As we inch ever closer to November's gubernatorial election, polls pitting Republican Greg Abbott against Democratic challenger Wendy Davis are being scrutinized by media outlets across the country. Since Davis announced her intention to run in October 2013, nearly every poll has put Abbott in the lead — usually by double digits.
The most recent survey, released last week by Rasmussen, puts Abbott ahead by only 8 points, the closest the two contenders have been since Davis announced her candidacy. But with only 9 percent of undecided voters up for grabs, the recent poll also indicates that Davis would need to clench the entire undecided vote in order to pull off a victory. Even with a new Abbott attack ad, a relentless campaign schedule, and an opponent (and his supporters) launching unfounded and, in some cases, misogynistic attacks, Davis is still not likely to declare victory.
The general consensus seems to be it's not her fault she's losing; it's conservative Texas. It's a tired argument, and it contradicts the popular narrative that Texas is turning purple.
Following her filibuster of HB 2 last summer, Davis became a national heroine for women's rights. She was featured on the pages of Vogue, the cover of Texas Monthly and was the subject of countless op-eds, articles and feature stories. But since the launch of her campaign, Davis has failed to transfer the frenetic energy and grassroots support from last summer into a viable campaign for the governor's office.
And so the media has begun to switch tactics. Ever the media darling, many outlets are providing shoddy analysis of the campaign's inability to capture momentum from the filibuster, instead focusing on the inability to capture conservative Texas voters. Though the New York Times points out Davis' inability to capture the up-for-grab border counties during the primary, the general consensus seems to be it's not her fault she's losing; it's conservative Texas. It's a tired argument, and it contradicts the popular narrative that Texas is turning purple.
For example, Jessica Grose writes in Slate, "[Davis is] still running for governor of a deeply red state. That means that the issue that made her a national star — abortion — is one she can’t really touch back at home." While that may be true in some parts of the state, what about the Lone Star State's increasingly liberal urban cores? Ask a twentysomething woman in Dallas who she's going to vote for in the governor's race and chances are she'll pick Davis. Ask that same woman if she and her friends are having frank discussions about the campaign and the answer is most likely "not at all."
Which is where the campaign comes in. The vitriol spouted from the Abbott campaign ("abortion Barbie") was never countered by the strong, pink sneaker-wearing mythical woman that stood in the Capitol and fought for women's rights. The systematic sexist attacks that deflated Davis' campaign in turn deflated her supporters. And that's why she'll likely lose.
According to MSNBC, the only way Davis can win is if Abbott pulls "an Akin." Speaking to the cable news outlet, Mark P. Jones, chairman of Rice University’s political science department said, "[Davis] is going to lose — unless Abbott pull[s] a Todd Akin and [throws] a couple of other errors in there," referring to the 2012 Missouri GOP senate candidate who spoke of "legitimate rape."
But that's not how Davis should win nor is it how she probably wants to win. Instead, she will likely concede defeat, reset and use her Washington- and California-based donors to aim beyond Texas, perhaps launch a national campaign or maybe even an appointment in the next democratic cabinet. And maybe that was the goal all along. We shall see.