NYT's Ross Douthat: Wendy Davis Shows Media's Liberal Bias Can Hurt Democrats

November 7th, 2014 2:22 PM

Using a spin no one in the liberal chattering class would imagine, New York Times columnist Ross Douthat compared Wendy Davis to Delaware’s Senate nominee Christine O’Donnell. Both were ideologically mismatched with the states they were running in, but O’Donnell’s victory was a political shocker:

Whereas the Davis experiment was intentionally designed: She was treated to fawning press coverage, lavished with funding, had the primary field mostly cleared for her, and was touted repeatedly as part of an actual party strategy for competing in a conservative-leaning state. Of course she had a much more impressive resume than O’Donnell, with less witchcraft and real political experience, and in that sense she made a more credible candidate overall. (Though, ahem, O’Donnell actually outperformed Davis at the polls in the end…) But in terms of their signature issues and their public profiles, they were equally absurd fits for the tasks they were assigned; it’s just that in Davis’s case nobody on the left of center wanted to acknowledge it.

In that sense, the Wendy Davis experiment isn’t just an example of how media bias on culture-war issues can hurt Democrats (by leading them into fond delusions) as well as help them....

Davis, on the other hand, actually underperformed the Democratic nominee’s totals in the last two head-to-head races against Rick Perry … which is, again, pretty much exactly what you’d expect when you nominate a figure who owed her prominence to a filibuster on late-term abortion to contest a statewide rate in Texas....[Italics his]

Davis’s strange candidacy suggests that some of the ways in which the polarization we have exists because of leaders as well as followers, elites as well as ordinary voters. No blind historical or demographic process forced the Democrats to elevate Davis rather than a candidate better suited to her state. But she was the one they really wanted, which means that they chose the entirely-foreseeable result.