Wendy Davis Holds Highest Favorability Rating of Any Elected Official in Texas

Wendy Davis is the “best-liked” elected official in Texas among those tested by Public Policy Polling (PPP) this week, and she is the third best-known in the state.  Nonetheless, the pollsters at PPP see an uphill climb for Wendy Davis in her potential quest to wrangle the governor’s seat away from Texas Republicans.  They are right, that will be a tough task, but the new PPP poll numbers show that if anyone in Texas can, it’s the lady in the pink running shoes who will make it to the finish line.

Davis’ name recognition shot up statewide over the past week, leaping from 34% in a January, 2012 poll by the same firm, to 68% this week. Her favorability is 39/29/32 compared to Perry’s 45/50/5. In other words, Perry is as well known as he ever will be, and more of those who know him dislike him than like him. In comparison, a third of Texans still don’t know Davis, but of those that do, more like her than dislike her. She has a great deal of room to grow as she introduces herself to the Texas electorate. If the past week is any indication, she would enter November, 2014 with a LOT of friends, possibly enough to put her into the governor’s seat.

You will recall from my prior post that at least one of Davis’ paths to victory entails reengaging the Texas voters who supported Barack Obama for president in 2012, and increasing her margin among the White and Latino segment of those folks. The poll results released today indicate that she is on track to do just that. You will note in the figure above that among people who voted for Obama in 2012, she already has a 71% favorability rating, which is outstanding for a state senator who is still unknown in most of the state, as can be seen in the high number of respondents who answered “Not Sure.”

My earlier post also explained that the Mexican American and Black vote in Texas will be critical to a Davis campaign. The PPP poll indicates that Davis is in a strong position with these groups, especially among African Americans, with 39% having a favorable view of her. Given their incredibly high Democratic performance, African Americans are essential to any Democratic candidate’s chance to win statewide office. Moreover, Davis’s 39% favorability among Blacks is significantly higher than Julian Castro’s 25% favorability, suggesting that she has the potential to have greater appeal among Black Democrats than other potential candidates. Even among Latinos, Davis holds her own against the immensely popular Latino mayor. But she has even more room to grow among Latinos than does Castro, with 46% of Mexican Americans still not sure of who she is or not yet having formed an opinion of her.

What is even more impressive is Davis’ strong standing among White voters polled. Fifty-four percent of Whites have a favorable view of her, compared to Castro’s 28%. This wide gap suggests that this female Democrat could win votes from Whites who have not supported Democratic candidates in decades. Given the difference in her favorability numbers to Castro’s, her strong showing cannot be attributed to partisan preference among Whites alone.

Another key component of a victorious Davis coalition is women. It would be important for Davis to energize and mobilize strong support from the Democratic female base, which she has already managed to do more than any other leader in recent history. And she must mobilize a not insignificant number of moderate White women who have been sitting out elections.

The tables above indicate that this will take a considerable amount of financial and human capital, but without such an investment, Texas will remain Red for decades longer than is necessary. The PPP poll numbers indicate that women are currently supportive of Perry and Abbott for governor over Wendy Davis. How much it will cost in terms of dollars and sweat to move those numbers is estimated to be in the tens of millions. That is why a Wendy Davis for Governor campaign will require the full and enthusiastic embrace of the national progressive community. If Elizabeth Warren could raise $42 million last year, we will have to move a similar sum of money to the Davis for Governor campaign if she is to realize her potential.

In the last cycle, Wendy Davis’ campaign for TX State Senate was one of the most expensive state legislative races in the nation. She raised $4 million and a number of Independent Expenditure campaigns also played hard in that race. Having drawn the “short straw” in the Texas redistricting dance, she has to run again for her seat in 2014. In other words, she is running for office in 2014 whether she runs for governor or not. The question then becomes, should she be running for governor or for state senate in 2014? The nation anxiously awaits the answer.

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