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Wendy Davis Is Running For Governor, But Can She Really Win?

Photo: JEREMIAH TEUTSCH, License: N/A

JEREMIAH TEUTSCH


Davis is also outspent in a state where money talks—her most formidable Republican challenger, state Attorney General Greg Abbott’s war chest contains more than $21 million, while Davis has raised $1.2 million, according to Texas Ethics Commission filings. Early polls, conducted before Davis’ official candidacy announcement, show Davis trailing Abbott. Statewide nonprofit Texas Lyceum concludes the state Senator would come in eight percentage points behind her GOP rival based on the currently available polls.

But here’s the flipside. Historically Republican, Texas’ demographics are undeniably shifting. While much focus has fallen on mobilizing the Latino vote, another key (and possibly more influential population) in turning Texas blue can be found in white, suburban women, as the Current’s July 24 cover story explored. Davis brings with her a voting base of these moderate women increasingly disenchanted with the extremism of the GOP and Tea Party. She ignited a grassroots movement of pro-choice Texans (many of them women), cultivating a veritable army of willing and able voters, further organized by the efforts of groups like Battleground Texas, which could potentially help. With 51 percent of women still undecided, according to the preliminary poll, Davis appears poised to capitalize on the swing votes.

Then there’s the unknown. From what we’ve seen of Abbott thus far, he’s already managed to associate himself with some egregious foot-in-mouth comments, aiding Davis in her pursuit to come out on top. Case in point: the AG’s advisor tweeted an article, half-titled, “Why Wendy Davis is Too Stupid to be Governor” and Abbott himself thanked a supporter on Twitter who dubbed Davis “retard Barbie,” (Abbott later issued a light clarification). That went down before Davis even announced. We’ve seen how detrimental woman-bashing gaffes can be for politicians—Todd “legitimate rape” Akin, anyone?

You need not look far into Texas’ own past for more local examples. Richards unexpectedly sunk her well-moneyed Republican opponent Clayton Williams in 1990 after he made a series of PR blunders, including an unrecoverable, offensive rape “joke.”

Lastly, the Davis campaign is surrounded by the good kind of hype. She’s got the same intellectual credentials as past Democrat guv candidates like Bill White and Chris Bell, but exceeds them in the charisma and charm department—with so much of politics contingent upon likeability, that makes a huge difference and translates into political enthusiasm. Following her announcement, you’d be hard pressed not to find enthusiastic Dems proclaiming they can’t remember the last time they were this excited about a candidate in Texas, taking to social media to ask “Where do I sign up?”

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