Supreme Court blocks HB2

The US Supreme Court has ruled in emergency fashion that invaluable components of HB2, the omnibus anti-abortion bill that Wendy Davis famously filibustered, may be stayed until appeal. Specifically, a provision that required all clinics to adhere to the standards of ambulatory surgical centers was put on hold, as was another in part. The provision that requires abortion doctors to have admitting privileges at a nearby hospital was set aside specifically for clinics in McAllen and El Paso, though not the rest of the State.

The ruling was 6-3, with Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Anthony Kennedy joining the four liberals. The three arch-conservatives, meanwhile, dissented from the order. As most will remember, a Federal Judge struck down these provisions a couple months back, but a Federal Appeals Court lifted the stay while it considered the appeal. The Supreme Court today merely reapplied the stay of the Federal District Judge in Austin who originally ruled the law unconstitutional, Lee Yeakel. Last year, Yeakel also ruled other provisions of the law unconstitutional, in a suit that similarly was reversed by the Appeals Court, although the Supreme Court pointedly chose not to reapply the stay in that case.

The implications here are, in a word, huge. As noted above, the Court has decidedly not stayed previous decisions, often 5-4 and along party lines. The two moderate conservatives on the Court, Roberts and Kennedy, have for some reason decided to shift views on the topic. Perhaps it is because the full effect of the case would reduce the number of clinics in Texas to just 5 or 6, a horrifying lower number per capita than other states included Mississippi, which has only one. Whatever the rationale, the implications of this decision are rather significant. For the first time, I am even cautiously optimistic that the law could be struck down by the Supreme Court upon final appeal (which is still likely years off).

Additionally, this development will likely take everyone’s mind off of that silly Wendy Davis ad, which has been eating up a significant portion of the 24/7 news cycle recently. As unfavorable to Davis as talking about abortion might be, I would still reckon it is leaps and bounds above the fallout over her wheelchair ad. Anyways, that’s my two-cents.

As for the clinics closed by this law, they can now re-open. Sagacious followers of the press will be familiar with stories of clinics closing overnight and cancelling dozens of appointments along with it. Those clinics can now re-open and, hopefully, women can continue receiving the healthcare options they need.

The wheelchair ad

State Senator Wendy Davis (D-Tarrant County), the Democratic candidate for Governor, has released the television ad we have all been waiting for: dinging her Republican opponent, Attorney General Greg Abbott, on perceived hypocrisy related to the settlement he received as a result of his disability.

In 1984, when Abbott was 26 and studying for the bar exam, a tree fell on him in a freak accident. He was running around his neighborhood following a storm. The accident left him permanently paralyzed from the waist down; it also prompted him to sue both the homeowner and the landscaping company responsible for maintaining the structural integrity of the tree in question. He won about $10 Million off of that lawsuit. Later, Abbott heralded tort reform that capped punitive damages in lawsuits and brought about big changes that made suits harder for victims. Longtime readers of my opinions will be familiar with my skepticism of so-called tort reform, but that’s not really at issue here.

Accordingly, this narrative, that Abbott rightly received justice after he was wronged but then pulled up the ladder behind him to prevent others from doing the same, is somewhat compelling. It is edgy but it makes a valid point. Considering how Abbott has used his wheelchair to benefit himself in his ads, it appears it is fair game to bring it up in a respectful manner on a relevant point.

All that being said, the ad does not talk about tort reform. Instead, the 30-second spot — filled with ominous narration and music — broadly connects the accident/lawsuit with some of Abbott’s actions in the past, none of which related to tort reform.

The first reference, reported on by The Dallas Morning News this past February, involved Abbott arguing that the State of Texas has sovereign immunity against disabled people who file suit over perceived violations of the Americans With Disabilities Act. The News literally summarized the article by stating that Abbott “tenaciously battled to block the courthouse door to disabled Texans who sue the state.” This is a fair point to bring up, but it is important to note that Abbott did not try to sue the government. There is far more direct hypocrisy with the tort reform point.

The second and third references, respectively, involved the Kirby vacuum case and the case of Dr Christopher Dunstch, both of which have been subjects of other Davis ads. These are more of stretches, as it is difficult to so plainly connect them with any hypocrisy on Abbott’s part.

