The Wet Blanket
Following the filibuster by Wendy Davis, I wrote a cautionary post on Burkablog in which I pointed out that the euphoria that flourished in the wake of her memorable performance was not a game-changer; that Democrats would be wise to keep their enthusiasm in check, lest they raise false hopes among their followers; and that one speech, however galvanizing, cannot change the fundamental fact of Texas politics, which is that this is the reddest of red states and will continue to be so for the foreseeable future.
The Austin American Statesman‘s First Reading columnist responded by calling me Paul ‘Wet Blanket’ Burka.
The headline for that portion of First Reading is “LOVE AT FIRST SIGHT” and the author goes on to say:
“It is no secret that the national media, and especially those outlets most favorably disposed toward Democratic and liberal causes, has fallen fast and hard for Wendy Davis in the last seven days.”
Here, for example, is John Nichols in the Nation:
“When the Democratic Party picks safe and predictable candidates in red states like Texas, it gets a safe and predictable result: defeat.”
“Wendy Davis is not safe and predictable. She’s energetic and engaged, Harvard-Law-School smart and broadly experienced in the local and state levels of government.
“Rick Perry knows that adds up to a serious challenge. That is why he is on the attack. That’s also why Davis could well turn out to be the most viable Texas Democratic gubernatorial prospect since Ann Richards won the job back in 1990.”
But then, amidst the euphoria, comes Paul “Wet Blanket” Burka, at TEXAS MONTHLY, who is having none of it and rains all over the Dems’ Wendy Davis parade.
I do so by suggesting that “Democrats would be wise to lower expectations for what comes next for her and her party.” This is no knock at Davis. She won her last race, for reelection in her state Senate district, by 7,000 votes, beating a conservative doctor who was funded by the biggest bully in Texas politics: Texans for Lawsuit Reform. But the jump from being one of 31 senators to statewide office is the biggest (and most expensive) hurdle in Texas politics. I went on to say, “All of the problems Democrats have had in Texas over the past decade and a half still haunt them.” My question would be this: Do Democrats really want to risk the future of the hottest property they have had since Ann Richards in a quixotic race against a well-funded Republican who is almost certain to win the race, barring some kind of Claytie Williams collapse?
Yesterday Public Policy Polling, a Democratic firm, released the results of a statewide poll and showed that Perry would defeat Davis by 14 points. That is loss of landslide proportions. The danger, for Democrats, is that they can’t fund a two-front war, one for governor, the other for legislative seats. This is the case for lowering expectations. Don’t let the euphoria overtake the reality.
I’m a big fan of Wendy Davis’s. I think she’s had a remarkable ride. She has put a face on the Democratic party, something it hasn’t had since Richards lost her reelection race to Bush. Davis has the potential to be a crossover candidate, someone who can bring Anglo women back to the Democratic party. But it would be a huge misjudgment to waste her potential on a race that cannot be won at this moment in Texas politics.