AUSTIN, Texas — Democrat Wendy Davis remains not only unapologetic, but defiant, in the face of a national wave of criticism against her recent ad attacking her Republican opponent, Attorney General Greg Abbott.
As Breitbart Texas reported, the ad uses the image of an empty wheelchair to attack Abbott’s role in legal cases that came before him as a Texas Supreme Court Justice or that his office handled as Attorney General. The ad was made by the same ad makers as the infamous 2012 ad that accused Mitt Romney of being responsible for a woman’s cancer death, and has been similarly debunked as stretching the facts beyond plausibility. Davis was undaunted by the bipartisan criticism, continuing to promote the ad on her social media and holding a press conference on Monday flanked by several Texans with disabilities. On Wednesday, she again focused her campaign’s energy on promoting the ad, inviting reporters to an event at Guero’s Taco Bar in Austin where she was joined by several disabled supporters.
KUT reporter Veronica Zaragovia tweeted that Davis was handing out stickers that said “Texans With Disabilities for Wendy Davis.” Jay Root with the Texas Tribune shared two photos of her meeting with disabled people at the restaurant. Houston Chronicle reporter Patrick Svitek tweeted that at least Davis had improved her rhetoric, no longer saying that Abbott had “kicked the ladder down,” but instead saying he “pulled the ladder out.” Davis herself tweeted out two pictures Wednesday afternoon from the event.
The number of reporters who attended and were aware of this event makes it obvious that the Davis campaign alerted them to it and invited them to cover it. That is a fairly standard practice for a campaign, but what is striking many political observers as odd is why the Davis campaign is working so hard to keep this story about the ad in the media. Republican strategist Rick Wilson told Breitbart Texas that he had never seen anything quite like this. “It’s increasingly obvious that Wendy Davis has experienced the political equivalent of a psychotic break. This isn’t just inexplicable. It’s utterly bizarre and ultimately self-destructive.”
Davis’ campaign may be missing why exactly so many people have criticized the ad. The issue is not whether she can prove she can convince a disabled person to support her campaign — disabled Texans, like all Texas voters, have a range of opinions on the issues and it’s no surprise some are Democrats — but whether the imagery she used in her ad crossed the line. Patrick Caldwell, a reporter with the definitely-not-conservative Mother Jones, took to Twitter to share his outrage at the ad, from his perspective as someone who spent some time in a wheelchair as a high schooler because of a debilitating nerve condition in his leg. Caldwell minced no words calling the ad “offensive,” and remarking that while he was not a supporter of Abbott’s policies, he was glad to see a large state like Texas poised to “elect a guy in a wheelchair,” unhindered by his disability.
As for Abbott himself, in several interviews since Davis’ ad aired, he has commented that he is keeping his campaign focused on issues. The ad, Abbott told the San Antonio Express-News, “shows the tenor of the campaign…If you look at my ads, I focused on what I’m going to be doing as governor, and my opponent spends all her time in ads attacking me, as I’m attacking the challenges that fellow Texans deal with…It’s her choice if she wants to attack a guy in a wheelchair. I don’t think it’s going to sell too well.”
Follow Sarah Rumpf on Twitter at @rumpfshaker.