Abbott, for his part, responded to the ad with shock and indignation. In an exclusive with the San Antonio Express-News, he offered to paint a parallel between himself and Davis (one, for what it’s worth, that is not completely accurate), characterizing Davis as a dirty politician and himself as a far more honest alternative.

It’s her choice if she wants to attack a guy in a wheelchair. I don’t think it’s going to sell too well,” Abbott told the Express-News. “[The ad] is offensive. It shows the tenor of the campaign. If you look at my ads, I focused on what I’m going to be doing as governor, and my opponent spends all her time in ads attacking me, as I’m attacking the challenges that fellow Texans deal with.”

Abbott, of course, has published his own dirty attack ads, one of which takes some excessive liberties with the truth. Still, the whole “throwing rocks at a wheelchair” argument will indeed not do Davis any favors. Aaron Blake at The Washington Post called the ad “one of the nastiest campaign ads you will ever see.” A correspondent at New York Magazine called the ad “at best, in poor taste.” The Week called it “brutal.” Even Mother Jones, no one’s idea of an outlet sympathetic to Republicans, pulled no punches on the Davis campaign. Among the tidbits in their writeup on the ad (penned not by an intern, but by their de facto Online Editor) was assertions that the ad was “nasty,” “offensive” and “bull***t.”

I don’t necessarily agree with much of the sentiment espoused in those national publications, mostly written by snobby Yankees who have never visited our fine state, but — contrary to what some of my compatriots might think — their contributions are important nonetheless. The national media has decidedly figured out that the ad was offensive. My gut tells me that the general public will likely think the same.

I understand the point of the ad. I’ve been advocating for some (albeit, clearer) variation of the point for a while now. But the connection evidently was not clear enough, and the public is outraged at what appears, at cursory glance, to be a mean-spirited attack on a disabled man. For better or for worse, that’s what Davis is dealing with.

Impropriety in another Perry fund

Photo: Gage Skidmore

The Dallas Morning News reports that, following an independent audit of the Texas Enterprise Fund, it has been revealed that $222 Million was given from the Governor-managed fund to entities that had not even submitted an application. The State Auditor, John Keel, released a tough report to legislators today that alleges the TEF has an inconsistent criteria they use to dole out the coveted money.

Most of these handouts occurred in the inaugural years of the fund, which was created in 2003 (for those of y’all playing at home, Perry has been the Governor since 2000). Perry’s office has defended the apparently capricious picks as kinks in the system that were quickly worked out as the fund got its start. Other revelations, however, were also released. Many of the reports on how money was spent and used provided incomplete summaries and details.  Other money fell through the cracks when the State evidently did not recoup all the money owed to it when contracts were terminated. Some reports just outright lied. Within the News story is a bombshell that one such report alleged that 66,000 jobs had been created by one beneficiary rather than 48,000. That’s a fairly significant number to fudge.

The audit reveals a culture of impropriety. One in which the desired conclusions influence data, not the other way around. The whole smell of it all is probably the most damaging portion of this report, rather than any of the individual details.

Obviously, the total lies in some of the reports present a problem. But staff can always be blamed for that, in ways that can not necessarily be pinned back on the Governor. In my opinion, the greatest issues that occur deal with the entities that received the money without applying for it. Now, when one looks at the specific entities that got the murky money, they are reputable firms such as the University of Texas at Dallas and MD Anderson. None of them appear to have any financial link to Perry or any of his lemmings. That being said, things could change in an instant.

The most important thing here is the appearance of impropriety. I suppose this could be a campaign tool for State Senator Wendy Davis (D-Tarrant County), the Democratic candidate for Governor. She did, in fact, first author the bill in the State Legislature that led to this office. And while Abbott supports many changes from the system described here, it could be a valuable campaign tool to continue the talking point that Republicans are too interested in picking winners and losers. Especially in light of the ongoing controversy involving CPRIT, this could very well end up being another piece of the puzzle, that inextricably ties Perry and other Republicans to possible impropriety/corruption.

Crocodile tears

The Houston Chronicle reports that Attorney General Greg Abbott, the Republican candidate for Governor, has unveiled yet another television ad. Going back to the style of his first, very positive and self narrated, Abbott lamented the troubles facing Texas roads and outlined his proposal to help.

“A guy in a wheelchair can move faster than traffic on some roads in Texas,” Abbott says. He proposes prohibiting moneys in the State Highway Fund from going to non-highway sources. From what the ad says, Abbott appears to insinuate that these so-called diversions are pork barrel spending used by legislators as de facto earmarks. According to Abbott’s website, this could save $400,000,000.00 a year, or $800 Million a biennium!

