Almost exactly four years ago, the Texas Tribune explained the dilemma for the 2010 eventual Democratic nominee, Bill White:
“In general election matchups, the Republicans trump the Democrats. Perry would beat White, according to the new poll, 44-35.”Perry never lost his lead, and in the last few weeks of the 2010 campaign, getting fuel from the Tea Party surge, Perry went on to defeat White, 55%-42%. Back in June of 2010, I had predicted that White was going to have a hard time delivering what Texans were looking for in a governor.
In the latest UT/TT poll, Republican candidate Greg Abbott, the current Texas attorney general, holds a solid, 11-point, lead over the presumptive Democratic candidate for governor, Texas State Senator Wendy Davis. Abbott leads Davis 47%-36%. The margin is remarkably similar to the 2010 numbers for Perry over White at a similar stage in the campaign, suggesting there is a built-in, and perhaps unbeatable, Republican advantage in the Lone Star State.
One small glimmer of hope for Davis is the fact that the undecideds are larger in the recent poll, 17% versus only 10% of voters who were undecided in February of 2010.
However, going deeper into the UT/TT numbers on the two likely gubernatorial candidates, gives Davis even more to worry about.
Since the campaign began, Davis has suffered from an unrelenting attack on her character by right-wing media and the Abbott campaign. And these attacks are clearly having a big impact, with Davis nearly under water in the favorability factor. The UT/TT poll reported that almost the same number of voters had an unfavorable view (35%) as a favorable opinion (36%) of Wendy Davis at this point in the campaign. Plus, Davis' favorables have slightly declined over the last four months, while her unfavorable numbers have increased by 4 points.
Meanwhile, Greg Abbott, who has managed up until recently to be a fairly negligible figure in the campaign (as most of the attention, mostly negative, has focused on Davis) has seen his approval rating go up, while his negative numbers have not risen in the same way as Davis’s. Abbott’s approval number is 45%, up 9 points in 4 months, while his negative rating is up only 1 point at 25%.
One obvious necessity for the Davis campaign at this point is to more vigorously and effectively attack Greg Abbott, while seeking to bolster the positive image of Wendy Davis. That seemingly contradictory demand may indicate that Davis surrogates need to wield the big stick against Abbott, while she mainly stays positive in her messaging.
Abbott started to lend Davis a hand last week on the attack portion of her agenda, by seeing his buddying with NRA front man, Ted Nugent, get the Texas Attorney General into trouble. Nugent’s always wild, and often threatening, rhetoric, was widely criticized, including in the GOP, after Ted called President Obama a “sub-human mongrel” in one of his provocative rants. Davis criticized Abbott for failing to reject Nugent’s comments, and Nugent himself, who Abbott has been using at campaign rallies to whip up conservative support.
So far, the issue of Nugent's radical (or just plain stupid) rhetoric does not seem to have impacted the polling for governor, with Abbott holding the usual GOP lead in Texas.