In the past couple of days, the two candidates for Governor have released new television ads. Attorney General Greg Abbott, the Republican candidate, first released an ad a couple of days ago that demonstrates his evident perseverance; a positive commercial that steers clear of negative attacks and any real substance. State Senator Wendy Davis (D-Tarrant County), the Democratic candidate, on the other hand, fired back today with a negative critical takedown of her opponent. Davis, for her part, has now published three commercials, all of which are decidedly negative in theme.
Up first is Abbott’s new advertisement, entitled “Garage.” It’s only 30 seconds, so I really recommend watching it. At it’s core, the ad is a positive, uplifting message about how Abbott was able to slowly regain his strength after his accident. For those unfamiliar, Abbott became a paraplegic many years ago at the age of 25, when he was struck by a falling tree while jogging. He recounted his recovery in the ad, when he discussed how he would go to a local parking garage and roll up many levels, pushing himself step by step. In somewhat inspirational terms, he regaled how he has lived his life by the same standards, and how he would lead the State as Governor in much the same way.
All in all, the ad is undoubtedly very powerful. A blog post at The Washington Post described it as “very, very good,” noting that “It humanizes him in an extremely personal and moving way.” I agree, as a 30-second commercial is not typically a good place to espouse cumbersome policy proposals. Ads that make you feel good, and don’t really require an awful lot of thinking, tend to do better. On that front, Abbott knocks it out of the park.
Of course, positive ads such as this one are often merely a privilege of the incumbent. Or, at the very least, are an impossibility for candidates facing such a deficit on positive name ID as Davis. As I have explained many times in the past, Davis is well-known by the people of Texas, arguably better known than Abbott. The problem with this is that she is known as the person who filibustered anti-abortion restrictions, so the electorate does not have a positive impression of her. The only way she can respond to this is to expand the electorate or go negative. Thus far, she has done both. Now, the effectiveness of these strategies still remain to be seen. But this leads us to Davis’ ad.
The Davis ad, entitled “Court,” describes how Abbott has defended big cuts to Texas schools in lawsuits, and has even allegedly advocated for standardized testing for schoolchildren as young as four. Furthermore, in Davis’ first appearance in one of her ads, she distinguishes her position, where she says that she supports a reduction of testing requirements. Davis also supports a broad idea of reducing bureaucracy, whatever that means.
Now, the claim about Abbott supporting giving standardized tests to four year olds has already caused criticism from among many on the right. Indeed, PolitiFact has rated that claim as “Mostly False” in the past. In reality, Abbott has called for mandatory assessments of students as young as four, but it has never been proven that the only form of assessment that would be accepted is a standardized test.
I also like this ad, but for different reasons. As I explained above, Davis needs to go negative, in order to eviscerate the positive ID that the people have toward her competitor. However, as I have said in the past, this should not be accomplished with factually dubious claims, such as the one about standardized tests for four year olds. There is plenty of dirt on Abbott, the Democrats should not begin to resort to making it up.