Republican Attorney General Greg Abbott, under fire for dodging the details on some policy questions, is filling in the blanks on issues that could be key in his race for governor against Democratic Sen. Wendy Davis.
The answers are coming as Abbott faces pressure not only from Davis but from the potential fallout of a fight within his own party.
The fact that Abbott is talking specifics at all shows the issues are having an impact. His campaign has its own timetable for rolling out proposals, and he still hasn’t answered all the questions that Davis has brought to him.
For example, Abbott won’t say if he agreed with 2011 school funding cuts. Davis filibustered those cuts and worked with other lawmakers to restore funding last year. Abbott, whose office is defending the school finance system in court, says he’s focused on the future and will have a comprehensive education plan.
Abbott also won’t say if he thinks he made a mistake by campaigning with rocker Ted Nugent, although he said Nugent was right to apologize for calling President Obama a “subhuman mongrel” (a comment that came before their campaign trip).
When and whether Abbott addresses those issues will depend on more than whether we want to know the answers.
“If they had their way, they would never talk to you unless they wanted to get a certain message out, and they needed you,” said Trinity University political scientist David Crockett, speaking of politicians and reporters in general.
For a frontrunner like Abbott, there’s particular risk, so speaking out means an issue is in play.
“The challenger has to be more aggressive, and the frontrunner is running more cautiously because it’s theirs to lose,” Crockett said. “If he starts talking about these things, it’s because there is a concern that they need to get it behind them. If they don’t see the Ted Nugent thing, for example, hurting them, they’re not going to talk about it.”
So. I guess this means the “Wendy Davis is running a bad campaign” meme is officially inactive now. I mean, if you’re forcing the other guy to do things he’d rather not have to do, that’s pretty strong prima facie evidence that you’re running a good campaign. Of course, Abbott is still trying his best to not talk about anything that isn’t in his comfort zone, which is limited to things that can be safely discussed at a Tea Party rally. Davis has had a great run with the equal pay issue, and she’s still pushing it.
After two weeks of debate in the Texas governor’s race over equal pay, Democratic gubernatorial candidate Wendy Davis on Monday renewed her criticism of Republican opponent Greg Abbott on the issue, saying that the attorney general’s statement that he supported the “concept” of equal pay for women wasn’t enough.
“I’ve never heard of a concept that could pay the rent, put food on the table or buy a tank of gas for the truck,” Davis said to a packed room of supporters during a campaign stop in Austin, where she reiterated several attacks that her campaign has directed at Abbott over his opposition to a Texas version of the federal Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act.
This will and should be a centerpiece of her campaign, but it can’t be the only thing. There are many other issues, some of which are detailed in Peggy Fikac’s story like cuts to public education and the ongoing school finance litigation, and some of which aren’t like Medicaid expansion and raising the minimum wage, that Davis needs to press aggressively. Some of them are to pressure Abbott, some are to fire up the base. There’s a risk in talking about too many things, as too many people have too short an attention span, but unlike Abbott, Davis has been aware from the beginning that she can’t play it safe. She’s got to push, to do what she can to direct the narrative, and keep Abbott off balance and on the defensive. Keep working the equal pay pressure point – it’s a beautiful thing when you are clearly on the right side of an issue – but keep coming at Abbott from multiple angles as well. Make him talk about the things he’d rather no one asked him about. BOR has more.