Wendy Davis: Could Texas elect a Democrat?

Democratic state Sen. Wendy Davis plans to run for governor to succeed the outgoing Rick Perry.

It’s guaranteed to be a bruising campaign even for Texas, said Enrique Rangel in the Amarillo, Texas, Globe-News. Democratic state Sen. Wendy Davis was to announce this week “one of the worst-kept secrets in Texas”—that she’s running for governor to succeed the outgoing Rick Perry. Davis vaulted to national fame in June when she donned now-iconic pink running shoes and staged a dramatic 11-hour filibuster of a late-term-abortion bill. Though her Republican opponent has yet to be determined, Davis faces an uphill struggle in this “reddest of red states,” said The Dallas Morning News in an editorial. The GOP dominates state politics, and President Obama lost Texas by 16 points in the last election. But Republicans take Davis lightly at their peril, because her national fame as a women’s champion could bring in the flood of campaign donations that “she needs to make the race painfully tight.”

“Don’t kid yourself,” said Nate Cohn in NewRepublic.com. Davis “doesn’t stand a chance.” To pull off “the electoral feat of the century,” she’d have to improve dramatically on President Obama’s performance with black and Hispanic voters, which is unlikely, or make huge inroads with whites. Fully half of white Texas voters self-identify as “evangelical,” and they are not about to vote for a “liberal heartthrob best known for filibustering an anti-abortion bill.” It wasn’t just any anti-abortion bill, said David Harsanyi in TheFederalist.com. The bill banned late-term abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy, and that ban is supported by 62 percent of Texans, and a majority of all Americans. Once voters appreciate that Davis isn’t merely pro-choice but “an extremist on abortion,” her candidacy will be a lost cause.

Winning isn’t everything, said Jason Stanford in the Longview, Texas, News-Journal. Davis’s huge popularity in Texas will draw volunteers, new voters, and political organizers into the race, giving state Democrats “the statewide campaign infrastructure” we need to take advantage of a growing Hispanic population and other demographic changes. She’ll also force the national GOP to pour funds into the Texas race, money it then won’t get to spend on its top priority: seizing back the U.S. Senate in the 2014 midterms. If Davis loses by, say, less than 5 points, it will mean that Texas is now a swing state. That would “change the national chessboard” of electoral politics, for 2016 and beyond.

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