Saturday, September 20, 2014

A rope-a-dope

It was good to finally be able to watch a governor's debate in Texas.  It wasn't all that good to watch this debate.

Democratic state Sen. Wendy Davis came out swinging on issue after issue in Friday's debate against Republican Attorney General Greg Abbott, the front-runner in their race for governor.

From fair pay to the right to abortion, from the Voter ID law to education funding, to Abbott's comments about the border, Davis sought to portray Abbott as an official who "will favor his insider friends" rather than working for everyday Texans.

Abbott fended off the attacks calmly, painting himself as a warrior against an overreaching federal government while seeking to tie his opponent to an unpopular president, at one point asking Davis whether she regretted having voted for Barack Obama.

As I recommended, she broke some eggs... but as the Chron noted, Abbott remained calm, even confident.  If you didn't listen to the words he was saying, you'd never have the slightest suspicion he was a deeply crazy person.

Davis' delivery, an unquavering monotone, is somewhat robotic; her dry, flat presentation belies her fierce heart and determination.  Her case against the Republican was firm, factual, and direct.  And by full contrast, Abbott's relaxed demeanor shows the experience of a man who has argued before the Supreme Court.  Even as he dogwhistles to the TeaBaggers and pushes every one of the most conservative buttons, he's speaking carefully and smiles slightly.  Just one of the many lies...

"I'm in favor of requiring voter IDs," said Abbott. "Voter fraud is real and the voter IDs is the only way to stop it."

It was disconcerting to watch Wendy Davis win the debate on its merits even as she lost because her opponent simply dodged all of her punches.

The moderator, Ryan Wolf, was truly awful.  He screamed over Davis as she rebutted in the candidates' Q&A, an exchange he was compelled to acknowledge afterward that he was wrong about for not understanding the ground rules.  It made Davis look as if she was hyper-aggressive.  Abbott's campaign has already turned the focus to 'hysterical woman'.

Oh, could we complain about this format.  The only thing worse than funereal table cloths, two candidates at separate tables twenty feet apart, and three Valley journalists who didn't seem all that knowledgeable about state issues was the fact that none of the TV stations in Houston who were listed as carrying the live event actually did so (with the exception of Univision).

Suffice it to say that Abbott made no unforced errors, avoided any direct response to either his challenger's or the moderators' questions, spoke in platitudes about his Latina wife and the wonderful Texas economy -- a conservative tale as tall and false as they come, for a long time now -- and was thus able to roll off the field and declare victory.

It felt a lot like 2006, as when Chris Bell mopped the floor with Rick Perry's hair while Kinky and Grandma kicked the governor while he was down, and yet still won re-election (39%) because the majority of the electorate in Texas doesn't really care about any of this.

They're off watching high school football on a Friday night.  Which is the most perfect analogy of the next generation's brain damage in regard to civic affairs that can be observed.

More from the Startle-Gram, the Chronic, the AP via Indiana, Reuters, and Houston's KPRCUpdate: And Kuff, more succinct and still spot-on even without watching it.

One more of these at the end of the month.  Hope it's more watchable.


Unknown said...

When Perry started making a fool of himself running for President in 2012, a lot of the Texas Republicans I know expressed surprise about how stupid he was. "How did we not know this before?"

I mean, he had been governor for over a decade!

But like Abbott, he could fly below the radar with the general public in his own state. It's what happens when you have a one-party state, I think. And it looks like it is about to happen again with this race...

Gadfly said...

Per the Trib's coverage, Davis did blow it on her response to Abbott's "Do you regret voting for Obama?" question.

Correct reply?

"Do you regret voting for a governor recently indicted for abuse of power?"