Wednesday, October 01, 2014


Chris Hooks at the Observer has the best take.

If you only have time to watch one of the three major debates this election cycle, you should make it tonight’s debate in Dallas. If you’re pulling for Wendy Davis to do well, you’ll enjoy it. But it’s worth watching because something strange happened tonight: Like the sky opening up after a monsoon season of turgid talking points, Wendy Davis and Greg Abbott actually took each other on tonight, to a certain extent. And against all odds, something approximating a discussion about policy took place.


Davis and Abbott grappled with each other on two wide fronts—the first, over ethics issues. Davis was asked about her legal work, which she rebuffed and went through the list of accumulated attack lines about Abbott’s tenure as AG. (She gave a stronger refutation of the conflict-of-interest charge after she was pressed.)

But when Abbott was asked (at about 19:45 in the video) about accusations his office helped hide incompetence and mismanagement with Gov. Perry’s Texas Enterprise Fund, he didn’t handle it very well. He offered that the recently issued audit of the fund didn’t single him out for criticism. “From the beginning of my campaign I’ve been questioning this very fund,” he said. (Perhaps, one suspects, because he knew how badly it was being run.) He tried to turn the question back to Davis, but she beat it back forcefully. As to the question of why Abbott’s office helped hide non-existing TEF applications from reporters, he couldn’t really answer.

The AG did not seem as prepared for tonight's skirmish, was knocked off balance several times, and the moderators -- while very aggressive in going after both candidates -- did not fluster Davis to the extent that they did Abbott. To say that this questioning format was an improvement over the first debate understates its value.

Many more of Davis' punches landed than they did a week ago, Abbott was less successful in batting them away, and the moderators piled on him.  And he couldn't handle it.

On the issues, Abbott and Davis made stark distinctions. Neither could really answer a question about how they’d fund their education plans, though Abbott at least had a dollar figure for student spending that made it appear that he had given it some thought. But Davis hit Abbott hard. It was ludicrous, she said, for Abbott to keep saying he would make Texas schools No. 1 while defending huge cuts to funding and refusing to commit to providing more resources.

“Mr. Abbott, you’re talking out of both sides of your mouth,” she said. “You say you want to make Texas No. 1 in education. You cannot accomplish that goal without making the appropriate investments.”

But the best part of the debate might have been the discussion over Medicaid expansion—at about 29:30 in the video above. Medicaid expansion is, quite literally, a matter of life and death, one of the most serious issues in the race. If Medicaid isn’t expanded in Texas, a quantifiable number of people will suffer and die—unnecessarily. But it hasn’t come up in the race as much as it might.

Abbott said he’d ask the feds to give Texas its Medicaid dollars as a block grant to be spent as the state sees fit, which few think is a realistic possibility. He assured listeners that he “wouldn’t bankrupt Texas” by imposing on Texas the “overwhelming Obamacare disaster.”

Davis laid out a forceful argument for Medicaid expansion. “I have to laugh when I hear Mr. Abbott talk about bankrupting Texas,” she said. “Right now Texans are sending their hard-earned tax dollars to the IRS, $100 billion of which will never come back to work for us in our state unless we bring it back. As governor, I will it bring it back. Greg Abbott’s plan is for you to send that tax money to California and New York.” Abbott’s rebuttal left Davis smiling from ear to ear. The whole fairly long exchange is worth watching.

The debate was pretty much everything the Davis campaign could have wanted.

Later today we should finally see the Texas Lyceum poll we've been waiting for.  Lyceum is nonpartisan, independent, and old-school; they survey adult citizens mostly by landline (which suggests an inherent Republican bias; we'll see).  If it shows Davis any closer than the closest she's been -- eight points behind -- then she'll get a much-needed shot in the arm.

More on the faceoff from the Dallas Morning Views (unimpressed) and Egberto Willies (partisan, impressed).  One excerpt from the second link...

The best illustration of Greg Abbott being beholding to the insurance industry came with a question about home insurance being too high. He could not say the rates were too high. Instead he said he did not look at the numbers. Wendy Davis said categorically that the rates were too high. She slammed Greg Abbott on his insurance industry relationship. “I don’t cotton to people who sell out our hard working Texans for the interest of big insurance companies,” Wendy Davis said. “Mr. Abbott on the other hand has taken enormous contributions from them.”

She went on to say that Greg Abbott most recently advocated a settlement with Farmers Insurance. The judge accused him of laying down to the insurance company and refused to accept the settlement because he was selling out the claimants.

Abbott had one moment when it looked as if he would turn the tables on Davis: in the anticipated discussion of the scandal swirling around the Texas Enterprise Fund, the attorney general accused the senator of profiting from an application (that didn't exist, as we know) to the TEF by virtue of the title company she once worked for having been involved with a sporting goods store (Cabela's, or 'Cabela' as Abbott refers to it) opening in Fort Worth.  She successfully cracked back again: "You're lying, and you know you are lying."  And explained precisely how he was lying.

It seemed to this watcher as if Greg Abbott thought he was gleefully springing a trap, only to have it snap back around his neck, a la Elmer Fudd.

Game over.  Greg Abbott's lifetime of corruption and fraud was exposed and laid bare.  We'll have to wait and see how much it slows his march roll to the Governor's Mansion.

The HouChron also fact-checked.  Also not good for Abbott.

Update: More from Trail Blazers on both the debate and the Lyceum poll.


Gadfly said...

I was at the office when the confab started, and "followed" by getting email bombed by AG Strangeabbott.

I wasn't surprised on stuff like Cabela's, given the story last week about the TEF audit. Good response by Davis, while at the same time noting ...

Where was this in the first debate?

Friendly emperor said...

Nice job!