By Randy Hall
What a difference 12 months can make! Just ask Wendy Davis, the Texas state senator who was cheered on by the “mainstream media” for conducting a “passionate” filibuster against a bill to restrict abortions in the Lone Star State. While the law eventually passed, the obscure official was instantly catapulted into the national spotlight and encouraged to run for governor in the 2014 election.
One year later, the Democratic candidate’s campaign is losing momentum despite the fact that she recently celebrated the anniversary of her attention-grabbing tactic by wearing her “comfortable pink sneakers” at a rally that led Manny Fernandez of the New York Times to declare: “For Wendy Davis, a filibuster goes only so far in the race to be governor of Texas.”
“Recent polls have shown her trailing her Republican opponent — the state attorney general, Greg Abbott — by up to 12 percentage points,” Fernandez stated. “Her campaign manager, Karin Johanson — who helped engineer the Democratic takeover of Congress in 2006” — joined a number of aides and consultants who have left the team at various points of the campaign.
Nevertheless, “Davis has turned her filibuster on the floor of the Texas Senate into a grass-roots movement that has inspired thousands of volunteers, donors and other supporters to pledge their time and money to her on a scale few Texas Democrats have ever pulled off,” the reporter declared. “She has so far raised nearly $20 million.”
But “she’s not doing as well as people had hoped, expected or wanted,” said Bill Miller, an Austin lobbyist who works with both Democrats and Republicans and is a friend of the 51-year-old female candidate. He blames “unrealistic expectations” for the unexpected struggles in the campaign.
Most people didn’t know who she was until she stood up on that floor and did her filibuster. It’s like being shot out of a cannon in that situation. Nobody lives their life shot out of a cannon. It’s a grind. She’s grinding. They’re expecting a rock star, and she’s finding her stage voice.
“At a speech in Austin on Wednesday, at an event celebrating her filibuster,” Fernandez wrote, Davis showed that she can still excite her core audience. “As she stepped onto the stage, resplendent in a vivid red dress, about 1,600 supporters roared before she even said a word, responding in part to the famous running shoes she wore.”
During her speech, “Davis recalled eating only a hard-boiled egg the day of her filibuster,” which she cast as “a battle against Austin insiders who were abusing their power.”
“Mindful of her need to reach moderates, she used the word ‘abortion’ just once in her 24-minute speech,” Fernandez observed.
‘But even her supporters say the campaign has made many missteps,” including keeping reporters so far away during her speech that most of them weren’t aware of her “flashy footwear.”
In addition, Davis lied about her family history — she walked out on her husband one day after he made the final payment on her law degree even though she said “I am proud of what I’ve been able to achieve through hard work and perseverance.”
A Democratic strategist who worked on the campaign in its early stages concurred that the effort has stalled:
I think you could really say [the campaign is] in a place where it’s gotten away from them, where it really probably is impossible to bring it back. It’s such a failure to take advantage of the opportunities that they were presented with, and really translate that into something. The campaign has never been as good as Wendy is.
“At the Democratic state convention in Dallas on Friday, … Davis focused on her opponent,” Fernandez noted. “She used his name 30 times in her speech and called him ‘part of that good old boys’ network that’s had their hands on the reins for decades.’”
But some Democrats in Texas and Washington “have grown increasingly pessimistic,” the Times reporter also stated. “Some of the biggest contributors remain upbeat and supportive, although cautiously so.”
One way to tell for certain that your political campaign is in serious trouble is to find an article in the New York Times listing the mistakes you’ve made and downplaying the event that put you in the public eye.
Can Wendy Davis still win the governor’s race in November? Only time — as well as the New York Times — will tell.