Wendy Davis and Texas are a problem for Democrats
The Lone Star state isn’t blue yet. A big push for Wendy Davis’ guv race takes resources from more winnable red-leaning states
Those who have followed my writing know that I don’t think Wendy Davis has a very good chance of being elected governor of Texas. She trails in early polling, there hasn’t been a major Texas Democratic statewide officer holder in 20 years, and the state’s demographic changes indicate a landscape that is much further away from being competitive than many Democrats argue. But there’s more to it than that: Davis’ campaign could have bad ramifications for Democrats outside of Texas.
Many Democrats want to argue that even if Davis doesn’t win, it’s worth competing in the state. I don’t disagree. You never know what’s going to happen in any election, and any organizing efforts are likely to hasten (even if not greatly) the chance of a Democrat winning down the road.
The issue is that resources are always limited. Sure, there are mega donors who will donate to every candidate they can. There are also volunteers who will hit the ground in Texas. There are, however, plenty of donors who will pick and choose their campaigns. There are folks who might go down to Texas to help Davis, when they could be somewhere else.
The dollars and volunteers spent for Davis lessens the opportunity that they be spent in other places. That’s a problem for Democrats given that they have a real opportunity to make major gubernatorial gains in 2014.
Democrats are far better positioned to regain control of the governor’s mansions in Florida, Maine, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and South Carolina. All these states have had at least one poll come out over the past year indicating that a Democrat led in the race for governor, which cannot be said about Texas.
Florida and Pennsylvania are major swing states in presidential elections. Democrats in Florida could use the governor’s powers to block some very conservative legislation passed by the state’s legislation, while Democrats in Pennsylvania won’t have to listen to their governor’s homophobic remarks. Democrats hold large early leads in both states with very unpopular governors.
Maine’s Governor Paul LePage has made comments that you’d expect from a deeply red state, not one from the blue state of Maine. He only won last time because of a three-way contest, which will again be the case this year. The Democrats are favored, yet will need to ensure the independent candidate Eliot Cutler doesn’t give LePage a second term.
Michigan Governor Rick Snyder is well below 50% against an unknown opponent in this bluish state. His approval rating is well below 50%. I know Democrats would love to take out the governor who signed right to work into law in the ultimate labor state of Michigan.
South Carolina is most intriguing because there it’s the ultimate southern state. There aren’t any major demographic changes happening in South Carolina, though Republican Governor Nikki Haley has struggled to keep approval rating above water. She only won by 5pt in 2010, even as Republicans won big time nationally.
Republicans would absolutely love the effort and money that would have gone to any one of the eight states above go to Texas. They know that Texas won’t be competitive for at least 10-20 years, if demographic voting patterns hold. No amount of money will change that significantly, while money could alter one of the states mentioned here.
Indeed, Democrats seem to have sort of fantasy on Texas that I can only describe as a naive childhood crush on a pinup when the nice girl next door yearns for attention. Democrats continuously pledge to make Texas blue, though the math just isn’t there. They do when there are other states that are far more for the taking.
The gap between how Georgia and the country votes is shrinking by the day, as the percentage white people make up in Georgia is dropping fast. It’s the reason why Michelle Nunn is competitive in a Senate race in the Peach State. President Obama lost the state by only single digits, unlike Texas.
Arizona is a state where the growing Latino population has at least made it possible for Democrats to win statewide. There has actually been a Democratic governor in the past ten years. Richard Carmona only lost a Senate race there by 3pt in 2012, and Democrats actually control a majority of the state’s House’s seats. None of this can be said for Texas.
Overall, Texas and Wendy Davis’ efforts in the state are not just the fun type of tease for Democrats, but one that are probably taking resources out from other states. Making an effort in every state is important, though when Twitter hashtags like “Stand with Wendy” are dominating it may be too much of a good thing.
Democrats have a real chance to win back the majority of governorships in 2014, and they have the ability to take advantage of the changing demographic tides in Arizona and Georgia. The question is whether or not Wendy Davis and Democrats in Texas will get in the way.
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