Money, Spin and the Texas Governor's Race: Wendy Davis Still Unlikely to Win

Last week, Greg Abbott sent out an email to his supporters claiming that "Sen. Wendy Davis has raised $8.7 million from liberals in New York, California and Washington." Try as I might, I could not verify this claim. Indeed, the venerable conservative magazine National Review did not bother to fact check this claim, instead just repeating Abbott's claim. Even a Rice political scientist did no more than perform a "he said/she said" recounting of Abbott's claims.

Wendy Davis did indeed raise $8.7 million in contributions during the last reporting period, but there is no evidence, as implied by Abbott, that all the money came from the liberal trifecta: California, New York (coastal elites) and the always-hated Washington. It is implausible, as Abbott wants you to believe, that all that money came from outside Texas.

But Davis is (sort of) playing money games of her own. In claiming that she raised $12 million to Abbott's $11.5 million, she counted the money that went to a separate PAC, Texas Victory Committee. Abbott's campaign called her out on this. But the PAC is largely a PAC that is going to funnel money to Davis. So, truthiness abounds on both sides. As with any campaign, the partisans (attempt to) construct a reality rather than living in it.

And as with any politician, Davis is trying to buoy Democrats into thinking that they might actually have a chance to take their first state-wide office since 1994. It's difficult to take this too seriously, however.

First, there just are not enough White Democratic voters in Texas. In 2010, most White Texas voters (51 percent), not Republicans, but voters overall, were conservative. There are not enough Hispanic and Black voters to make up for the fact that White more or less equals conservative in Texas still. (And in case you're keeping track, this is exactly why the Republicans in Texas passed voter ID laws making it harder for minorities to vote and easier for Whites to cast their ballot; it's politics all the way down). Moreover, 2014 is an off-year election without the cache of a presidential race to draw those more reluctant voters to the polls. This partially explains the Tea Party wave in 2010 -- conservatives were anxious to go to the polls, younger voters stayed home. This is not good for Davis as she is trying to broaden a coalition of voters.

After gaining national prominence for filibustering an abortion bill that was eventually going to pass anyways -- and ask yourself why you had a different reaction to her filibuster versus Ted Cruz's megalomaniac filibuster on a bill that had already been passed and tested in the courts -- she sponsored a bill that would legalize sobriety checkpoints, but never passed. She has introduced a number of bills, but even her own website only talks about a few of them. What is more, Davis has some skeletons in her closet vis-a-vis the law firm she runs and awarding contracts for public works. And now there are reports that she is publishing her memoir next fall. While this is a typical rite of passage for politicians seeking higher office, one wonders how thick this volume will be: what exactly has Wendy Davis accomplished? (And as an aside, who buys self-serving drivel like this from any politician?).

Would Davis be a better governor than Abbott? Yes, even though Texas is known for having a weak executive, Abbott is "severely" conservative. Is Davis perhaps a more energetic and charismatic candidate than the tripe Texas Democrats have offered up in the past? Yes. Is Davis likely positioning herself for future campaigns and making a state-wide name? Yes, and that's fine.

But 2014 won't be the year the Democrats recapture the governorship.

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