Wendy Davis: portrait of a campaign in full retreat

When you’re down by double digits in the polls, the last thing you need is to be playing defense following a massive unforced error.  Democrat gubernatorial candidate Wendy Davis of Texas spent the day proving that she can stand in a group of disabled people without making them violently ill:

Davis was also obliged to insist she’s happy Greg Abbott was able to get compensation for the accident that crippled him, which most certainly is not the impression her disgusting attack ad conveyed: “In 1984, Greg Abbott sought out and received justice following a horrible injury, rightly so, receiving millions of dollars.  And I’m glad, he deserved justice for the terrible tragedy that he endured.  But then he turned around and built his career working to deny the very same justice that he received to his fellow Texas rightly seeing it for themselves.”

I guarantee you that Democrat consultants outside of Texas are hissing “Shut up, you fools!” at Davis and her supporters as they try to make this ugly little desperation play stick.  She might be done in Texas, but she can still do a lot of damage to Democrat candidates across the nation if she keeps herself in the news, and makes it impossible for the media to firewall the blowback from this campaign.  Sooner or later, if she and her supporters keep shooting their mouths off, other Democrats will be forced to begin addressing this ad and distancing themselves from it.  The media won’t be eager to Akinize this mess, but savvy Republicans will force the issue.

And that’s going to be tough ground for Democrats to occupy, because the Davis campaign was based entirely on the crudest sort of identity politics.  They can’t denounce her without transgressing the identity politics narrative, particularly if they don’t all act in unison, and they probably wouldn’t; some goofball would insist on parroting Davis’ defense of the ad.  That would shift the entire Democrat Party onto a defensive footing, and they simply cannot afford that right now… not when there are election models showing the Republicans have a 95 percent chance of taking the Senate, and the Democrat response is to convince themselves the polls are skewed.  

You might think, “well, they’re hosed anyway, so might as well draw some blood with vicious attack ads on the way down,” and maybe some of them see it that way… but the problem is that the Republicans can do a lot more than just take the Senate by one or two seats, if this election turns into massive “wave.”  It would be much smarter for Democrats to minimize that wave and give themselves good field position for the 2016 election.  Also, one of the people very likely to be drawn into the Wendy Davis implosion is Hillary Clinton.  

If the Democrat high command has any sense, and any influence in Camp Davis, they’ll get her to change the subject as fast as she can.  And if Abbott’s playing hardball, he won’t let her.

Update: It’s bad enough that Davis finds herself constantly explaining what her big campaign ad “really” meant, days after rolling it out.  But her people also didn’t do a very good job of setting up the presser where she used disabled people as human props…


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