This is all good and well, but the Houston Chronicle noted earlier this year that House Speaker Joe Straus will instruct members to compile a budget next session that does exactly this. Accordingly, if one were to agree with this proposal, Straus should get the accolades, not Abbott. However, this assumes that the proposal is a good idea. The Chronicle article suggests that the bulk of this non-transportation money spent out the highway fund goes to law enforcement agencies. Abbott’s website also admits that, “In the 2014-15 biennial budget , more than $800 million was appropriated to non-transportation related agencies, including the Office of Comptroller, the Veteran’s Commission, and the Department of Insurance.” Not pork-barrel spending, but veterans. Obviously, these important government expenditures will have to be made up for elsewhere in the budget, so the actual “savings” will be kept to a minimum.

As Dug Begley, the Chronicle’s awesome transportation columnist, has opined, roads are quite high priority but low on the totem pole for folks willing to spend money. People like Abbott, all too often, appear to think that they just magically appear one day. Those in the know in transportation land have said many billions of dollars are needed per annum just to maintain the quality of our roads with the exponentially increasing population. $4 Billion to $8 Billion, by some estimates. Abbott’s plan does not do this, and State Senator Wendy Davis (D-Tarrant County) does not have a good plan for it either.

Both candidates are afraid of uttering the true solution to this problem: raising the gas tax. Unchanged for nearly 25 years, the gas tax is the main mechanism that the State of Texas uses to fund its expansive highway system. Republicans and Democrats alike, trembling in fear before vehemently anti-tax voters, dare not to speak of raising it. But, because of this reluctance, the Texas Department of Transportation has only dug itself deeper and deeper into debt. State Senator Kevin Eltife (R-Smith County) is one of the few politicians willing to frankly discuss this problem, and the need to do something drastic (like hike the gas tax). The New York Times reported on this development last year in some detail.

But Eltife is not running for Governor, Abbott is. And Abbott’s grand plans for roads are completely worthless. It does not even put a band-aid over the problem like the Legislature did last session. He may shed crocodile tears over our crumbling roads, but he and his Tea Party friends’ extreme ideology are partly why we are in this situation. Roads are expensive.

The terrible, horrible, no good, very bad debate

RGV Debate

On Friday evening, Attorney General Greg Abbott, the Republican nominee for Governor, and State Senator Wendy Davis (D-Tarrant County), the Democratic nominee, squared off in the first of two general election debates in the gubernatorial campaign. The debate was minimally televised but livestreamed from McAllen. In a word, it was a disaster. In two words, it was an unmitigated disaster. The format of the debate was so terrible that it is literally incapable of being described in an artful manner.

Basically, the entire debate consisted of what would be referred to by those familiar with debates as a “lightning round.” One of the three moderators would come up with a fairly specific question, typically with some background, addressed to a specific candidate. No followup, no rebuttals and no clarification were made. Just a softball (given in advanced) lobbed right over the plate, and the same trite sound bites coming up again and again. The one exception to this rule was what they called the “Candidate-to-candidate questioning,” which consisted of a grand total of two questions. Davis took the opportunity to pontificate about one of her pet issues, with a thoroughly unremarkable question buried somewhere amid the rambling. Abbott asked Davis point-blank, “Do you regret voting for President Obama?” Davis, unsurprisingly, fumbled…Derek Carr style.

Longtime readers of my words will definitely know that I am no obsequious loyalist to Obama. I wouldn’t have been personally offended if Davis would have said “yes,” and then proceeded to list the multitude of reasons she supposedly would have an ax to grind against the President. It’s a reasonable strategy for a Democrat in a red state; it might end up working out well for Alison Grimes in Kentucky. Likewise, she could have stood her ground and defended the President against an increasingly out-of-touch Republican Party. Either option has some strengths, but her chicken way of equivocating was just pitiful.

Those questioners were out of place for Davis compared to the rest of the debate. Otherwise, she was knowledgeable, on-message and with no shortage of good zingers against Abbott. She wiped the floor with him on the merits, but –especially in a poorly formatted debate like this– that just doesn’t mean much anymore.

