Wendy Davis’s Media Meltdown

It’s been a rocky rollout for the Wendy Davis campaign in Texas. She announced for governor four months ago on the strength of the massive public attention paid to her 13-hour filibuster of a bill limiting abortions after the 20th week of pregnancy. But since then her media operation has been so rocky, seasoned Texas journalists are mocking it.

David Mann, editor of the liberal Texas Observer, wrote a blunt article calling her campaign a “media fail”: “The Wendy Davis operation is about the worst at media relations that I’ve ever seen. Her team’s mismanagement of the press is damaging her candidacy.”

Mann recounts several not-ready-for-prime-time moments, from sending reporters to an incorrect location for a media event to “refusing to confirm basic campaign scheduling details” out of suspicion of the media. Noting Davis’s media problems began as soon as she announced in October, he links to a November column by Sandra Sanchez, opinion editor of the Monitor, the leading newspaper in South Texas. 

Sanchez openly admits she wants “to believe that Davis could win and be our next governor” but concludes that isn’t likely to happen if the “missteps, gaffes, and goofs” she witnessed during a Davis appearance in Pharr, Texas, continue. Sanchez wrote: “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.” Sanchez herself tried to ask a question about Davis’ recent response to an abortion question but “before (Davis) could articulate, her new press aide Rebecca Acuña jumped in and said ‘that comment was taken out of context.’” Acuña then called Sanchez late that night requesting she change a headline on the Monitor’s website.

Every campaign has a shakedown phase, but Mann notes that Davis’s problems have been ongoing. In January, after serious questions were raised by the Dallas Morning News about Davis’s account of her life, there was little substantive comment from the Davis campaign for eleven days. Then reporters were invited to a dinner sponsored by the Travis County Democratic Party where Davis was going to explain herself. But when reporters arrived at the dinner, an event they had received a media advisory for, “they were turned away.” Only the Dallas Morning News reporter was allowed in. Other reporters were directed to a live-stream link of the speech on the Internet. “This is not unlike someone sending you an invitation that says you’re invited to a party, but, hey, you can watch it on Skype,” Mann wrote.

Democrats have reason to worry they have a candidate who is untested and mercurial. Frances Martel of Breitbart News has documented Davis’s history of “fluid political allegiances” in her career, which include having contributed to George W. Bush’s presidential campaign, voting in Republican primaries as late as 2006, and last month declaring herself in favor of expanding gun rights despite an “F” rating from the NRA during her years in the Texas state senate.

Davis’s response to charges of opportunism has been to view them “as a compliment” because people don’t “necessarily know what my ideology might be because I wasn’t driven by that.” There apparently is so much about Wendy Davis we don’t know. And if she keeps her current media team she will have a difficult time explaining her sides of the story. 

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