Davis still running, but scenery isn’t changing

08/30/2014 3:34 PM

08/31/2014 9:03 AM

Talk all you want about Ted Cruz, Rick Perry, Barack Obama and the new best-known Democrat in Texas, Rosemary Lehmberg.

But just remember:

None of them is on the ballot Nov. 4.

In nine weeks, the future of Texas will be left up to one of two lawyers and the rookies on the ballot beneath them.

For the first time in 24 years, Perry’s name is not on the list.

The state Republican ticket has Greg Abbott, plus a truculent radio host, assorted generic guys and George P. Bush.

On the Democrats’ side: Fort Worth lawyer Wendy Davis and the usual unknowns, including the perennial famous-name-brand candidate. This time, it’s Sam Houston.

(Don’t laugh. Texans elected a Jesse James and a Warren G. Harding, although we didn’t go for Quanah Parker.)

Voters must register by Oct. 6 for the privilege of voting against Abbott, Davis or both after the endless bombardment of ads in what may be a $100 million campaign.

But right now, it would take an asteroid strike to redirect this election.

Abbott hasn’t given Davis any room to maneuver and seems on his way to at least a 10-point victory, according to two of Texas’ most quoted political science professors.

“Barring a serious Abbott gaffe or a scandal of epic proportions, Davis is going to lose,” Mark P. Jones of Rice University in Houston wrote by email.

This was never a hopeful year for Democrats. In any president’s second term, that party always takes a whacking.

And for some Texans, this is not just any president.

They blame him for everything but the Rangers’ season.

Davis, also a Harvard lawyer, has won over some female voters but has not connected as well with Hispanics, Jones wrote.

“Abbott’s Hispanic outreach efforts have been impressive,” Jones wrote, including the charming ad featuring his mother-in-law, Mary Lucy Segura Phalen, daughter of immigrants from Monterrey, Nuevo León.

Davis’ best chance was to draw more Hispanic voters, but Abbott’s image campaign has kept those ratings high.

The party primary was telling, when Davis drew only 17,000 votes in Hidalgo County and lost two of Texas’ largest Democratic counties to a South Texas municipal judge.

Jones guessed Abbott may even win more Hispanic votes than Perry.

He wrote that Democrats’ best chance for a strong finish is at lieutenant governor, if San Antonio state Sen. Leticia Van de Putte can pry more TV money away from Davis’ campaign.

Davis’ campaign is spending much of its money early to spark support and will need more by October, Jones wrote.

Her campaign and Van de Putte’s are now “effectively in competition,” he wrote, for money from Democrats also being tapped for national U.S. Senate campaigns.

Besides Jones, professor Cal Jillson of Southern Methodist University sees Abbott on his way to the Governor’s Mansion.

The former Houston lawyer and Supreme Court justice and current attorney general has been more error-prone than expected, Jillson wrote.

(Example: His campaign reneged Friday on a long-agreed-on debate in a round-table format, one that might favor Davis. Also, remember Ted Nugent?)

But Jillson sees Abbott’s lead as secure.

“The drama surrounding Perry has taken the focus off the race for governor,” Jillson wrote.

If the news is all Cruz and Perry, Abbott wins.

About Bud Kennedy

Bud Kennedy


Bud Kennedy is a homegrown Fort Worth guy who started out covering high school football here when he was 16. He went away to the Fort Worth Press and newspapers in Austin and Dallas, then came home in 1981.

Since 1987, he's written more than 1,000 weekly dining columns and more than 3,000 news and politics columns. If you don't like what he says about politics, read him on barbecue.

Email Bud at bud@star-telegram.com

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