Texas state Sen. Wendy Davis (D) isn't going to run away from President Obama when he visits the Lone Star State next month, despite running for governor in a deeply conservative part of the country.
Obama will be in Austin to keynote a civil rights summit on April 10. During a Texas Tribuneconversation on Thursday, Evan Smith asked Davis whether she would shy away from appearing with the president.
"I'm definitely planning on being at the celebration," Davis responded, adding, "I'm excited about greeting our president there and our former presidents, who I think are also planning to be there."
The Tribune's Smith then asked, "If somebody wants to take a picture with you and President Obama, you're not going to do this," as he shielded his face.
"No, I'm definitely not going to do that," Davis said with a laugh.
Davis did not respond to a question from Smith about whether she would campaign with Obama. (Don't hold your breath.) But even appearing with the president at the April event might seem like a politically perilous move in ruby red Texas, the home of Sen. Ted Cruz (R), a state government dominated by Republicans and a 20-year Democratic drought in statewide races. But it's not as risky as you might think.
First, Obama isn't dramatically more unpopular in Texas than he is in the country as a whole. His approval rating in the state in 2013 averaged 45.6 percent, on par with his national approval rating of 46.5 percent, according to Gallup. It's at least 10 points higher than where Obama stood in North Dakota and 11 other states in 2013. Yes, Obama lost Texas by 16 points in 2012. But he lost by a wider margin in 14 states.
What's more, a Texas Lyceum poll conducted last year showed that Hispanics, one of the main demographic groups Democrats are focused on as they look to turn Texas purple in the coming years, give Obama high marks. Seventy-one percent of Hispanics in Texas said Obama was doing a very or somewhat good job. The survey was taken before the problems with Obamacare surfaced in the fall, but even if with a substantial drop-off, Obama would still being doing quite well with Latinos. (Overall, half of all Texas voters said Obama was doing a very or somewhat good job in the poll -- a respectable number.)
Davis wants to win the governorship this year. But as we've written, that's going to be a tall task against Attorney General Greg Abbott (R). Some Democrats are taking the long view -- looking at this year's race as a way to mobilize base voters and build the Democratic brand for future elections. And many of those voters like Obama. So, if Davis wants to preserve her political future as Texas grows increasingly competitive, her best move may be to make sure she leaves the governor's race -- win or lose -- as well regarded within the Democratic base.
Will Republicans go after Davis for appearing with Obama? Um, yes. They are already trying to link the two together. And that's part of the point -- they are going to do it anyway, so why throw away what upside there is among the Democratic base of appearing with Obama?