old son, Malakai. “I want to have the choice and the right for the doctors to be able to give me an abortion when my life is in danger.”
Apart from courting conservatives, Mr. O’Rourke’s strategy is focused on turning out new voters, recruiting an army of volunteers — his campaign already claims 80,000 — and campaigning across the state. He is currently in the middle of a 49-day drive across Texas that ends next month.
Mr. Carney said Mr. Abbott had also been reaching across party lines to disaffected Democrats, particularly those Hispanic voters who have drifted toward the Republican Party.
At his stop in Whitesboro, Mr. O’Rourke drew hundreds of supporters to a renovated church near a downtown gun store. He also attracted scores of protesters, many with handguns on their hips. One man carried an AR-15-style rifle, and another had a flag depicting the weapon in place of a cannon over the famous slogan from the Texas revolution: “Come and Take It.”
“The race is really, really close,” said Rod Parker, a revivalist preacher with a .40-caliber handgun on his hip who helped organize the protest. If Mr. O’Rourke wins, he said, Texas would “end up being like a California or an Oregon or a Chicago, and we’re not putting up with that garbage in this town.”
Inside the campaign event, Amy Maxey, 46, said she was happy to see the crowd of mostly fellow Democrats gathered there, but she also bemoaned the anger that Mr. O’Rourke’s visit had brought to the surface. She said that as she entered, a protester had told her she was not a Christian because of her support for Mr. O’Rourke.
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