Thursday, September 18, 2014

The Friday Night Fight

A few more things worth noting as we move closer to the action.

They’ve sniped at each other from afar, blasted the airwaves with TV ads, held rallies, made phone calls and raised money.  Now, for the first time, the candidates for Texas governor will face each other in person in a live, televised debate.

Attorney General Greg Abbott, the front-runner, has the most to lose in the high-stakes Friday night encounter. The Republican is favored to win and has been limiting his unscripted public appearances lest he blow his sizable lead.

Despite his front-runner status and longevity in Texas politics, Abbott has only appeared in one formal TV debate as a statewide candidate — a 30-minute 2002 encounter with then-Democratic attorney general candidate Kirk Watson, the Abbott campaign confirmed.

I'm not sure how Abbott's campaign defines 'formal', but he did appear with Barbara Radnoksy, his Democratic challenger and Jon Roland, the Libertarian, on Houston public television's 'Red, White, and Blue' in 2010.  She called him "Rick Perry's consigliere".  I posted about it here; the video link is still alive.  It's accurate, however, that Abbott completely ignored David Van Os in 2006 (I know this because I helped run that campaign).  And Van Os also ran against Abbott in 1998, for the Texas Supreme Court, a contest I'm certain was covered in the same great detail as today's media does SCOTX races.  The scalding truth is that Greg Abbott has pretty much coasted through his several elections.  Not this time (even if the general consensus suggests it).

“For Abbott, it’s going to be seen more as a source of risk than opportunity,” said Jim Henson, director of the Texas Politics Project at the University of Texas at Austin. “He needs to stay on message for Republican voters and not produce anything that is a headline the next day that will disturb existing patterns.”

Or, in football parlance, Henson predicted Abbott’s strategy will be: “Play defense, declare victory and exit the field.”

Yeah, we'll see how that goes.  It should be fun to see if he can avoid screwing up.

The one-hour debate, hosted by The Monitor newspaper, will be held in the Rio Grande Valley at the Edinburg Conference Center at Renaissance this Friday at 6 p.m.  Davis won a coin toss and elected to take the first question.  Each candidate gets a minute to respond to questions, and the opponent will be offered a 45-second rebuttal.

There will be ample opportunity for fireworks when the candidates are prompted to ask their opponent a question.

Voters can tune in to a livestream of the debate at The Monitor newspaper’s website,  TV stations owned by Sinclair Broadcast Group, including KEYE in Austin and WOAI in San Antonio, will also air the debate live, organizers said.

C-SPAN will re-broadcast the debate at 9 p.m. Central Standard Time on Friday, the network said.  The Monitor is sponsoring the one-hour debate along with KGBT Action 4 News, the local CBS affiliate, and KTLM Channel 40, the Spanish-language Telemundo TV station.  The candidates will be grilled by Action’s 4’s Ryan Wolf, KTLM’s Dalila Garza and The Monitor’s Carlos Sanchez.

So what about that polling, anyway?

...The best way to “know” what’s truly going on, besides polling everybody (or having an actual election), is to use an estimate based on the average (loosely speaking) of the public (i.e., non-internal) polls that have followed professional norms of disclosure. As already stated, one poll is usually pretty robust if that’s all you have, but two are better than one, and three are better than two. In the case of the Abbott-Davis contest, the averages show — even with intermittent polling from various sources — about a 12- to 13-point gap in Abbott’s favor.

This estimate makes a fair amount of intuitive sense, particularly if you factor in the margins of error in the public polls we have to work with in Texas. Polls come with a margin of error, which in most of the Abbott-Davis polling has been 3.5 to 4.5 percentage points. So a poll that posits an 8-point race could be a 4- or 12-point one, and an 18-point race could be a 22- or 14-point one. Based on previous vote margins in Texas (for example, Rick Perry’s 55-42 defeat of Bill White in 2010), a 12- to 14-point race — somewhere between the two numbers that have been so heavily reported — sounds plausible right now.

Noah said a few days ago that he thought it was ten.  Fifty-five to forty-two sounds about right to me today, same as Rick Perry versus Bill White four years ago as the TexTrib noted.

Senator Davis is going to have to break some huevos in order to scramble this race.

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