In early 2013, months before the HB2 filibuster, and before anyone was seriously contemplating the possibility of a strong Democratic ticket in Texas, I sat down with Lane Lewis, chair of the Harris County Democratic Party for an interview. One of the things he said was regarding how to turn Texas blue…
Texas is going to turn blue, but it is not going to be an event. It’s going to be a process.
As we enter the Fall of 2014, it’s becoming clear that Mr. Lewis is absolutely correct. Election nights are what make the headlines, and what go in the history books. But those events are merely the sum total of an entire process… knocking on doors, making calls, contributing a few dollars here and there, fleshing out major issues, and solid use of the press. All of these things are the process by which Texas becomes a battleground state, and all of them are happening right now. After enduring years of weak candidates, Republican posers running on the Democratic ticket, gross campaign mismanagement and misdirection, Texas Democrats are getting their act together, and much faster than anyone thought they could. As a result of this process, Texans are realizing that we finally have a real choice in 2014.
On Friday, the Democrats were handed a test of their burgeoning strength when Republican Gubernatorial candidate Greg Abbott announced that after originally agreeing to debate his Democratic opponent Wendy Davis, he decided to cancel the event due to “formatting issues”. This is after both gubernatorial campaigns had set up the debate on May 28th.
With the Texas Democratic Party of yesteryear, this simple cop-out would’ve worked. After all, Governor Rick Perry got away with no debates in 2010, only to deliver a Texas-sized embarrassment on the national stage the next year.
But Greg Abbott is not so lucky. Within minutes of his pathetic reversal, blow back from the Davis campaign, the Texas Democratic Party, Battleground Texas, and a slew of other groups was swift and insurmountable.
Once they realized that Texas wouldn’t stand for such a lame excuse, Abbott’s camp quickly fabricated a new plan… weasel out of the WFAA event (because it was sure to be televised across the state on major media outlets), and instead offer up an alternative on another area station in the hopes of dramatically decreasing viewer exposure. Doing so a month beforehand leaves TV stations scrambling to commit to even carry the event instead of their scheduled programs, and of course ruins all the pre-planned advertising for stations that have been committed since May. Yes folks… Greg Abbott is trying to pull the ole ‘Debate and Switch’.
Just so we’re clear… Abbott does not want a debate with Wendy Davis at all. If the current trickery doesn’t work, there is no doubt that he and his campaign will concoct some other last-minute stunt. To put it simply, Abbott is afraid. Probably not afraid of Wendy herself, and given that he’s been a statewide elected official for a decade, he’s certainly not afraid of politics. What Abbott is afraid of is that Texans will learn the truth about the him and his TEApublican colleagues. He is afraid of having to answer the questions that Wendy is going to ask. How is he going to go on camera in front of millions of Texans, tout the “Texas miracle” and simultaneously justify draconian cuts to education? What will be a “miracle” is if Texans don’t see through the lies.
Abbott’s ‘Debate and Switch’ may hinder an event or two, but it cannot stop the swing state process. If anything, these tricks should serve as encouragement that the process is working faster and better than most would have previously imagined. Texas Republicans are in for some big surprises this November, and unlike Greg Abbott, that fact is not up for debate.