Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Ann Richards, She Is Not: Ominous Signs For Wendy Davis On Texas Primary Night

Photos courtesy of Bettmann/CORBIS and Erich Schlegel/Getty

Wendy Davis, as beloved by the liberal grassroots, Hollywood left, and abortion rights activists as she may be, doesn't seem all that poised to become the first Democrat to capture the Texas Governor's mansion since Ann Richards in 1990. In spite of an impressive fundraising presence, she's had a bumbling media presence, and poor poll numbers.

After a close look at last night's primary results, it's doubtful anyone will be disabused of the notion that Davis is likely to lose to Abbott in the fall. With 99.9% of precincts reporting, Wendy Davis defeated her primary opposition in a two-person field with an undeniably impressive 79% of the vote (about 432,000 people).

But the bright-spots stop there. She attracted less primary votes than three of the two Democratic Texas Gubernatorial nominees before her - Bill White in 2010 (517,000 votes), and Tony Sanchez in 2002 (609,000 votes). She outperformed the third only slightly, Chris Bell, in 2006 (325,000 votes). In fact, Davis's vote total was only a fraction of the woman's she no-doubt considers a hero, former Governor Ann Richardson (who attracted 807,000 votes in her primary for re-election 20 years ago).

As bad as that sounds, it gets worse. Republican Greg Abbott also won his party's primary last night, but by an even more impressive 92%. That's a whopping 1.2+ million votes, by far the most of any Texas Gubernatorial Primary candidate, Republican or Democrat, ever.

Yeah, yeah, I know what you're thinking. Texas is filled with Republicans, so obviously, Abbott's primary vote total is is going to be higher than Wendy's. True, but her vote total, as a percentage of the winner of the GOP primary's vote total, is lower than Bill White and Chris Bell's before her (Rick Perry ran unopposed in the 2002 GOP primary).

Before going on to lose to Perry in the general election by 9-pts, Chris Bell (D) managed to win 59% of the total number of voters that Perry won on primary night, 2006 (553,000 votes). In 2010, Democrat Bill White won an even larger share of Perry's voters (68%) on primary night than Bell. He, too, went down in defeat to Perry that November, by 13-pts.

What share of Greg Abbott's vote total did Wendy Davis win last night? A pretty paltry 35%.

Yes, you read that correctly. Davis, in her primary, won just 35% of the total votes won by Greg Abbott in his.

Obviously, variables like primary vote totals don't necessarily predict the outcome of a general election months down the road. These races aren't frozen in vacuums. They're fluid, and susceptible to any number of things, like the noise of the 24-hour news cycle. And look no further than 1994 for an example of when the bigger primary vote-getter did NOT go on to win the general election.

...but still. Thirty-five percent, and 432,000 votes? Is this even remotely impressive for someone of Wendy's rock-star status?  More than that, what does it say of the Democrat's hopes of "turning Texas blue"?

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