This social media dust up and its quick journey into the coverage of the institutional press is unlikely to transform the race, but it provides a tidy and timely example of the importance of the media terrain of the 2014 governor’s race. Many women view Davis through the prism of women’s health and women’s rights, and, more broadly, personally identify with her as a woman. A mistake in message or even tone that disturbs the partisan identification of Republican women, or mobilizes female Davis voters who might have otherwise stayed home in a mid-term election, could seriously hurt Abbott’s candidacy. He will need to proceed with care in a media environment that has now fundamentally changed the grounds of his long-awaited shot at the governorship – first by boosting Wendy Davis’s already rising star, then by providing opportunities for the kind of race-transforming tactical errors that even the colorful and careless Clayton Williams couldn’t have imagined.
James Henson directs the Texas Politics Project at the University of Texas at Austin. Joshua Blank is the manager of polling and research at the Texas Politics Project.