Abbott was totally dominant on style. He was sleek, polished and articulate. Davis was none of those. Most pundits have taken to the word “robotic” in describing Davis’ performance. Her monotone voice and general absence of delivery skills was quite apparent throughout the evening. As I have said many times over the past few months, Davis’ strength is not her innate political acumen. She has tremendous perseverance, courage and bravery, that’s what led her to the filibuster. Everyone obviously remembers that, but no one remembers any sound bites from her. And that’s what wins debates, not superior policy prescriptions.

Of course, I wasn’t surprised with Davis’ performance. And, please not forget, the worst part of the debate was its format. The moderators were some of the worst “journalists” I have ever seen. When one is an underdog like Davis, and the rules simply do not allow you to rebut the baldfaced lies lodged by your opponent, the odds are just stacked against you. That should be the takeaway lesson.

Nevertheless, both Abbott and Davis claimed victory in the debate. The Houston Chronicle noted this morning that they both a renewed sense of optimism on the campaign trail. In reality, however, this isn’t especially good news for the Davis camp. Even if, for the sake of argument, we say that the debate was a push, it’s bad news for Davis. With the polls putting her behind anywhere from 8 to 18 points, she needed a decisive victory on Friday night. Only the truly deranged would actually believe she actually achieved it.

Brains & Eggs and Texas Leftist have more.

Ads! Ads! Ads! Ads! Ads! Ads! Ads! Ads! Ads! Ads! Ads! Ads! Ads! Ads! Ads! Ads!

It’s the season for campaign ads, obviously. Just in the past few days, the campaigns of both State Senator Wendy Davis (D-Tarrant County), the Democratic candidate for Governor, and Attorney General Greg Abbott, the Republican candidate, have each released two new 30-second commercials, respectively. Both of Davis’ continue in her tradition of negativity, while Abbott’s stand at one positive and one negative.

In the succeeding paragraphs, I will attempt to briefly explain some of the recent commercials, what their immediate implications are and some of the deeper things to start thinking about with these airing on television. Now, I’m not a very prolific watcher of live TV, and all too often I merely stream programming from Houston on my television (Houston Astros games are hard to come by in Austin). Accordingly, I cannot say from firsthand experience how often these have been coming on the airwaves at, say, primetime as opposed to during weird hours.

In the first Abbott ad, the video cuts into him literally sitting on a large floor map of the United States, specifically over California. He then travels over to the Texas section, all the while narrating why companies are reportedly ditching the Golden State for the Lone Star State. Then, as the grind climax, the Texas section literally raises up as a podium. The entire thing is cheesier than Gouda. And while Abbott gives some specifics about low taxation and competitive regulation, the dialogue seems almost of second importance. The subliminal messaging is quite clear: what may originate in California will eventually end in Texas. It’s a tired phrase that has undoubtedly entered the political lexicon in Texas.

Additionally, and perhaps it’s just me, but I found Abbott’s wheelchair to be somewhat prominently featured in the ad. The camera is zoomed out far enough that you see all of him –not just his face– and then he very obviously rolls his chair across the mapped floor. I’m probably making too big a deal of it, but it stuck out to me. Abbott is obviously not averse to using his wheelchair/disability as a political tool to resonate with voters, given by the subject material of his first TV ad.

Second for the Abbott ads, in yet another 30-second spot that was released today, Abbott goes negative. He connects the dots about some broad shadow attacks that have been flung around at Davis for the past few weeks or so, regarding alleged conflicts of interest between a title company that she partially owned and contracts she voted on while serving on the Fort Worth City Council. The Dallas Morning News provided a pretty concise and fair summary of those issues rather recently, so I would suggest checking it out. The most important line from the report was that Davis never actually violated the ethics policy of the City of Fort Worth, nor engaged in any actual wrongdoing. The connections are supposedly just too close for comfort for some, I guess.

Obviously, it is a big deal that Abbott is going negative. He feels obliged to go down the road of more risk and more reward, rather than playing it safe with more of these sappy, positive shows of pathos. An argument could be made by someone more optimistic than me that this is a good sign of Davis closing the gap.

Davis’ fourth ad, entitled “Time Went By,” deals with the alleged gap between the uncovering of abuse at a juvenile detention center and the Attorney General’s (Abbott) response. The allegation has now received a “Mostly False” designation from PolitiFact.

