Texas State Senator Wendy Davis is closing in on Attorney General Greg Abbott in the polls. She is down from an 18 point deficit to a 9 point deficit. It is a month before the election and people are now starting to listen. Her message is resonating as she is exposing the cronyism and corruption conducted in Austin, Texas by a government under solid Republican control for decades.
The status quo is the status quo until it is not. Conventional wisdom has pundits dismissing the possibility of a strong Democratic performance at the top of the ticket in Texas because of the fallacy that Texas is a Red State, a Conservative state.
The reality is that the people in Texas have Blue values. They have bought into the narrative that the state is Conservative. What is true is that Conservatives vote and Liberals and Moderates in Texas don’t. They haven’t because too many Democrats have sounded like Republican Lite, a reinforcement on the notion of Texas being a Conservative state.
If Texans are given real choices that they believe, they will register. They will vote. Texans are looking for a reason to vote. Wendy Davis is giving Texans that reason. She gave compelling reasons Texans needed a governor like her in a speech she gave at the National Press Club before she officially started to run. Texans already knew she was willing to fight for positions she and many Texans believe in based on her epic filibuster a couple summers ago.
Over the last several months many have been worried about the direction of the Wendy Davis campaign. Was she being ‘handled’ too tightly by her managers? The assertive woman that got things done seemed a bit too measured. While she held her own in the first debate with Greg Abbott, she seemed a bit too controlled and staged. She held her own but it was not a debate that would move the poll numbers.
Wendy Davis’ knocked the second debate out of the park. She kept Greg Abbott on the defensive from the beginning. She showed that she commanded issues most dear to the voters likely to vote for her, education and healthcare. Most importantly she followed one of the most basic principles in politics, message personalization. Drew Westin talks about this in his book the Political Brain. It is something Republicans have been doing for years. Personalize the issue in a form that can be consumed by the voter.
Wendy Davis was able to portray Greg Abbott accurately as a candidate that would sacrifice the health of Texans for his own ideology. More importantly she was able to do so by showing he was lying about the numbers. She used a message of fiscal responsibility as the reason she will accept the Medicaid Expansion to Obamacare. She did not allow Greg Abbott to make Obamacare the issue. She made him defend the reason for not bringing Texas dollars back home.
Wendy Davis’ full throated defense of women reproductive rights, marriage equality, the Dream Act, driver licenses for the undocumented, and many other Progressive tenets were refreshing. She showed a stark contrast between candidates. She definitely was not a Democrat trying to appear as a lighter version of a Republican.
Debates notwithstanding, Wendy Davis, has been an unrelenting campaigner. She has been crisscrossing the major population centers on a continuous basis. Harris, Dallas, Bear, and Tarrant counties as well as the Texas Valley is her stumping ground. Volunteers are working in the very Red counties as well to attempt to register old time Democrats (Texas was a reliably Democratic state for a long time).
Time is running out. Voter ID laws are problematic. That said, if the activity and enthusiasm seen throughout the state is met with similar activity at the polls through early voting and in November, the status quo in Texas will be broken. Wendy Davis will win and a host of qualified Democratic statewide candidates down ballot will as well. Texas will likely turn Blue before it turns purple.