Recently declared Texas gubernatorial candidate Wendy Davis had a really, really bad opening round of campaign appearances. Naturally, the national press, which swooned over the Fort Worth Democrat's ultimately failed filibuster against a common-sense pro-life law in the Lone Star State's legislature, pretended not to notice.
They had local help. On Wednesday, At The Monitor in McAllen, Texas, in an item mirrored at the Brownsville Herald, "reporter" Ty Johnson opened with six paragraphs of fanboy fawning about Davis's Tuesday campaign appearance in Brownville, and then buried Davis's galling attempt to portray herself as "pro-life" in Paragraph 23. Also, stay tuned until the final segment of this post for how a Davis press aide tried to bully a local paper into retracting a headline.
First, here are the relevant excerpts from Johnson's report (bolds are mine throughout this post):
In Brownsville, Davis stresses education as pathway out of poverty
(Brownsville Herald headline: "Sen. Wendy Davis visits University of Texas at Brownsville")
It was late June when Wendy Davis, a state senator from Fort Worth, rocketed to national prominence on the strength of an 11-hour filibuster of a bill being considered that would indirectly lead to the closure of abortion clinics across Texas.
The story of her physical feat, and choice of pink footwear, made her a national icon overnight and led to calls from her supporters for her to run for governor – a call she answered in October.
But while in Brownville on Tuesday, Davis revealed her campaign for governor isn’t based on her abortion filibuster and brightly colored shoes.
In fact, her campaign stop at the University of Texas at Brownsville centered more on a lesser-known filibuster of hers: one she conducted in 2011 in opposition to a budget that sought to cut $4 billion from public education.
Education, she said, was crucial to the fulfillment of what she called Texas’ promise.
“If you work hard you can become anything you desire to be in a place like Texas,” she said. “That promise was one that my state delivered to me when I was young, but the promise today really has been broken.”
Finally, in Paragraph 23, Johnson noted Davis's "pro-life" claims:
Davis also suggested that her views on abortion access do not mean she does not care about life.
“I am pro-life,” she said, borrowing from the label anti-abortion activists assign themselves. “I care about the life of every child: every child that goes to bed hungry, every child that goes to bed without a proper education, every child that goes to bed without being able to be a part of the Texas dream, every woman and man who worry about their children’s future and their ability to provide for that future. I care about life and I have a record of fighting for people above all else.”
Except, obviously, for the lives of pre-born babies.
The next day, as reported by The Monitor's Jason Fischler, the Davis campaign was already backpedaling, and did so while preventing Davis from speaking for herself:
Stumping in Hidalgo County, Davis campaign says 'pro-life' comment taken out of context
Though Davis didn’t mention women’s reproductive rights during her stump speech, a reporter asked her about a quote that appeared in Wednesday's Brownsville Herald, in which she called herself “pro-life” because she was devoted to improving lives. A campaign spokeswoman then interjected and said the comment was taken out of context.
“I will never distance myself from working to make sure that women are safe,” Davis added, affirming her support of abortion rights. “I respect women. I trust women to make good decisions for themselves if they’re empowered to do that.”
What's the problem, Ms. Acuña? Can't the poor little woman speak for herself?
As to ensuring that "women are safe," what hypocrisy. The bill Davis filibustered includes several measures to protect women against negligent treatment at the hands of abortion providers. Too bad they don't also include truly comprehensive protections against the killing of pre-born babies.
Naturally, based on a search on her name at the Associated Press's national website returning nothing relevant, very little if any news of Wendy's woes has escaped into the national establishment press.
But one local opinion editor, The Monitor's Sandra Sanchez, a professed Davis fan and clearly an abortion proponent (of course, she goes with the deceptive term "women's reproductive rights"), refused to hold her tongue. As will be seen in the excerpt which follows, Sanchez was the "reporter" to whom Fischler was referring in recounting the press aide's intervention. Sanchez was horrified at what she had observed:
Wendy Davis is not ready for prime time
... it was with ... high expectations that I went to Poncho’s in Pharr on Wednesday hoping to hear the great Wendy Davis speak and take questions from the crowd. But it didn’t play out that way.
From the poor choice of venue to her disappointing remarks and even her handlers, the event reeked of amateurism. It certainly wasn’t worthy of the leading Democratic contender nor should it be representative of how she runs her campaign if she is to have any hope of defeating outspoken, well-financed Republican candidate Attorney General Greg Abbott in November 2014.
I say this with all sincerity and with sadness. Because I want to believe that Davis could win and be our next governor. But from what I saw Wednesday night, I don’t believe it in my heart — at least not unless she makes serious campaign changes.
... It was embarrassing to watch as a campaign staffer prematurely announced Davis’ arrival and urged everyone to stand up and chant, which they did for several minutes until it was obvious that Davis wasn’t there. “I thought she was here,” a worker mused into the microphone to the quizzical and confused glances from the crowd of 60 or so. In retrospect, it was a harbinger of what was to come (or not) and representative of the disorganization and confusion that is apparently plaguing this fledgling month-old campaign.
... when I stated that women have been a big part of her base of support and asked whether she was trying to distance herself from the abortion issue, or to quote The Brownsville Herald, was “pro-life,” she looked at me and shook her head. But before she could articulate, her new press aide Rebecca Acuña jumped in and said “that comment was taken out of context.”
... I say it is still important for Davis to stay true to her female base.
And that’s probably why I was shocked and disappointed when her press aide, Acuña, called and woke me at 11:30 p.m. that night asking that The Monitor retract a headline on an online article that referenced Davis’ “pro-life” position. She then tried to backpedal and said her comments weren’t for publication, although they were made during a public media briefing. After the media briefing, Acuña did speak with some journalists on background but that was not the case when she jumped in during the open media conference.
Aside from not retreating from the issue that made Davis a household name, Acuña should also know that with political stakes this high you can’t cry “background” retroactively to the media.
Kudos to Ms. Sanchez for not backing down.
I guess that Democrats just assumed they can push journalists around and get away with it. They probably get this idea from the fact that they see it happen successfully in Washington all the time (yeah, I'm talking to you, NBC's Chuck Todd).
Back on point — It seems that Wendy Davis, or perhaps the campaign which seems to be doing all of her thinking for her, believes that her path to electoral success is to downplay her support for virtually unlimited abortion rights. But I thought the DC and New York establishment press told us that the "war on women" was a slam-dunk winning campaign issue?
Cross-posted at BizzyBlog.com.