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So some other big news broke today:

Later today, just in time for the evening news, Sen. Wendy Davis, D-Fort Worth, is expected to step forward at the same Haltom City coliseum where she received her high school diploma to announce her ambition to become the first Texas Democrat to be elected governor since Ann Richards relinquished the job after being defeated in 1994 by George W. Bush.

Davis will start out as a decided underdog. No Democrat has been elected to any statewide office in the 20 years subsequent to 1994, and the Texas Lyceum Poll released Wednesday showed her trailing Attorney General Greg Abbott, the likely Republican nominee, by the usual margin for a Democrat.

But no Texas Democrat since Richards has generated as much excitement – in Texas and beyond – as Davis, whose potential future political ambitions were hurried along by the enormous response she drew when she filibustered a bill to place new restrictions on abortion and requirements for abortion facilities at the end of the Legislature’s first special session. Her filibuster in late June lasted long enough to require another special session to enact it.

A clamor arose among Democrats beseeching Davis to seize the moment and run for governor, even though it would mean that she would not be able to run again for her hard-won Tarrant County Senate district, which, her supporters like to point out, is a demographic microcosm of the state. - Austin American Statesman, 10/3/13

And of course pro-life extremists are already trying to sink her candidacy:

Texas Sen. Wendy Davis (D-Ft. Worth) speaks with The Texas Tribune's CEO and editor-in-chief Evan Smith during the last day of The Texas Tribune Festival on Sunday, Sept. 29, 2013 at The University of Texas at Austin.  (AP Photo/Austin American-Statesman, Erika Rich)
“Wendy Davis puts late-term abortion ahead of our faith, our families and our Texas values,” charges the 60-second radio ad from Texas Right to Life shared first with POLITICO.

Davis catapulted into the national limelight this summer for staging a lengthy filibuster that temporarily derailed a restrictive abortion bill, which ultimately passed.

“Extremist groups protested this new law and rallied around abortion zealot state Sen. Wendy Davis,” the ad says.
The spot is set to air in English and Spanish on South Texas airwaves, including Christian stations.

Republicans argue that Hispanic voters tend to oppose abortion rights, and the GOP is planning to paint Davis as a backer of controversial late-term abortions, citing her opposition to a piece of the legislation that banned abortion at 20 weeks. - Politico, 10/3/13

It's clear that right-wing organizations are scared of Davis and there a few good reasons to be scared of her:

Sen. Wendy Davis, D-Fort Worth, speaks as she begins a filibuster in an effort to kill an abortion bill, Tuesday, June 25, 2013, in Austin, Texas. The bill would ban abortion after 20 weeks of pregnancy and force many clinics that perform the procedure to upgrade their facilities and be classified as ambulatory surgical centers.  (AP Photo/Eric Gay)
1. She knows how to win

Winning a state Senate campaign is a far cry from winning a statewide election, especially for a polarizing Democrat in GOP-leaning Texas, but Davis survived two brutal campaigns in a Forth Worth-area district that, in many ways, is a microcosm of the state.

The area's Hispanic population surged over the past decade, and nonwhite voters now make up a majority of Davis's district, particularly in Forth Worth's heavily Hispanic north side.

In 2008, when she first ran for the seat, and in her tough 2012 re-election fight, Davis outworked her opponents in Tarrant County and assembled a coalition of Hispanics, African-Americans, women voters and moderate Republicans to win. Both races were squeakers: She won by less than three points each time.
Davis isn't afraid to throw a punch, either.

In 2008, her campaign nuked the Republican incumbent, Kim Brimer, with negative television ads portraying him as a crooked Austin insider (her supporters snarkily called him "Kim Shady").

Four years later, Gov. Rick Perry and an armada of Republicans pumped time and energy into the race to unseat Davis, but she still beat back her GOP challenger -- even in a district that Obama lost badly.

In fact, going back to her days on the Forth Worth City Council, Davis has never lost a race. Abbott, who served on the Texas Supreme Court before becoming the state's attorney general in 2002, has not faced a credible opponent, Republican or Democrat, in years.

Wendy Davis weighs in about her future

"I'm very optimistic about Wendy's for upsetting Greg Abbott," said Texas Rep. Joaquin Castro, another bright light on Texas's fresh-faced roster of Democrats. "She is a very talented candidate and incredibly hard working. Greg Abbott represents what has become a very extreme wing of the Republican Party. And more independent and moderate Republicans in Texas have had enough of tea party Republicans."