The scandal occurred in 2005, when Texas Rangers began investigating abuse at the facility and, sensing delay from local prosecutors, one ranger appealed to the Attorney General’s office. What the Davis ad leaves out is that, under state law, the local prosecutor needs to ask the AG to step in. In 2007, after the scandal was leaked to the press, Abbott’s office indeed vigorously prosecutors the abusers.

Continuing in the tradition of negative ads with dark, ominous narration and no interaction on the part of Davis, this ad is yet another disappointment. Negative ads are an effective way to make an impact in a campaign, and I thought her first TV ad was a good way to do that, but dishonesty should never be tolerated in politics. It cheapens the process for all involved, on either side of the aisle. There are plenty of things to rightly knock Abbott on, but this is just not one of them. Obviously, the make takeaway here is that Davis’ ads are all about how Abbott merely uses his office to “cover” for insiders.

Last but not least, Davis’ most recent ad, which was also first released today. This story was described in somewhat vivid detail a few months ago by Texas Monthly, and –once again– I recommend checking it out. The surgeon involved, Christopher Dunstch, maimed and killed quite of few people before eventually being taken out of commission. In a lawsuit, restitution is obviously sought, but the constitutionality of a major tort reform law is also challenged.

The reason is that the current tort reform law currently has an absurdly high standard, “gross negligent,” for these types of holdings. Accordingly, before monsters like Duntsch can be removed from their capacity, quite a few atrocities sometimes must occur in order to prove the aforementioned gross negligence. The ad states that Abbott, after receiving $250,000 from the hospital’s chairman, intervened in the law to defend the hospital. This much is a tad bit misleading; he actually defended the constitutionality of the law.

Still, the apparent quid-pro-quo should be unsettling. And defending the bad law, for all intent and purp0ses, defends the hospital. I don’t know how Politifact will rate this one, but I am overall comfortable with its use. Hopefully, it is effective.

Once again, maybe I am over-analyzing this, but did anyone else notice the huge difference in aesthetic quality of the ads? The Abbott map ad looked to be poorly shot, and the attack ad was –in a word– cacophonous. I could be wrong, but it looks like the Davis campaign is putting more time and money into the production of the advertisements themselves.

How much is Davis losing by?

This appears to be the big question. The Houston Chronicle reports that a few polls have come out in the gubernatorial election, each painting a successively worse picture for State Senator Wendy Davis (D-Tarrant County), the Democratic candidate for Governor. First, an internal poll from the campaign of Attorney General Greg Abbott, the Republican candidate for Governor, that showed him beating Davis by 18 points. Davis fired back with one showing her deficit to only be eight points. Meanwhile, YouGov –in conjunction with both CBS and The New York Times– released its second poll for this race, confirming Abbott’s lead at 18, actually one point higher than the previous YouGov poll from over the summer.

The first poll, Abbott’s internal memo, was conducted by a firm called Wilson Perkins Allen. The firm typically has a sizable Republican bias, but with a result this overwhelming, there should be little doubt of who is up by double digits. The poll showed Abbott leading with a majority of both women and Hispanics.

Internal Poll

The second poll, Davis’ internal poll, paints a far rosier picture, with the deficit being a comparably mere eight points. Both of these internal polls, as best as I can figure out, exclude both Kathie Glass (the Libertarian) and Brandon Parmer (the Green). This poll, effectively, has the same result that Rasmussen Report offered up last month. Granted, this poll may offer some improvement for Davis, since Rasmussen pegged the race at 48Abbott-40Davis and this poll offers 46Abbott-38Davis, meaning that Abbott is further from the all-important 50-percent mark.

However, there have been some Pro-Davis groups that have latched onto this poll as some type of “momentum” for the Democrats. Obviously, such characterizations are unwise.

Internal Poll2

Finally, we come to the YouGov poll. They have a rather haphazard track record, but the new 18 point deficit that Davis faces has actually grown since July. As I wrote at length about YouGov when their previous poll came out, they should be taken with a grain of salt, but not be so wholeheartedly discounted like a Texas Tribune poll.


As I have explained ad naseum in the past, Public Policy Polling (PPP) and Rasmussen Reports are the only two polling houses worth their weight in paper that actually poll Texas.

If I stopped ten people on the street in Houston and jotted down the results on this publication, that might be the worst poll in the history of Texas polling. But, statistically speaking, there would be a noticeable chance that 5 support Abbott, 4 support Davis and 1 currently undecided. That doesn’t mean I have a good poll, it means that –for lack of a non-cliched phrase– my broken clock is right on one of its obligatory two instances throughout the day.

