I call the move “shocking,” because for years Hurd has been considered a politician with a near-limitless future, the kind of politician Republicans have long sought: a Republican from a 71 percent Hispanic district on the southern border with a preternatural ability to connect with constituents on both sides of our widening partisan divide. A less capable Republican would almost certainly have been swept out of Texas’s 23 district in 2016—the district went for Hillary Clinton by four points—or if not then, than in the blue wave election of 2018. Rumors have swirled for years that when John Cornyn, the senior senator from Texas and one of the most powerful Republicans in the Senate, finally retires, Hurd would be a likely candidate for his preferred successor.
But in another sense, Hurd’s decision not to seek reelection is entirely predictable: It’s what all the other Trump-skeptical Republicans are doing. Hurd is no dyed-in-the-wool Never-Trumper: He’s already pledged to vote for the president if he’s the Republican nominee in 2020. But the Texas lawmaker has opposed some of Trump’s signature policies, most notably the coast-to-coast wall on the Southern border that was one of the president’s signature issues during the 2016 campaign. But as Trump has made clear time and again, he considers loyalty to himself and his agenda to be an all-or-nothing prospect. There’s no room for the Will Hurds of the world in today’s GOP.