Tag Archives: Texas gubernatorial debate

Texas Gubernatorial Debate 1: Review

In some ways, the result of the first Gubernatorial Debate was predetermined.  Even if nothing else had happened, the mere fact that State Senator Wendy Davis and Attorney General Greg Abbott met on the debate stage for this year’s Governor’s race was a clear win. A win for the state of Texas.

In truth, that is the most important occurrence from the first Davis and Abbott contest.

The candidates had very different goals for the evening. Davis played the role of underdog, going after her opponent’s policies, positions and former actions every chance she had. Abbott, on the other hand, tried to keep focused on his goal of running against President Obama more so than his actual Democratic opponent. Given these disparate objectives, it’s fair to say that both candidates achieved their desired outcomes.  Davis landed a bunch of good one-liners that manage to question Abbott’s policies.  Abbott was able to respond to Davis and then successfully pivot away from giving a more substantive answer.

On style points, I thought Abbott did a better job, as Davis came off at times over-rehearsed and a bit distant. But that’s just mainly a personality preference, as other voters may have preferred Davis’ approach.

On substance, I think both squared off pretty evenly. Davis had more one-liner attacks, but she also managed to not make the whole debate about attacking Abbott. She offered solutions of what she would do differently in several instances.  Here are two of Wendy Davis’ most epic moments…

On the $5.4 Billion dollars in cuts to education…

“These [education] cuts that you are defending… they are not Conservative, not Liberal, just dumb.”

On Medicaid Expansion…

“Mr. Abbott is California’s best friend in Texas because he wants to continue sending our tax dollars to them.  California already has one Governor… they do not need two.”

For all of the fast and furious accusations being thrown at him, at least Abbott did have something to say, regardless of whether one liked his answer. Being caught off guard is actually the worst thing that can happen during a live debate, and Abbott, to his credit, was very successful at avoiding that trap.  That being said, he was still quite short substance, and instead managed to play some careful slight of hand with his responses to several questions.  Take this direct exchange between Davis and Abbott, once again over the devastating cuts to Texas school districts…

Davis:  Mr. Abbott, Judge Dietz has recently ruled against you and in favor of the schoolchildren of Texas, ruling that our schools are unconstitutionally under-funded.  The only thing right now coming between our children and appropriate funding of our schools today is you.  On behalf of the 5 million children of this state, will you agree that you will drop your appeals, and allow our schools to be appropriately funded?

Abbott:  Senator Davis, there is actually another thing coming between me and settling that lawsuit… that is a law that you voted on and passed in 2011 that removes from the Attorney General the ability to settle lawsuits just like this…

Did you catch the careful distinction there??  Abbott did NOT answer Davis’ question.  He has the ability to drop the appeals, even if the 2011 law removed the ability for him to settle the lawsuits.  Davis did not ask him settling anything.  Abbott’s careful pivot here is key.

To be fair, Abbott’s direct question to Davis was to ask if she regrets voting for Barack Obama.  Davis simply avoided the question (in a less artful manner than Abbott) and spoke about why she is running for Governor.

Those two exchanges get to the heart of how this debate went.  Though Davis felt distant throughout, she did at least save her best points of audience connection for her closing remarks. Overall, my assessment is a slight win for Abbott, just because the situation felt more natural for him.  But Davis met her objectives for the debate, and now has given her base, and all of Texas, a firm representation of what the Democratic party stands for.  When performances are as close as these two candidates gave last night, the overall effect may simply come down to what sticks with the audience the most.  Davis’ one-liners?  Abbott’s demeanor??  Only time will tell.

If you missed last night’s debate, here’s the full video from KGBT Action News.  Check it out, and let me know your thoughts in the comments.


(photo credit:  Gabe Hernandez of the McAllen Monitor)


Greg Abbott’s ‘Debate And Switch’

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.

Off the Kuff and Brains and Eggs have more.