By\u00a0Ross Ramsey\r\nThe number of people on the other side of the state\u2019s border with Mexico is on the mind of every politician seeking state office this year. If that\u2019s surprising to you, you must be new here.\r\nDon Huffines\u2019 commercials during the first Dallas Cowboys game of 2022 (he\u2019s running for governor), U.S. Sen.\u00a0Ted Cruz\u2019s suggestion that President Joe Biden\u2019s lack of action on immigration might be grounds for impeachment (Cruz isn\u2019t on the ballot, but has a podcast), and\u00a0Beto O\u2019Rourke\u2019s writings about the injustices of dispatching National Guard troops to the border over the holidays (he\u2019s also running for governor) are early signs of what\u2019s coming on that front.\r\nAnd don\u2019t forget about the other big talking point of this election, one foreshadowed by the quick norther that plunged thermometer readings\u00a0through much of the state last weekend.\r\nIt got extra dramatic potential from Gov.\u00a0Greg Abbott\u2019s\u00a0unsubstantiated guarantee\u00a0that the state won\u2019t get another set of blackouts during freezing weather.\r\nThen there is the peculiar timing of this year\u2019s election: Early voting in the party primaries starts on the anniversary\u00a0of widespread electric blackouts\u00a0during a polar vortex a year ago.\r\nThe weather will probably turn cold. Maybe it\u2019ll be cold-cold, like last year. And the lights will probably stay on; after all, what happened last year only happens a couple of times every decade in Texas.\r\nThere is no certainty that last year\u2019s experience will repeat itself in a way that would upend the elections. The border, however, is another matter. It\u2019s high on the list of voter concerns, particularly among Republicans, who have elected every statewide official in Texas since 1994. It\u2019s a perpetual matter of political anxiety, recurring persistently through decades of elections.\r\nWith a Democrat in the White House, the Texas Republicans in state office have several reasons to play it up. The number of people massing at the border to come into the U.S. reached historic highs last year.\r\nAmong Republican voters in Texas, immigration and border security regularly top the list of \u201cmost important problems\u201d facing the state; in the October University of Texas\/Texas Tribune Poll, 68% of those voters had those issues at the top. It barely registered with Democrats; only 2% put those issues atop their lists.\r\nThose Republican voters seem eager to blame President Joe Biden, turning a normal Texas concern into a powerful partisan issue in this election year.\r\nThat same\u00a0October UT\/TT Poll\u00a0found 22% of Texans approved of his handling of border security and immigration, while 63% disapprove of his performance on that front. Abbott\u2019s ratings were better: 46% approve of his handling of those issues, while 43% do not. Among Republican voters, 79% said they like what the governor has been doing.\r\nEven with that, conservative challengers to Abbott, like Huffines, a former state senator from Dallas, are critical of the governor\u2019s efforts to seal up the frontier.\r\n\u201cWhen I\u2019m your Republican governor, Texas will stop the illegal invasion at our border. And I\u2019m not asking permission from the federal government,\u201d Huffines\u00a0said in one of his TV ads.\r\nCruz singled out immigration when talking on his \u201cVerdict with Ted Cruz\u201d podcast about chances that Republicans \u2014 if they win a majority in Congress \u2014 will try to impeach Biden.\r\n\u201cI do think there is a chance of that, whether it\u2019s justified or not \u2026 I think there are potentially multiple grounds to consider for impeachment. Probably the most compelling is the utter lawlessness of President Biden\u2019s refusal to enforce the border. His decision to just defy federal immigration laws,\u201d\u00a0Cruz said in his podcast.\r\nAbbott and the Legislature responded by putting up $3 billion in state funding to build barriers and to dispatch state police and National Guard troops to the border. Huffines doesn\u2019t think it\u2019s enough. O\u2019Rourke,\u00a0writing in the Houston Chronicle, accused Abbott of using Texas National Guard troops as political pawns.\r\nThe governor\u2019s\u00a0public relations efforts\u00a0to minimize political exposure to the electric grid problems will pay off \u2014 if the weather cooperates and the lights stay on.\r\nNo matter what happens on that front over the next few weeks, the border will remain an issue. The importance of that first topic in the elections is a possibility. The second is a certainty.\r\nThis story originally published by the Texas Tribune.