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What is in Wendy Davis’s political future?

Wendy Davis just became the most interesting politician in Texas.

A marathon filibuster over a GOP-backed plan to tighten abortion laws Tuesday brought her statewide and even national attention. Which raises the question: Might she run for higher office some day?

Even before Tuesday's historic filibuster, Davis was already being talked about as a potential candidate for higher office. But the Texas's strong conservative tilt suggests she would face long odds in a statewide race.

(Eric Gay/AP)
(Eric Gay/AP)

"From the perspective of electability, she's one of our top superstars in Texas," state Democratic Chairman Gilberto Hinojosa, told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram in January. "Her sensibility and approach to politics will just automatically propel her as a top candidate for statewide office."

There is both a governor's race and a Senate race in 2014. Republicans will be heavy favorites regardless of the Democratic nominee. Texas is very, very conservative. And some of Davis's positions, particularly on abortion, would be politically problematic.

That doesn't mean that if Davis decided to run for higher office it wouldn't make for a race worth watching. Take the governor's contest. Gov. Rick Perry (R) has not ruled out running for reelection. If he doesn't, Attorney General Greg Abbott (R) looks like the odds-on favorite. As the Star-Telegram notes, an Abbott-Davis showdown would set up deep contrasts over abortion.

As a politician in general, there are a few things working in Davis's favor. First, she is battle-tested. She won a tough reelection bid in her Fort Worth-area seat last year against a GOP recruit with deep ties to powerful Republicans. Second, she will have name recognition and money. Lots of both.

And it is also worth noting that Davis recently drew a two-year term rather than a four-year term in the Senate, which could prompt her to look at higher office sooner rather than later.

Sen. John Cornyn (R) faces reelection in 2014, and Democrats don't have a recruit. If Davis were to run, her fundraising ability could force Republicans to at the least spend more money in a staunchly conservative state. But the flipside is that it would be easy to tie her to national Democratic interests -- President Obama's Twitter account linked to a story about her Tuesday -- which would be very tough to overcome in Texas.

Of course, Davis will have to compete for the spotlight in the coming years with other up-and-coming Texas Democrats. The Castro brothers -- Rep. Joaquin Castro and San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro --  have raised their profile dramatically in recent years. Julian Castro gave a well-received keynote speech at the Democratic National Convention last year, and is seen is a potential future gubernatorial candidate.

Rice University political scientist Mark Jones said that after Julian Castro, Davis's stock is the highest in Texas Democratic circles. "She is one of the Democratic Party's rising stars," he said.

Whatever Davis does, her decisions well worth watching. And after Tuesday, she won't have any shortage of spectators.

Sean Sullivan has covered national politics for The Washington Post since 2012.



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