Wendy Davis has a Problem
Wendy Davis will not be governor of Texas.
If you believe that she will, I am perfectly willing to make a $100 wager on it for the benefit of the Navy Seal Foundation.
She will, however, earn more national media attention and raise more money than any Texas Democrat in the modern era. She may, in fact, perform better than anyone since Ann Richards.
The Fort Worth state senator, though, faces a vexing challenge.
Raising money requires liberalism. Earning votes requires moderation.
Therein lies the rub.
Davis won election in her marginal state Senate district as a challenger in 2010 and reelection in 2012 by running as a pro-business moderate. That was her well-established campaign image.
However, in 2013 Rice University’s Mark P. Jones analyzed the votes of all 31 Texas senators and found Davis to have the fourth most liberal voting record.
The abortion filibuster, apart from the heated ideological debate that still surrounds it, forever altered Davis’ public image. She became a national celebrity, gracing the cover of Vogue. President Barack Obama famously tweeted his support. She quickly gained more than 100,000 Twitter followers.
But pro-choice views, particularly in terms of protecting so-called late-term abortion (terminated pregnancies after 20 weeks) is deeply unpopular among the voting population in Texas and hardly appears moderate.
With Obama never facing the voters again, national Democratic donors and liberal outside groups are looking for candidates they can believe in.
Davis had that potential.
Battleground Texas came here, they joined up with the Davis campaign, and they are working to register voters with the expensive goal of increasing minority turnout. Recently questions have been raised about the legality of their efforts, and that will likely be investigated and ultimately adjudicated.
The campaign is still young.: Tomorrow’s: primary marks the end of the preseason. With Abbott and Davis as their party nominees, the season now begins in earnest.
To prepare for the season, Davis has already attempted to move to the middle.
She now says she opposes “late-term abortions,” a surprising statement from Planned Parenthood’s favorite Texan.
She now says that, despite her lifetime “F” rating from the National Rifle Association, she supports open carry. Not concealed carry. Open carry!
I am sure there will be more policy changes to come from Davis and her campaign.
Far more serious is the damage that was done by the Dallas Morning News report that Davis embellished her personal story.
She got caught trying to turn a good story into a great one.
It was unnecessary. It was unprofessional. And it likely ruined her as an effective on-camera messenger for her campaign in the general election.
Trust takes time to earn and only a moment to lose.
The Davis campaign responded with an ostrich routine that would have been embarrassing in a high school student council campaign. They waited ten days to have the candidate respond directly, and by then the damage was done. They tried to blame her opponent, but Wayne Slater, the reporter behind the story, said the Abbott campaign had nothing to do with it.
In the end, Davis will run an energetic campaign. She will win no more than 45 percent of the vote. She will brush up her resume and perhaps chair Hillary Clinton’s 2016 campaign in Texas or work within the pro-choice movement, with an eye toward the future.
In this race, she will try to win suburban votes among women voters. She may even have some marginal success.
But in the end she will be forced to choose between making policy compromises that depress national donors and her liberal base or ignoring moderation and losing badly.
Davis never should have run for governor. She was suckered into it by sycophants who saw her as an ATM. She has been poorly served so far.
In the end, everyone around her will benefit, but she will lose. Texas will not be a battleground in 2014 or 2016.