AUSTIN, Texas — After Democratic candidate for Governor Wendy Davis launched her now-infamous “empty wheelchair” ad attacking her Republican opponent Greg Abbott, the swift and bipartisan backlash initially led many to believe she would back off from the ad’s controversial message. Instead, she doubled down, holding multiple events in the week that followed, continuing to promote the ad. Davis campaign staffers expressed confidence in their strategy, but the latest poll in the race suggests that they may have been gravely mistaken.
The poll, commissioned by KHOU-TV and Houston Public Media, asked 781 likely voters who they were supporting for governor. The results were that 47 percent of likely voters supported Abbott, 32 percent supported Davis, 15 percent were undecided, about 2 percent were supporting a third party candidate, and 2 percent refused to say, with a margin of error of plus or minus 3.5 percent.
An interesting angle with this poll is the dates it was in the field: September 22 through October 16. Davis’ wheelchair ad was launched on October 10, making this poll the first to gauge voters’ opinions where the ad could have been a factor. And while Bob Stein, the Rice University political scientist who supervised the poll for KHOU, was skeptical that the ad had an impact on the distribution of the vote, the fact is that the three previous polls, which surveyed likely voters during September up to the first few days of October, all showed Davis at 40 percent, making the KHOU poll a drop of eight points. The Real Clear Politics Average currently shows Abbott at 50.3 percent and Davis at 38.0 percent.
From the beginning of this race, common political wisdom marked it as an uphill battle for Davis, and very few people not on her campaign payroll express any hope she could win. “There always could be a crisis, a major gaffe, something like that,” said Stein. “But it’s very hard to imagine that you can reverse a double-digit lead.”
Republican media strategist Rick Wilson was bemused when Breitbart Texas asked him for his reaction to these latest poll results. “It’s a shame only two weeks of campaigning remain, because Wendy Davis seems to add a new chapter to ‘How Not to Win an Election’ every day,” said Wilson, referring to the backlash to the wheelchair ad and the Davis campaign’s attempt this week to brand Abbott as an opponent of interracial marriage, even though his wife is Hispanic. “At this rate, she’ll be biting the heads off kittens to get attention in the last week,” Wilson added.
[Disclaimer: As previously noted regarding a discussion about Davis biting the heads off bats, Breitbart Texas is neither aware of Davis ever biting the heads off kittens, nor have any knowledge that she has any plans to do so.]
Follow Sarah Rumpf on Twitter @rumpfshaker.