September 18, 2013

Is #WendyDavis the answer? (updated)

Update, Sept. 5: With her ailing father now having died, after two weeks or so of reasonable respect for her privacy, we shuld know for sure, one way or the other, what Davis thinks about herself being the "answer" as Texas Democrats' gubernatorial candidate. 

Update, Sept. 18: Well, we will know one way or the other whether she thinks she is the answer on Oct. 3. That's when she's set to make an announcement.

The question, of course, for Texas Democrats, is, "can we win a statewide race," especially the governor's mansion, with all of us fondly saying "adios, mofo" to Rick Perry.

The answer is, not likely in 2014, not even with Wendy Davis.

She looks good, right?

Who wouldn't love her filibuster? Especially with all the livestreaming making Lite Guv David Dewless look idiotic and bullying in real time?

And, she twice won a GOP-leaning state senate seat, right? (More on that later.)

That said, for people urging her to run for governor in 2014? Slate has a good analysis of that. It would be an uphill slog. But, not totally so. She's now got name recognition to leverage, especially if TDP gets Obama-smart with online outreach, simply using things like the best video snippets of Davis'.

Beyond that, she's unquestionably more dynamic than either White or Bell, presumably more liberal overall than White, and certainly more liberal than Sanchez was.

And, meeting with the head of the Democratic Governors' Association certainly fuels the fires and speculation.

At the same time, her rising star power doesn't change any of the basic issues mentioned above to any significant degree.

Political scientist Cal Jillson stresses that in this story (subscription needed, but quote via Off the Kuff):
Jillson warns Democrats not to be swept away by “Wendy-mania.”

“The events of the past week have certainly amped up the energy in Texas politics, but the changes required to turn Texas purple, let alone blue, will still be a decade or more in coming,” Jillson said.

Indeed, a Houston Chronicle analysis of election data from 2000 to 2012 found that demographic shifts toward an ever-increasing minority population will only take Democrats so far. The study, conducted last November, found that if current demographic and voting trends continue, Texas will become a politically competitive state in 2020 and a true toss-up in 2024.
Well put. The Texas Tribune has a similar take.

And, Kuff pours a bit more cold water of reality on Davis' chances against both Perry and Abbott. (Interestingly, she's the only by-name Democratic possible who polls better against Abbott than Perry. Abbott crushes Perry in most Dem-hypothetical matchups. That's probably more reason Perry's July 8 "exciting news" announcement is not about running for re-election as governor.)

And, speaking of cold water, I've already poured some of that on the hype about Battleground Texas and Hispanic demographics, etc.

Would that it were different. Davis is more dynamic than either White or  Bell, certainly a real Dem unlike Sanchez (and more liberal than White), and has shown she can win over independent voters.

Speaking of ...

People who tout Davis' state senate results ignore that even if her district tilts Republican, it's still suburban Republican. In the less Austinized portions of the Hill Country, in the Piney Woods, in West Texas, that means bupkis. Sorry, folks but true. And, while those parts of Texas are gradually becoming a smaller part of the total vote pie, they're nowhere close to insignificant.

NPR nails this with a map of Obama's 2012 performance in Texas. In short: He didn't win anything that wasn't majorly urban or majorly Hispanic. Now, I'm not expecting Davis, or whomever, to win, or even try to win, a small county in the Panhandle. But, she, or whomever, does have to be more competitive in an exurban place like Ellis County, southeast of Dallas. Or in smaller but not insignificant, cities like Wichita Falls, Abilene or Tyler.

And that means a targeted effort to recruit recent transplants to Texas.

If BG Texas is serious, and if Davis is serious, people who have moved to Texas from other states within the last decade also need to be targeted.

Well, some of them. For example, if database info tells you that Mr./Ms. X moved to The Woodlands from Orange County, Calif., you write them off. But, targeted campaigns toward people who moved here from, say, the Columbus, Ohio, area? Different story.

That NPR piece is part of a larger series on changing demographics (and other issues) and how they relate to Texas' political future.

So, again ... Davis might run a closer race than most Democrats. That said, to riff on Kuff, her better numbers against Abbott than against Perry might be due to enough name recognition power to help.

Kuff now has an update on Davis' early fundraising. She's accumulating a pile enough to mount a strong Democratic primary, but she needs yet more to be a viable general election candidate.

In another post, Kuff rounds up the talk about the idea of her running for Lite Guv, which makes a lot of sense.

Update, Aug. 5: It doesn't make sense to Wendy. Without either ruling in or ruling out a run for Guv, she's not interested in Lite.

Update, Aug. 30: The Dallas Observer's Jim Schutze, in a greatly snarky piece, wonders why, if BG Texas is so interested in Hispanic votes, it is so in love with a white woman? He also refers a NYT piece that notes that both other Texas white women and Hispanics are more conservative than her on abortion.

Finally, in terms of her electoral politics, if you want real change on issues other than abortion, Davis likely is not the answer. Nor is NAFTA-loving Julian Castro. Sure, either one of them may help with "winnability," though, as Schutze notes, abortion won't appeal to "independent" women voters in Texas, let alone would-be crossovers. And Sanchez, along with his other baggage, may still not speak Spanish that well, or appeal that much more than did ... Tony Sanchez.

Update, Sept. 17: Meanwhile, a University of Houston political science claims that Davis may just have a shot. Off the Kuff and Brains and Eggs report generally favorably (with Brains noting a major error in his 2006 numbers for Chris Bell), but I'm still somewhat in the Jim Schutze camp on thinking a strong pro-choice stance could actually drive away suburban white women swing voters, at least if it's far and away the top talking point.. Even if GOP misogyny is on the rise, a lot of GOP-leaning suburban white women are still comfortable enough with it that Davis will still have an uphill row to hoe unless she develops a platform on other issues. Like education, which is ripe for the picking.

On the other hand, both Schutze and I could be wrong. Kuff cites a UT political scientist, James Henson, with this:
One reason to think that suburban women might be part of an electoral solution for the Democrats: They haven’t been swept up in the conservative ideological surge personified by the Tea Party. Between October 2010 and June 2013, conservative identification decreased from 49 percent to 38 percent among these women.  ...

But opposition to her is far from unanimous among women, in part because suburban women are some of the biggest supporters of abortion rights in the Texas electorate: 45 percent think that abortion should be allowed in all circumstances as a matter of personal choice. This is a big gap compared with 38 percent of all Texas women and 36 percent of Texans generally — and only 13 percent of Republicans of both genders.
On the third hand, that last graph shows just how purplish sububs of the Texas Triangle's main cities have become. Note that Henson doesn't sort out suburban white women, suburban GOP leaners or anybody else. Still seems a thinnish reed.

Finally, if she's not the answer, who is? Leticia van de Putte is both female and Hispanic, if you want to check boxes. And, surely, more liberal overall, and more broadly liberal, than Davis.

Update, Oct. 4: Let's loop this back to Schutze. Some would say Davis can't go too liberal. It's clear, as San Antonio's alt-weekly spells out in detail, that she needs to get white women to vote for her. So, per my blog post about her announcement, she has to broaden her focus. Can she do that, but be reasonably liberal on jobs, education and other things?

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