Bud Kennedy

January 14, 2014

Republicans campaign against ‘Obama and Wendy,’ or is it the other way around?

Even a down-ballot candidate like George P. Bush is running against the top of the ticket.

State Sen. Wendy Davis is on NBC’s Today show this morning.

George P. Bush is in South Texas on a bus.

But far from the spotlight of the gubernatorial campaign, Bush is beginning to say words that will resonate for Republicans through March 4 and probably into November.

“Barack Obama wants to bring his liberal, progressive agenda to Texas. … We can sum up our message to him and Wendy Davis!” Bush told a Pasadena crowd Tuesday, sounding more like a candidate for governor than for state land commissioner.

Having won two Senate campaigns with Obama atop the ticket, Davis now must run without the Democratic president’s straight-ticket votes, yet with all the Harvard Law-logo baggage.

She donated to Hillary Clinton, considered more moderate, in 2008 and recently distanced herself from Obama again when she criticized the administration’s early opposition to the American Airlines merger.

Last October, she even told The Dallas Morning News that she had not spoken to the president during her media trips to Washington: “No dinners in the White House for me.”

But Republicans in primary campaigns will stir up voters by railing against “Obama and Wendy.”

Bush didn’t even name them in that order.

Toward the end of his speech, he said Republicans should send a “direct, clear message to Wendy Davis and Barack Obama” about how Texas’ future “springs from the wells of freedom dug deep underground.”

(That was after Bush said Obama and Davis want to “make us apologize for creating jobs in the petrochemical and energy industry.”)

TCU political science professor James Riddlesperger called the strategy plain: “Obama lost badly in Texas, so Republicans have every incentive to make Wendy Davis into ‘another Obama.’ ”

Like Denton County Chairwoman Dianne Edmondson calling Davis “abortion Barbie,” Riddlesperger said, “it’s a way to label her and get people going for a primary.”

The “abortion Barbie” comments will probably dwindle after March, when Republicans need to keep suburban women voters.

But “Obama and Wendy” will stay.

“I think the national party wants to make Obamacare an issue,” Riddlesperger said.

“It’s true that Texans don’t like it, but I think talking about repeal may be wrongheaded. I think more voters are interested in fixing the system than blowing it up.”

If nothing else, the early attacks should make Democrats feel flattered.

This time four years ago, Republicans weren’t so worried about Bill White.

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