2. Greg who?

In his three re-election bids, Rick Perry laid waste to a trio of Democratic challengers -- Tony Sanchez, Chris Bell and Bill White -- who dared to run statewide with a scarlet D next to their name. Perry's political talents aside, he benefited from the power of incumbency and name recognition. Despite having more than $20 million in the bank, Abbott lacks Perry's star power.

According to a University of Texas/Texas Tribune poll released in June, more than half of voters had no opinion of Abbott, including 46% of Republicans.

A Texas Lyceum poll out this week showed Abbott leading Davis 29% to 21%, but showed a majority of voters had no preference in the race, and revealed that 45% of Republicans and almost 80% of independents didn't know enough about Abbott.

Despite her buzz in political circles, Davis is similarly unknown to most voters. But unlike the Democratic gubernatorial candidates who preceded her, she's getting started on a roughly even playing field and has an opportunity to define her opponent early.

3. Campaigns matter

Few things seem to send a thrill up the leg of polling wizards than writing off candidates before a race has even begun.

"Wendy Davis Won't Win," blared the headline of a recent New Republic piece by Nate Cohn, the magazine's resident numbers-cruncher.

Cohn's analysis was mostly accurate, but these high-and-mighty dismissals ignore one immutable fact of politics: Campaigns and candidates matter.
Just ask Missouri's Claire McCaskill and Todd Akin.

Texas offers a wonderful example. The state's last Democratic governor, Ann Richards, began her campaign in 1990 in a 27-point hole against a well-funded Republican named Clayton Williams.

But "Claytie" did himself in on the campaign trail with a series of damaging gaffes -- he once refused to shake hands with Richards at a candidate's forum, and he made a rape joke that haunted him throughout the campaign. Meanwhile, Richards leveraged her natural charisma and appeal to suburban women to eke out a three-point win that November.

4. The Texas Hispanic boom

According to the 2010 census, the Hispanic population in Texas ballooned by almost 3 million during the previous decade, and it's safe to assume that number has only expanded since then. Much as it does nationally, this demographic trend in Texas works unmistakably in the favor of the Democrats, who have capitalized on the abrasive anti-immigrant rhetoric emanating from conservative pockets of the Republican Party.

In the 2010 governor's race, for example, Democrat Bill White won Hispanic voters, who made up about 17% of the vote that year, by a nearly 2-1 margin (the flip side of the math here is that White's opponent, Perry, swamped him overall by racking up a huge margins among "Anglos," as they say in Texas).

But Davis can't take Hispanic voters for granted, argued Texas GOP Chairman Steve Munisteri, who said he has five full-time staffers assigned to outreach efforts in Spanish-speaking communities. Munisteri said Texas Republicans understand the pressing need to expand the party's appeal beyond white voters, noting that the Texas GOP endorsed a guest-worker program into their 2012 party platform, even as conservative activists opposed the idea.

"It's not just policy and whether there is action or inaction," he said. "It's also whether the Republican Party is viewed as welcoming to Hispanic citizens or hostile to Hispanic citizens. We have to come across as sincere that we really want to include Hispanics in the party."

5. The Obama SWAT team

After re-electing the president last year, a handful of field marshals from the Obama campaign turned their eyes to Texas, with its exploding and under-registered Hispanic population, in hopes of growing the electorate and one day moving the state's cache of 38 electoral votes into the Democratic column and forever road-blocking Republican hopes of capturing the White House. They dubbed their new group "Battleground Texas."

The group's organizers have been clear-eyed and honest with reporters about the challenging and long-term nature of the project. Few expect Battleground Texas organizers to register enough Hispanic, African-American and other first-time voters to overcome entrenched GOP advantages in such a narrow time frame.

Even so, Davis will have on her side the brains and muscle behind the most sophisticated voter turnout operation in American political history. That's an unequivocal asset.

Critics have questioned how effective Battleground Texas can be without Obama, a uniquely talented and charismatic figure, at the top of the ticket rallying voters. But this is Texas, where Obama is about as popular as the Oklahoma Sooners.

Pragmatic Democrats are just fine keeping a safe distance from the president, even though Abbott and his team will do their best to make sure that doesn't happen.

6. A potential spoiler

Debra Medina, a Wharton businesswoman and conservative activist, captured nearly 20% of the vote in the 2010 Republican gubernatorial primary by making a strong play for the nascent tea party movement.

She's currently raising money for a possible 2014 comptroller campaign, but also leaving the door open to an independent run for governor next year, in part because of her not-so-subtle disdain for a long line of establishment-backed GOP figures in her state -- Perry and Abbott chief among them.

