Eleven hours was all it took to propel Wendy Davis (D) to political fame.
Her legendary June 2013 filibuster in the Texas state Senate set off a flurry of #standwithWendy tweets, support from women’s groups and whispered speculation of Democrat strategists. A few months later, those 11 hours granted her candidacy in the Texas gubernatorial election to replace retiring governor Rick Perry (R).
The new candidate’s star power sent giddy Democrats into a frenzy: Perhaps this would be the year Texas becomes a swing state. With the explosively growing Hispanic population and liberal hub cities, the state is becoming more and more diversified (and more and more potentially Democrat).
But since that initial fervor, Davis’ campaign has faded from political consciousness. Her race has received little attention and even less news coverage. With the same rapidity with which she arrived, Davis has all but disappeared from the national stage.
One reason for this is her lack of competitiveness. Currently, she’s trailing Republican Greg Abbott in the polls by about 13 basis points. She has experienced significant difficulty in expanding her campaign beyond the issue that made her famous.
Groups like EMILY’s List have given her solid backing, and she’s attracted the support of many individual donors. However, she monetarily trails Abbott by a 3-to-1 margin, a strong disadvantage heading into last hundred days of the campaign trail.
And she’s receiving very little help. Big groups like the Democrat Governors Association simply can’t afford to expend resources on such a long shot during this intensely competitive season. Too many other races are hotly contested and in desperate need of help. In a year of ubiquitous uphill climbs for Democrat candidates, Davis’ mountain is simply too high.
All of this points to the folly of the typically Democratic over-optimism. As exciting of a prospect as Davis was, and as likely as it is that she’ll advance the Democrat cause in Texas in the long run, there’s just no way she could have singlehandedly wrenched up the deep red roots of the Lone Star State. Texas is thoroughly conservative and has been for quite some time. A Democrat hasn’t won a statewide election since 1994; President Obama was thoroughly trounced in the state in both elections.
Population trends do point toward eventual Democrat advantages. But massive demographic shifts like that take time. For now, Davis will have to continue battling a favored opponent, her one-dimensional image and the traditional pride of a staunchly conservative state, praying that she can somehow conjure up a win.