Once again with Wendy and the odds

Ross Ramsey in The Trib has his turn with the “what office should Sen. Wendy Davis run for?” question.

Sen. Wendy Davis

Sen. Wendy Davis

Abbott, the Republican attorney general, is his party’s favored candidate at the moment, in spite of the presence of Tom Pauken, a former state party chairman, in the race. Abbott has scads of money in his political account and seems, for now, to be in the spot Arthur was in when he pulled Excalibur out of that legendary boulder: everything is in place but the crown.

That has some insiders talking about the next race down — the one for lieutenant governor. Instead of taking on Abbott, the best-financed Republican candidate in years, Davis, D-Fort Worth, would face one of a quartet of Republican candidates for lieutenant governor, a group that includes a politically vulnerable incumbent and a conservative state senator who might give moderate Republican voters pause.

That race does not have a pre-emptive favorite, and two of the candidates could be attractive foils for Davis. David Dewhurst, the incumbent, has been looking for his mojo since his loss a year ago to Ted Cruz in a Republican runoff for the U.S. Senate. One of his three challengers is that conservative senator, Dan Patrick, R-Houston.


However the Republicans decide, the contrast between general election candidates would be simple to make.

The contrast would be simple to make in almost every race on the ballot. But a statewide race at or near the top of the ticket — even a losing one — could build a foundation for future campaigns.

And if Abbott doesn’t have a tough challenge, voters looking for a debate will go to the next race.

It’s not like Davis has a cakewalk waiting at home. If she runs for re-election to her Tarrant County Senate seat in 2014, she’ll face a headwind.

Her district was drawn to favor a Republican candidate. But she defied that in 2008 and 2012, years when the ballot was headed by a Democratic presidential candidate who helped draw her voters to the polls. Her team is surprisingly confident she will do it again next year, if that’s the route she goes.

The headwind could be stronger now, however, and it is the candidate’s fault. Davis got the attention of the Republicans, too, and they will come after her whether she runs for re-election or for something higher on the ballot.

The lieutenant governor’s race might be the one to run. It will almost certainly go to the Republicans, but “almost” is a big word in politics. Losing a re-election bid could put her out of circulation.

Might as well go big.

Robert Miller explored this same possibility last week; I blogged about it here. That post got a lot of reaction on Facebook, with the main concern being that the Lite Guv race would not be as high profile as the Governor’s race, which negates the advantages Davis has made for herself. It’s a legitimate question, but I think Davis’ presence on the ballot, especially if paired against either Dewhurst or Patrick, automatically ensures a minimum level of attention. I’d feel better about this if I knew the Dems were also going to have a good candidate for Governor as well – Cecile Richards, Rodney Ellis, Henry Cisneros, Leticia Van de Putte, you know the drill – but there’s no guarantee of that. I guess what it comes down to for me is that a full ticket of decent candidates is better than relying on Wendy Davis to carry the whole thing, whatever office she chooses.

Couple other points: Ramsey suggests that either Todd Staples or Jerry Patterson could be tougher competition for Davis, if either can win the Republican nomination for Lite Guv. That’s primarily because neither was directly involved in the abortion debate and the famous filibuster. I can buy that – I particularly think Patterson, who has the best record of actual accomplishment among GOP candidates, and who has a straightforward style that is likely to be appealing, would be a strong competitor – but Davis starts out ahead of Patterson in cash on hand, and can likely catch up to Staples by March. Plus, at this point I’d say she has better name ID than either of them – heck, she might have higher name ID than Greg Abbott right now – and that helps offset any advantage they may have.

Ramsey also suggests that Davis might have a hard time being re-elected in SD10 next year, as it is not a Presidential year. I’ve already dealt with that question, and I stand by my assertion that it’s not clear that the Presidential year was an asset for Davis. More Republicans come out in Presidential years, too, after all.

Finally, some people are now suggesting that maybe David Dewhurst should switch races. Like many other GOPers blocked by Rick Perry, what he’s always really wanted to be is Governor, and he alone has the financial resources to challenge Abbott on that score. His run for Senate in 2012 showed that he’s ready to be something other than Lite Guv. If not 2014 for Governor, then when? Just a thought.

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