The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Wendy Davis faces very long odds in the Texas governor’s race. Here’s why.

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It's official. Wendy Davis has announced her candidacy for governor of Texas, giving Democrats a well-known candidate with a proven ability to raise money for a race that has attracted the attention of observers well beyond the borders of the Lone Star State.

So the question must be raised: How much of a chance does Davis have to accomplish what no Democrat has since 1990? In short, a very slim one.

There are four main reasons why:

1. Texas is still a conservative state. While demographic shifts driven by a growing Hispanic population have stoked Democrats' optimism about turning Texas blue, it simply isn't going to happen overnight. For the moment, Texas is very conservative territory. We're talking about a state that hasn't elected a Democrat statewide since 1994, a state with strong social conservative views, and one that gave Mitt Romney more than 57 percent of the vote in 2012. This is also the state that sent cast-iron conservative Ted Cruz to the U.S. Senate. Davis is a state senator who became a national figure following her marathon filibuster of abortion restrictions. While she will have the liberal base (both nationally and in Texas) solidly behind her and will raise millions of dollars, Davis will also have to confront a conservative base fired up to oppose her. The reality is that Texas is not a natural fit for the profile Davis has been cutting.

2. We've heard this story before. This isn't the first time a Democrat has jumped into a statewide race in Texas and instantly attracted buzz. It happened when former Houston mayor Bill White challenged Gov. Rick Perry (R) in 2010. And when now-United States Trade Representative Ron Kirk made a bid for the Senate in 2002. And when oilman Tony Sanchez ran for governor that same year. It's a pattern that has repeated itself over and over again during the past decade. Will Davis break the cycle? It's possible. But recent history certainly isn't on her side.

3. Abbott's strength. Up against a generic Republican, Davis would already be facing an uphill climb, for the reasons outlined above. But she's not. She is facing Attorney General Greg Abbott, the likely Republican nominee. And Abbott isn't just any Republican. He has deep loyalty among conservatives, strong alliances in the establishment and a lot of money. When he launched his campaign in July, he had already stockpiled $20 million.

4. President Obama. Abbott has signaled how he is going to go after Davis. In a Web video released hours before her announcement, Abbott vowed to fight Obama and his "allies," signaling the coming Republican effort to tie Davis to the president and the national Democratic Party. In 2010, White tried all he could to distance himself from the president, who isn't popular in Texas, but Perry still sought to tie the two together. And it didn't do White favors in the end. Obama's official Twitter account supported Davis during her filibuster. It's safe to say Abbott and his allies will raise that fact more than a few times in the campaign.


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