Has Wendy Davis' Charmed Run for Governor Started to Implode? (Update: Meltdown)
By now you're aware of the Dallas Morning News story that debunks Texas Democrat Wendy Davis' own origins story. Briefly, she divorced her first husband when she was 21, not 19. She makes much of having lived in a mobile home, but the fact is that she only lived there a few months before walking away from the mortgage. Rather than working her way through college as she claims, she married wealthy attorney Jeff Davis, who paid for her education at expensive Texas Christian University and more expensive Harvard. She divorced him and left him with their two children -- one, from her first marriage -- the day after he made the final payment on her Harvard tuition. That smacks of a sugar daddy relationship, though no one in the mainstream media has gone anywhere near making that allegation yet. In Wayne Slater's original story, the allegation makes itself. Slater's story also hints that Davis consistently puts her own career ahead of the needs of her daughters. This quote from a former colleague says as much:
“Wendy is tremendously ambitious,” he said, speaking only on condition of anonymity in order to give what he called an honest assessment. “She’s not going to let family or raising children or anything else get in her way.”
That's coming from a supporter of hers, by the way, not someone with a vested interest in tearing her down. That same supporter adds that a lot of what she uses to describe herself "isn't true," but is an effort to "spin herself in a way that grabs the heartstrings." After saying all that, the supporter adds that he believes she would still be a good governor. Most Texans will form their own opinions about that.
Wendy Davis may also be a perjurer, because she has testified under oath that she was 19 at the time of her first divorce, not 21.
All of this speaks to Davis' honesty and integrity. If she cannot be counted on to accurately report her own history, she's likely to run a slipshod governorship that remains at arm's length with the truth. Asking legitimate questions about her veracity is not a personal attack, but the vetting that political candidates should expect to undergo when they seek high office and the power that comes with it. Her reaction to the publication of this story suggests that her skin hasn't gotten any thicker since she blamed the Fort Worth Star-Telegram for her first political defeat and sued the paper for endorsing her opponent, back in 1996.
Davis has responded by calling the Slater story a personal attack, and is accusing the Abbott campaign of being behind the story's publication. Slater says he never once discussed the story with any campaign. His track record as a longtime political reporter in Texas suggests that he is not in bed with any candidate or either party, but pursues and publishes stories as a journalist. So Davis, in response to questions about her integrity and truthfulness, is hurling baseless charges against her opponent, who had nothing to do with her "loose language," and a reporter, who also had nothing to do with her "loose language." He reported the facts that he found. If anything, Slater's story comes with less bite than it could have.
Today, Paul Burka, the dean of political reporters in Texas, is blasting what he calls "the problems of Wendy Davis" in Texas Monthly.
Now that details about Wendy Davis's biography have been called into question, the spotlight needs to focus on the Davis campaign. It cannot afford to make unforced errors like these, and it certainly can't turn around try to blame the Greg Abbott campaign for them (the last time I checked, Wayne Slater was a political journalist, not a political operative). Of course, these aren't the first missteps: she was unable to estimate how much her education plan would cost the state, and her campaign fouled up its own math when it tried to attack Abbott over contributions from payday lenders. The words "not ready for prime time" come to mind, a concern that some Democrats privately shared with me months ago.
Democrats are out today calling the story about Davis part of the "war on women," but that war evidently now includes the Dallas Morning News and the left-of-center Texas Monthly. Or it's not a real war at all (it never was).
Davis herself may be waging a war on good sense, when she speaks of the paraplegic Abbott like this:
I am proud of where I came from and I am proud of what I’ve been able to achieve through hard work and perseverance. And I guarantee you that anyone who tries to say otherwise hasn’t walked a day in my shoes.
This isn't even the first time Davis and her campaign have launched an unfortunate jab at Abbott's condition. They misfired back in October with an email from Battleground Texas that begins "Greg Abbott walks into a house in El Paso..."
Writing at the Austin American-Statesman, political reporter Jonathan Tilove describes a Davis campaign that gave him the runaround when he pursued the story that Slater ended up getting published first.
If you're keeping score at home, the Davis campaign, which has already made a number of missteps in its first few months, has now questioned the integrity of one of Texas' major political reporters, turned another off with her amateurish campaign, and given a third reasons to treat her and her campaign with skepticism. That's above and beyond botching her education rollout last week, and not knowing how her own voting record often contradicts her current campaign rhetoric. None of that has really come back to bite her badly, yet.
Wendy Davis has enjoyed a free ride in the state and national media up to now. Her filibuster against a popular, reasonable abortion law made her a star and has helped her raise millions of dollars for her campaign, with much of those millions coming from liberals outside Texas. That free ride is probably over now.
Battleground Texas, as I was writing this, fired off an email claiming that the Abbott campaign is waging "personal attacks" against Davis because they're "shaking in their boots" at the thought that "Texans share our values." It's more desperate amateur hour. Facts are now a "personal attack" from an opponent who had nothing to do with those facts' publication. Davis' far left take on abortion and the Second Amendment are but many areas in which she does not share the values of most Texans. Combine that with what's likely to become a more skeptical press, and Wendy Davis may have already reached her peak in her attempt to upend 20 years of GOP dominance in Texas.
Update: Rare also wonders if Davis' downfall has begun.
Update: Davis continues the "personal attacks" defense on Twitter.
The only thing Abbott & his allies have proven with these desperate attacks is that they don’t understand these Texas stories of struggle.— Wendy Davis (@WendyDavisTexas) January 21, 2014
Davis now says that Abbott doesn't understand struggle. That would be news to him.
What Wendy Davis is displaying on her Twitter feed is, well, this:
This is what a meltdown looks like --> @wendydavistexas— Matt (@Matthops82) January 21, 2014
Update: Esquire piles on.