AUSTIN, Texas — Democratic candidate for Texas Governor Wendy Davis has made national headlines in the past week for her shocking ad that uses the image of an empty wheelchair to attack her Republican opponent, Attorney General Greg Abbott. Despite how the overwhelming majority of the reactions have been negative — at best, questioning the ad’s effectiveness, at worst, calling the ad “nasty” and “offensive” — as well as coming from all across the partisan political spectrum, Davis has been defiantly unapologetic in continuing to promote the ad.
The major statewide ad buy that the campaign had announced appears to be continuing without change, Davis and her staffers have been constantly posting the ad on social media, and she has had multiple events in the past few days where she made appearances with disabled Texans. The ad is backfiring on Davis in ways beyond just negative press, bringing unexpected benefits to Abbott’s campaign.
As the story about the negative backlash to the ad went national, Abbott was invited on several national television programs, including Hannity and Lou Dobbs Tonight on Monday, and America’s Newsroom with Martha MacCallum on Tuesday. The story has dominated the Texas political press for days as well, even with having to compete with breaking news of new cases of Ebola. With extra press attention often comes increased campaign contributions, and this has indeed happened for Abbott. Breitbart Texas confirmed with the Abbott campaign that they saw a “small uptick” in online donations when Davis’ ad was first launched on Friday, and then a “more significant uptick” when Davis doubled down on the ad at the beginning of the week.
Abbott’s campaign has also seen increased online traffic. A source with the campaign told Breitbart Texas that their unique website visitors have doubled over the past few days, and the Abbott video ad, “Perseverance,” which features the story of the 1984 accident that paralyzed Abbott, has received thousands of new views since Davis’ ad began running. According to the campaign, the increased views are all organic, resulting from people searching for information about Abbott’s disability, and the campaign has not been using any paid means to drive people to the video. The campaign has also seen a spike in new online signups of volunteers and supporters since Davis’ ad was released.
With early voting beginning next Monday, October 20, and election day less than a month away, it is puzzling why Davis is devoting so much of her precious time remaining before votes are cast on this particular messaging. As far as Abbott goes, he remains confident in his path to victory. As he told Sean Hannity on Monday, he “going to stay focused on the future,” continuing to devote his campaign to talking about the issues important to Texans:
“What Texans really want, they want a governor who has a vision for their fellow Texans and for a brighter future,” Abbott told Hannity. “And that’s why I have focused on making Texas an even better place by creating jobs, by solving our traffic problems, by securing our border. Those are the things that Texans want to have focused on. And that is exactly, Sean, what I am doing.”
Follow Sarah Rumpf on Twitter at @rumpfshaker.