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Even a losing Texas gubernatorial bid could help Wendy Davis and Democrats
The state senator famous for her abortion filibuster probably won't win. But winning isn't everything.
 
Texas state Sen. Wendy Davis (D) speaks at the National Press Club on August 5.
Texas state Sen. Wendy Davis (D) speaks at the National Press Club on August 5. Win McNamee/Getty Images

Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R) may or may not be running for president in 2016. But one thing is for sure: He isn't running for re-election in 2014.

The safe money is on state Attorney General Greg Abbott (R) waltzing into the open governor's suite. But Texas State Sen. Wendy Davis (D) is at least going to jump into the race to give Abbott a proper fight, says Texas lawyer Robert Miller, citing "credible sources."

Davis earned international fame by staging a grueling 11-hour filibuster of a package of restrictive abortion laws, postponing passage for a few weeks and drawing attention to both the law and herself. She has beat long odds before. Could she actually defeat Abbott?

Not likely, concedes Miller. But she's no shoo-in for re-election in her Republican-leaning Senate district, either, and "if she is going to have a tough nationalized race, she would prefer it be for governor." Besides, "the stars could align, however improbably, and she could conceivably win." Besides, winning isn't everything, Miller adds:

Assuming she runs a credible race, a cabinet or subcabinet position would probably be available to her under President Obama or in a future Clinton administration. Lastly, a strong showing in 2014 would position her as the frontrunner for the Democratic nomination for governor or U.S. senator in 2018, assuming the Democrats have a better shot with each passing election cycle. [View From the Gallery]

And regardless of whether she wins in 2014, Texas Democrats will be happy to have Davis at the top of their ticket, says Ross Ramsey at The Texas Tribune. They are mostly hoping that she has "some political magic, and that it's contagious" — that the presence of a relatively famous, beloved-by-Democrats candidate for governor will draw other credible candidates statewide and "attract voters who might influence other races below the statewide level."

The "pundits and other self-appointed experts" are hoping Davis jumps in, too, Ramsey adds. "For sheer political theater, a governor's race that includes Davis would be a lot more interesting than one with a very well-financed Republican candidate and no Democrats, which is what the ballot looks like now."

Even Republicans seem kind of excited about the prospect of Davis running for governor. She isn't very popular in GOP circles, and the idea of defeating her must hold some appeal.

But not all observers are convinced that Wendy Davis for Governor is that quixotic a campaign. After all, she would be well-funded for a Texas Democrat (Abbott, who is personally very wealthy, will be better funded), and she has won her reddish Senate seat at least twice before. As Fort Worth Star-Telegram columnist Bud Kennedy noted on Twitter, Davis "has carried 5-7% of Rs in her district and drawn women who don't usually vote or poll." Even so, he added, "it's a horrible year for a D in TX."

For all the talk of Texas one day going blue, the Lone Star State remains very conservative. That doesn't mean Davis can't win, says William McKenzie at The Dallas Morning News, but it does mean she probably shouldn't "play the liberal card" and "go hard on issues that appeal to the Democratic base." Instead, she should call Bill Clinton and other Democrats with "the unique ability to take a Democratic message to Southern voters."

The bottom line is this is one big, uphill climb for Davis. She has star power, but she can't win it going the traditional Democratic route. She has to run hard to the middle and even to the right. That could cost her with some Democrats, but that's the only way she can win. [Dallas Morning News]

 
Peter Weber is a senior editor at TheWeek.com, and has handled the editorial night shift since 2008. A graduate of Northwestern University, Peter has worked at Facts on File and The New York Times Magazine. He speaks Spanish and Italian, and plays in an Austin rock band.

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