AUSTIN — "He gets what he wants which is to be governor, but he was able to do it without alienating one of the most popular politicians in the history of the state," Jones said. "Now the pathway between him and the governorship is a clear shot. There's nothing standing in the way, and he created no ill will between himself and Perry."
That's important because Perry has been governor since George W. Bush left for the White House in December 2000 and has reshaped what was traditionally a weak office to wield unprecedented power. Perry's sheer longevity has helped him fill every major appointed office statewide with loyalists — often even his donors — and dictate the direction of the Republican party in one of the country's most-conservative states.
Perry didn't mention Abbott by name but told Monday's crowd: "After January 2015, new chapters will be written, new leaders will write them."
A Democrat hasn't won statewide office in Texas since 1994, and for a generation, the winner of the GOP primary has usually cruised to victory in the general election, no matter the race.
No Democrats have yet entered the gubernatorial field, though state Sen. Wendy Davis, who became a national sensation for staging a filibuster to temporarily block sweeping new limits on abortion, may run.
Gilberto Hinojosa, who chairs the Texas Democratic Party, said a race against Abbott will look very similar to how one against Perry would have.
"They both think the exact same way," Hinojosa said. "Philosophically, there's absolutely no difference between Rick Perry and Greg Abbott."
Hispanics have accounted for nearly 90 percent of Texas' population growth in recent years, meaning demographics may soon no longer be on Republicans' side — but the shift almost certainly won't come in time to affect next year's elections.