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5 reasons Wendy Davis just might win the Texas governor's race
It's a longshot, but...
It could happen.
It could happen. (Stewart F. House/Getty Images)
Y

esterday, Wendy Davis, the Texas state senator who entered the national spotlight after her 11-hour filibuster of a strict abortion bill, announced that she was running for governor.

That certainly makes the race more interesting. But can Davis' pink Mizuno running shoes actually carry her to the governor's mansion?

It won't be easy: Texas is still a very conservative state. It did, after all, elect Republicans Rick Perry and George W. Bush as its last two governors. Still, the GOP would be unwise to write her off. Here are five reasons why Davis just might pull off an upset in 2014:

1. Rick Perry isn't running
The Republican candidate Davis will likely be facing, Texas Attorney General Greg Abbottt, is no slouch. By July, he had already raised $20 million. He also has a record of dominating his competition in past elections and already leads Davis by eight points, according to a recent poll.

But he's no Rick Perry. Ill-fated presidential run aside, Perry won three consecutive terms as Texas governor and probably could have won a fourth if he had decided to run. In March, polls had Perry beating Abbott handily in a hypothetical primary, 49 percent to 17 percent. Abbott's biggest problem? Name recognition. Davis, on the other hand, has already captivated the national press, and her name recognition in the state doubled after the filibuster.

2. Texas is turning purple
The Democratic Party once viewed Texas as a lost cause. Now it's actively trying to turn the state blue, a hope fueled by drastic demographic changes. While most white voters in Texas still vote Republican, the state is home to a growing number of eligible Latino voters, who overwhelmingly vote Democratic.

Here, based on U.S. Census numbers, is how political scientist Robert Stein predicts the Texas electorate will shift through 2025:

Obviously, Davis is running for governor in 2014, not 2025. But the odds aren't as stacked against her as before.

3. There is a precedent
In 1990, two-term Republican Texas Governor Bill Clements stepped down. The man looking to replace him, Clayton Williams, had a healthy war chest and a 27 percent lead on his Democratic challenger. The result? Ann Richards fought her way to a three-point victory in November.

4. It might take only one massive gaffe from Abbott to swing the election
At his West Texas cattle ranch, Williams made a gaffe that many thought sunk his campaign, saying that some rape victims should just "relax and enjoy it.'' Afterwards, polls showed that enough suburban women flocked to Richards to give her the win.

The GOP might want to be worried about history repeating itself in 2014. As TIME's Judith Warner writes, Davis elicits an "almost Pavlovian response from anti-woman blowhards." One example: After her filibuster, Twitter user @jefflegal referred to Davis as "Retard Barbie." That normally wouldn't be news, except that he tweeted it at Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott. His response on Twitter: "Jeff, thanks for your support."

5. She has national appeal
Abbott has a huge advantage when it comes to campaign funds. But Davis has shown she can raise money in a hurry. In the two weeks after her filibuster, she raised $1 million. Yes, that is nowhere near what Abbott has raised, but that was before Davis had even announced she was running for governor.

Nearly half of that $1 million was from donors outside of Texas. If she can continue to stay in the national headlines, and it looks like she has a chance to win, she could find herself the beneficiary of liberals from all over the country.

"In order to win, she probably needs to run a perfect campaign, have Abbott implode, and need at least one credible third party candidate in the race to lower her threshold for victory below 50 percent," Nathan Gonzales, deputy editor of the nonpartisan Rothenberg Political Report, told MSNBC.com. Tough, yes, but not impossible.

Keith Wagstaff is a staff writer at TheWeek.com covering politics and current events. He has previously written for such publications as TIME, Details, VICE, and the Village Voice.

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