"You look at our ticket, and it's all rich white guys," Medina said in an interview. "There are few women and liberty-leaning candidates on the ballot. If we go through the nomination process and end up with are whole bunch of Mitt Romneys on the ticket next November, people aren't going to get excited about it."

Medina said she plans to make a decision about an independent bid for governor by early December, after she decides whether or not to file as a candidate for comptroller. If she does run for the top office, Medina's support would almost certainly draw from the tea party activist wing of the Republican coalition. That would be bad news for Abbott.

7. Suburban women

Davis is most famous for her filibuster of Senate Bill 5, which curtailed access to abortion in Texas after it passed this summer in a special legislative session.

The fight made her an archvillain in the eyes of many conservatives and anti-abortion activists, but it transformed her into a folk hero among left-leaning women's groups, who believe Davis can use the issues of women's health care to drive a wedge between Republicans and female voters.

Texas abortion law challenged in Plan Parenthood lawsuit

She has an opening, according to Jim Henson, the director of the Texas Politics Project at the University of Texas, and Joshua Blank, the project's pollster.

As the pair recently wrote in the Texas Tribune, suburban women have been trending away from the GOP in recent years. In late 2010, a University of Texas/Texas Tribune Poll found that 50% of suburban women identified as Republicans. Two years later, 43% called themselves Republicans. And in their most recent survey, in June of this year, the number had dropped to 38%. Over the same three-year span, the number of suburban women calling themselves Democrats jumped from 37% for 46%.

In other words, women in Texas are increasingly kosher with voting for the blue team. Davis will need their help to break the Republican chokehold on white voters.
In conservative states, abortion pushback with an eye toward Roe

8. Outside money

The filibuster that went viral online in June and made Davis an instant Democratic celebrity had the added benefit of growing her list of supporters -- an e-mail network that's about to double as a national donor base.

But Davis will also have reinforcements.

While Battleground Texas works the ground game, the women's groups who worked hard to recruit Davis into the race -- Planned Parenthood, EMILY's List and Texas-based Annie's List -- are expected to provide air cover, pumping money into Texas this year and next to fund radio, television and mail ads.

Even if Davis comes up short, the opportunity to help inch Texas toward Democratic hands in the makes it an appealing target for donors and outside groups, said one well-connected Austin Democrat who is close to the soon-to-be-launched campaign.

"There will be a confluence of excited and effective organizations that could have important roles to play inside and out of the campaign structure," said the Democrat, who declined to be named because the campaign was not yet official.

"Annie's List, the Texas Democratic Party, labor unions are all gearing up and appear to be working together effectively. And individual/institutional donors from across the nation saw Wendy's filibuster and have made it clear they are interested. After all, there is a long-play beyond just 2014 that is very compelling.

"The more you invest in the state, the more you accelerate demographic change in voter turnout and the quicker you put Texas in play in the electoral college map and change the politics of the nation." - CNN, 10/3/13

Not to mention this poll is encouraging:

Republican Greg Abbott is leading Democrat Wendy Davis by 8 points in a hypothetical matchup for Texas governor, but it’s a statistical dead heat among women, according to a Texas Lyceum Poll of registered voters released Wednesday.

Abbott, the attorney general, leads Davis, a state senator from Fort Worth, 29 percent to 21 percent in the poll, with a whopping 50 percent undecided. The poll has a margin of error of +/- 3.47 percentage points.

Abbott’s lead shrinks to 2 points, within the margin of error, when only women are counted. In that slice of the electorate, Abbott had 25 percent and Davis was at 23 percent, with 51 percent undecided.

Davis, who is expected to announce her campaign for governor on Thursday, leads Abbott 36 percent to 10 percent among black voters and 22 percent to 18 percent among Hispanic voters in the poll. Abbott has a lopsided lead over Davis among independents — 18 percent to 8 percent — but in that group, 74 percent are undecided.

Cal Jillson, a political scientist at Southern Methodist University, said he found the gender gap “intriguing.” Given the fact that white Texans make up two-thirds of the electorate and routinely give 70 percent or more of their votes to Republicans, Davis needs to peel off white suburban women from Abbott if she has any hope of winning. - Texas Tribune, 10/2/13

So lets get ready to fight for Davis.  You can sign up for her campaign here:

And Democracy For America is fundraising for her campaign.  You can click here to donate:

Originally posted to pdc on Thu Oct 03, 2013 at 08:00 PM PDT.

Also republished by The Democratic Wing of the Democratic Party and Feminism, Pro-Feminism, Womanism: Feminist Issues, Ideas, & Activism.

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