Texas voters handed state Sen. Wendy Davis (D) and her fellow Democrats a crushing defeat Tuesday. In one of the most high-profile gubernatorial campaigns in the country, Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott (R) was elected to succeed Gov. Rick Perry (R).
“We crushed the Democratic Party,” Republican Party of Texas Chairman Steve Munisteri told supporters on Tuesday night. “We annihilated Battleground Texas, and we completely wiped out their statewide ticket.”
Democrats lost in elections across the state. The Republicans maintained control over every state political office and majorities in both the state house and senate.
The question Texas Democrats and political observers were looking to answer was not whether or not Davis could defeat the heavily favored Abbott, but if Davis and other Democrats could make any progress in the deeply conservative state. That answer, in a midterm election that saw low turnout, seems to be a resounding no.
Abbott, throughout the campaign, has maintained a double-digit lead on Davis, and that lead actually expanded in recent weeks. Davis did not concede to what the political world viewed as inevitable. “I want it to be remembered as the biggest political upset in Texas history,” Davis told reporters Monday.
Abbott turned his 20-point lead into a 20-point victory on Election Day, winning by a margin of 59 percent to 39 percent.
Political observers may make much of Davis’ inability to win over women voters. According to CNN’s exit polls, Davis lost women voters by a 45-55 margin, but that margin was fueled by white women. While Davis lost white women by a 32 to 67 margin, she won the Black woman vote 94 to 5 and Hispanic women by a 61-39 margin.
Going from an obscure state senator to a gubernatorial candidate with a national profile, Davis and her campaign have been analyzed, criticized, and picked apart more than a plate of Texas barbecue. The criticisms have ranged from the strategy the campaign has implemented to the issues the campaign has emphasized.
Mark Jones, professor and chair of the department of political science at Rice University, told Rewire that there was little the Davis campaign could have done to change the inevitable outcome.
“The day she launched her campaign she was destined to lose,” Jones said. “There was nothing she could have done at all to actually win this race, barring some gaffe of monumental proportions by Gregg Abbott.”
Davis’ loss is sure to be measured by comparing her campaign to that of Democrat Bill White, the former mayor of Houston who lost to Gov. Rick Perry by 12 points in 2010. Davis, competing in a year that saw almost total GOP electoral domination—even in blue states like Maryland—did not only perform worse than White, but she did worse than any Democrat since Tony Sanchez in the 2002 campaign.
Democrats poured resources into the state through Battleground Texas, a grassroots organizing effort modeled after President Obama’s successful campaigns. The outcome of the election on Tuesday night may determine the future of the organization.
Davis and others have dismissed the notion that a loss could hurt Battleground Texas.
“Battleground Texas was never going to catapult Davis to victory,” Jones said. “However, because of its presence here and because of its own actions, Battleground Texas has raised expectations.”
Political observers have been asking what Davis will do if she loses, and whether or not Abbott will follow George W. Bush and Rick Perry and run for president. Precious little column inches have been devoted to what kind of governor Abbott will be, or the kind of governor Davis may have been.
Abbott has said that as governor he’ll be “like Greg Abbott.” Texans may soon find out what that looks like when the 84th Texas legislative session begins on January 13.