Campaign

Wendy Davis deserves to lose

What does it take to get almost all of the pundits on cable news to turn against you? Just ask Texas Democratic gubernatorial candidate Wendy Davis. She figured it out pretty quickly by lambasting her quadriplegic opponent in a television campaign ad.

Talk about going nuclear.

“A tree fell on Greg Abbott. He sued and got millions. Since then, he’s spent his career working against other victims,” a narrator says as the video rolls of an empty wheelchair.

{mosads}What human being thinks it’s a good idea to poke fun at disabilities — even if you want to win votes? Apparently, Davis does. In a news conference Monday, she didn’t back down. Nope, she doubled down. “This ad is about one thing. And one thing only. It’s about Greg Abbott’s hypocrisy.”

Flanked by people in wheelchairs, Davis said, “Greg Abbott has shown a history of siding against the [Americans with Disabilities Act], of siding against victims of disabilities and working in a way that demonstrates that he is not listening to them.”

Yes, The Dallas Morning News reported in February this nugget: “In a series of legal cases in his three terms, Abbott’s office has fought a blind pharmacy professor in Amarillo who wanted reflective tape on the stairs to her office; two deaf defendants in Laredo who asked for a qualified sign language interpreter in their courtroom; and a woman with an amputated leg. In that case, the state argued she was not disabled because she had a prosthetic limb.”

Whether or not this is true, it doesn’t make Davis’s ad any less repulsive.

After releasing the ad, Abbott’s spokesperson blasted her. “It is challenging to find language strong enough to condemn [State] Sen. Davis’ disgusting television ad, which represents a historic low for someone seeking to represent Texans.”

A political flack is supposed to say that, or she isn’t worth her salt. But I’m hard pressed to find many in the media — liberal or otherwise — backing Davis on this one. In fact, just the opposite is true.

The Washington Post called it “among the nastiest” ads of 2014. On his MSNBC cable show, Steve Kornacki asked three panelists, including The Daily Beast’s Michael Tomasky, and former Virginia Republican Rep. Tom Davis, if anyone could defend the ad. Crickets. Mother Jones magazine called it “offensive and nasty.”

And on the other side of the media spectrum, coverage of the press conference was the most popular piece on Fox News’ politics page. Sean Hannity wondered on his show Monday night if ads like Davis’s mean Democrats are desperate.

There are negative ads that — sadly — work without crossing a line, and then there are those that backfire like a 1920s Model T. This was one of those ads.

A politician who stoops that low to win an election deserves what she gets. Real Clear Politics has Abbott up by 11 points.

Ashburn is a veteran Washington-based reporter and analyst covering media and politics.

Tags Greg Abbott Negative campaigning Texas Wendy Davis

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