One year after bursting onto the national scene with a marathon filibuster against abortion restrictions, Wendy Davis, the Texas state senator and Democratic nominee for governor, has been doing everything she can to mark the anniversary of that speech last June, even donning the same pink Mizuno sneakers.
The problem: A year after her filibuster pumped her up into the kind of galvanizing candidate Texas Democrats have not had for decades, she seems very much dragged down to earth, dwarfed by the perception that Democrats’ chances of ending the Republican domination of Texas remain slim. Recent polls have shown her trailing her Republican opponent — the state attorney general, Greg Abbott — by up to 12 percentage points. Her campaign manager, Karin Johanson, who helped engineer the Democratic takeover of Congress in 2006, left after about 30 weeks on the job, one of a handful of aides and consultants who have departed.
And to the dismay of many Democrats, her campaign publicly pounced on Gov. Peter Shumlin of Vermont, the chairman of the Democratic Governors Association, and called him a Washington “desk jockey” after he suggested that the group was less than optimistic about her chances.
All of that comes even as the campaign is expected to raise more money than any Democratic candidate for governor in Texas history and as her supporters gathered here Friday at the state Democratic Party convention. Ms. Davis delivered a keynote address that night that quoted Scripture and paid tribute to her grandmother’s work ethic in the hardscrabble Texas Panhandle.
Ms. Davis has turned her filibuster on the floor of the Texas Senate into a grass-roots movement that has inspired thousands of volunteers, donors and other supporters to pledge their time and money to her on a scale few Texas Democrats have ever pulled off. She has so far raised nearly $20 million (one Austin donor wrote her a $1 million check last year).
Yet there are few signs, four months before the election in November, that she has fully harnessed the power of that movement to convince voters that she can win in a state where Democrats have not won a governor’s race since 1990 and have not won any statewide race since 1994.
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Wendy Davis’ example is the most obvious of many opportunities the Democratic party is missing out on. While, undoubtedly, it is incumbent upon candidates to run their own successful campaigns, the support from the national party apparatus is essential.
In other parts of the country where there are promising candidates in states that could be at-play for the Democrats, there are few signs of involvement from national headquarters.
On the national level, when one looks at polling, voter engagement is low when, given the continued economic downturn, congressional obstruction, constant talk of worsening inequality, among many issues, that engagement should have been high, well-before voting season began.
The largest opportunities lay in the primaries. The lions share of news reporting went to crooked Republican primaries and none to Democratic ones.
Democratic voters are bombarded daily with fundraising emails from multiple Democratic organizations and personalities. The subject lines, for the most part, either read like sweepstakes advertisements, or desperate pleas from a poor relative. Neither inform. Neither entice. Neither engage.
The DCCC is sorely in need of a change in leadership. 2010 and 2012 were wasted opportunities. 2014 looks like it may well be a threepeat.
Curated from www.nytimes.com