Greg Abbott, Dan Patrick Call for Party to Unify Behind Trump

Gov. Greg Abbott and Lt. Gov. Patrick Dan Patrick called on Texas Republicans to unite behind presumptive GOP nominee Donald Trump.

* Editor's note: This story has been updated throughout.

DALLAS — The top two Texans in state government called for Republicans to unite behind their party's presumptive nominee, Donald Trump. 

"We must come together, we must support our Republican nominee for president: Donald Trump,” said Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick at the Texas GOP convention in Dallas Thursday morning. 

Gov. Greg Abbott framed his case to the party faithful in a more nuanced fashion. He repeatedly criticized the Democratic frontrunner, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, but he never named Trump. 

“America does not have the luxury to get this election wrong,” Abbott said. “Republicans must unite to prevent Hillary Clinton from continuing the Obama agenda.” 

“All of us, we need to come to grips with the reality that the biggest threat to our freedom is a government that ignores the United States Constitution," he said.  

“The alarm bells are ringing," he later added.

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Patrick made a creative pitch for party unity: A President Trump ought to nominate former presidential candidate Ted Cruz to the U.S. Supreme Court, he said. 

Patrick later elaborated on the notion to reporters.

“The question is: Does Ted want to do that?” he asked. “I don’t know, but I think it would be a wise decision for Donald Trump to offer it.” 

But Patrick mostly brushed off concerns about the GOP's ability to unify around Trump.  

“You never get 100 percent of the people all in, fired up," he said, pointing to dissent during 2012 GOP nominee Mitt Romney's run for the presidency. 

Cruz and the future of the federal judiciary were also on Abbott's mind. The governor's mention of the U.S. senator from Texas elicited cheers from the convention hall. 

“Ted is a true conservative. He deserves our enduring respect," Abbott said. "Now, Ted may have come up short, but that does not end the war."

Abbott repeatedly criticized Clinton and charged there is “no margin for error” when it comes to nominations for judicial seats, including the one on the U.S. Supreme Court left vacant after the death of Antonin Scalia.

“Scalia’s seat must not be filled by Hillary. No seat should be filled by Hillary,” he said. “We must defend the constitution by defeating Hillary Clinton,” he said.

The governor touted Texas — the largest reliably Republican state in the union — as a foil and backstop against Obama administration policies on guns, foreign affairs and on social issues. 

“For every liberal action by Barack Obama, we had a Texas-sized reaction," he said.   

The two men also addressed the ongoing controversy around who can use which bathrooms — an issue that was a recurring theme in Republican speeches Thursday morning. The governor pointed to the situation in North Carolina, which has sparred with the U.S. Department of Justice over the state's House Bill 2, which would prohibit people from using public restrooms that do not align with their biological sex. Patrick and other conservative leaders have pledged to pursue a similar law during next year's legislative session in Texas.

“I am working with the governor of North Carolina, and we are going to fight back,” Abbott said to big cheers. 

Patrick traveled to neighboring Fort Worth on Tuesday to call for Fort Worth Independent School District Superintendent Kent Scribner’s resignation for approving a bathroom policy meant to accommodate transgender students. He doubled down on his stance Thursday. 

“We shouldn’t even be having to have this debate in America,” said Patrick. “It’s common decency. We owe it to the women of America and the girls in our schools.” 

Thousands were in the hall to hear the speeches and Republicans will go about electing a state chairman and voting on a party platform over the course of the next three days. 

Abbott, the state’s GOP standard bearer, took the opportunity to needle beleaguered Texas Democrats and his 2014 Democratic rival, former state Sen. Wendy Davis

“It has been more than 20 years since a Democrat has won statewide office in the state of Texas, and we will extend that streak again this year," he said to roaring cheers and whistles. 

“A lot has changed since our last convention two years ago. You helped me to bury Battleground Texas, and you ended the political career of Wendy Davis.”