It’s no secret that Wendy Davis is thinking about a run for governor of Texas in 2014, but if she does, she faces an uphill climb. A new poll by Public Policy Polling (PPP) shows that Davis greatly improved her standing and recognition among Texans with her dramatic filibuster of SB 5, which would have shut down 90% of the abortion clinics in the entire state of Texas (Governor Perry has called another special session, and the bill will likely pass). So, what are Wendy Davis’ chances if she runs? Let’s look at what the numbers say and what they don’t.
Davis’ favorability rating now stands at 39% favorable, 29% unfavorable. Not bad for someone who just made a name for herself with a big pro-choice stance in a red state. Still, those numbers imply that 32% weren’t sure or had no opinion. Davis still needs to introduce herself to about a third of the state.
Governor Rick Perry has a mixed set of numbers, but they add up to a good shot at reelection. After dipping down to 41% approval against 55%, Perry is up to 45%/50%. Yes, that means half the state still doesn’t like him, but he is known, and he is a reliable Republican. For those reasons, he beats all likely challengers in a hypothetical matchup, including 53-39 against Wendy Davis. It isn’t all bad for Davis, however: Texans don’t want Perry to seek another term by an incredible 2-1 margin (60% want him to move on, 30% want him to stay). While many of those 60% would still vote for Perry, Davis could run on a message of change: she would be a fresh face for a state that hasn’t had one in over a decade.
Of course, in the background of all these numbers is that Davis is a Democrat in Texas. This simple fact means she starts with a huge deficit. Can she overcome that? One Texas politics expert, and longtime Davis supporter Rachel Farris believes she can:
“She lost her first election when she ran for city council, and she told me once that she hates to lose. She realizes that to be in Texas, and to be a woman in politics you have to outwork everyone and show that you are just as capable, if not more so.”
Perry, like his predecessor George W. Bush, has his Texas charm, but also his share of “oops” moments. If Davis can portray him as fumbling, not always competent, and someone who has been in his job too long, she might be able to combine enough of her own momentum with anti-Perry sentiment to take the election. If Perry doesn’t run (many think he won’t), Davis would be up against someone with less name-recognition but a cleaner slate.
Either way, she faces long odds, but this is the woman who stood for 13 hours without leaning, going to the bathroom, eating or drinking. Running for Texas Governor could just be one more war of attrition.