Accordingly, I share the sentiment of many Democrats in discounting the apocalyptic tone that the YouGov poll would seem to prompt from the Davis campaign. If I had to guess, I would think that Davis currently trails at about 8-10 points, with an insignificant portion of the electorate still undecided. All other things being equal, that is where she will probably end up, losing to Abbott around 53-43, with the remainder split amongst the fringe candidates.

The Davis campaign appears complacent with the eight-point deficit to a worrisome extent. I observed much of the same complacent-with-mediocrity attitude a couple weeks back when one national pundit moved the gubernatorial race from “safe Republican” to “leans Republican.” You would have thought a poll had put the Democrat ahead by their gleeful attitudes.

The Chronicle article that I linked at the top of this post makes much the same point. This is not 2012, where both Barack Obama and Mitt Romney were arguing over polls that showed either one clinching victory. The only argument here is how much Davis is losing by, and it is a rather depressing argument over semantics for her to make.

Brains & Eggs and Off the Kuff have more.

Wendy Davis’ personal decision

The Houston Chronicle reports that State Senator Wendy Davis (D-Tarrant County), the Democratic candidate for Governor, acknowledged in her upcoming memoir that she has terminated two pregnancies. Both of which occurred in the 1990s for medical reasons, when Davis was married to Jeff Davis. They occurred after the birth of two previous daughters.

The first occurred as a result of an “ectopic pregnancy,” wherein the embryo lodges in a fallopian tube instead of the uterus. In most all of these sad occurrences, the baby dies before term and the mother often dies during the pregnancy as well. The termination occurred in the first trimester. The second such occurrence happened in 1997, when Davis was 34. The second-trimester procedure occurred after testing showed the baby would be born with severe defects and abnormalities; it would have almost certainly been in a permanent vegetative state for the duration of her short, suffering-filled life. Davis would have likely faced significant health concerns as well. Excerpts from Davis’ memoir published in the newspaper note in heartbreaking detail how she delivered her daughter, already named Tate Elise, after the procedure via c-section. It also recounted how the baby was wrapped in pink, and brought to Davis and her husband so that they could have her baptized.

Longtime readers of this publication will obviously know my position on abortion rights issues. It is a woman’s personal decision, and as such should not be subjected to the whims and caprices of public examination. If this revelation would have been first published by anyone other than Davis herself, I would have pointedly refused to acknowledge it. But she was the first to release this information (in the middle of a gubernatorial election), which tells me that she is amenable to the press corps far and wide remarking on this topic.

First, it should be noted that while Davis’ courage in coming forth publicly with this part of her life is certainly unique, her experience itself is not. Studies have shown that about 1 in 3 women will have an abortion in their lifetime.

Granted, Davis’ personal experiences are not like many abortions. The two babies that she lost were not, in any way whatsoever, “unwanted” or “unintended.” But at the root of all of these difficult, personal decisions is that a woman should make her own decision, free from shame, guilt or ridicule. While her political positions, most notably those espoused during his famous filibuster, support legalized abortion on-demand, her procedures were a result of actions significantly more popular among the public, specifically in Texas.

While polls have generally found Texans split about half-and-half on the whole “pro-life” vs. “pro-choice” thing, a recent UT/Tribune poll (which, granted, have a bad track record) show a whopping 79% of Texans support abortion in times of danger to the mother. As Mark Jones, the resident political pundit at Rice, opined in the Chronicle article, the only people that would actually be opposed to the choices that Davis personally made are so conservative that they would have never voted for her in the first place.

However, there have been some who have, in appallingly ugly fashion, derided Davis for her choices. In horribly bad taste, my colleague at Rhymes with Right gleefully used the phrase “Abortion Barbie” in the title of his post. Others have attacked her for ostensibly using the revelation as a campaign issue. I’m sorry, but I truly have no patience for such misogyny. There is something to be said for it not being appropriate to write and release a memoir in the midst of a gubernatorial election, but those critiques should have been aired many months ago. The criticisms I am hearing today revolve around how Davis should not have revealed a HUGE personal decision in her life in a book about her life, that somehow it was inappropriate for a woman to discuss personal, private details from her past in a way men always do.

Brains & Eggs has more.

Two more gubernatorial ads

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.