There’s no question that the person not having a very good week whatsoever is Greg Abbott—the man everyone believed would run an error-free campaign has now made a series of them, all unforced. But have Abbott’s stumbles–and his unexpected turn in the headlines–also had a negative effect on another R running for statewide office?

Jerry Patterson had hoped to own the news this week with the story about what his private investigator dug up about Dan Patrick three decades ago (alternative headline: “Dan Patrick Was a Compassionate and Helpful Boss to Struggling Workers”). The reason Patterson tore into Patrick is clear. Despite recent reliable polling, the race for lieutenant governor looks like this:

1. Dewhurst

2. Patrick

3. Patterson

4. Staples

Some polls show that Staples has nudged into third place, but the most reliable information I’ve seen suggests otherwise. Dewhurst is still looking at polling in the 30s or low 40s, so the real race right now is for second place. Patterson believed that a story attacking Patrick’s credibility (the man fond of saying “Stop the invasion!”) would make his opponent look like a hypocrite and propel Patterson into the May 27 runoff. Patrick might have breathed a sigh of relief when the news about Abbott hit, thinking that it took a little pressure off him, but I believe the damage was done. After being thrown off balance in the televised debate with questions about his bankruptcy, this is another moment that leaves him spinning on a topic that he thought he had locked down. The people paying attention to the lite guv race are paying attention, and a small change in the numbers, either voters changing their mind or voters staying home, could have a striking effect. The question is, is it enough?

( AP Image / David J. Phillip )