This week, the two major candidates for governor — Attorney General Greg Abbott (the Republican) and state Senator Wendy Davis, D-Fort Worth (the Democrat) — unveiled new television commercials, ostensibly to be broadcast far and wide throughout the State in suceeding weeks. The Labor Day holiday, of course, is typically seen as the start of open season on TV ads, and this campaign is proving to be no exception, with the airwaves already heating up.
The Abbott ad, entitled "Garage," details his struggle with recovery following a jogging accident that left him paralyzed from the waist down. It is an uplifting ad that is narrated by Abbott himself, focusing on the way in which he claims that he would run the State if elected. "Just one more," he says, is his life strategy. Voters who do not know him will surely be inspired by his positive and good-hearted message.
The Davis ad, entitled "Court," on the other hand, is negative. An ominous narration lambasts Abbott for defending cuts to public schools and for even allegedly defending standardized testing for four year old schoolchildren. The reality, however, is a bit more complicated than that. The ad then shifts back to Davis' alternative, which simply consists of broad promises to mitigate standardized testing and lessen bureaucratic waste.
Upon first glance, it may seem that I wish to fault Davis for going negative while her opponent slings no mud and simply focuses on himself. However, the unfair nature of politics almost forces Davis into such a box. Poll after poll has shown that Davis has very high name identification, possibly even higher than Abbott's. The recognition, however, is mostly negative, as a result of her almost universal association with a filibuster against anti-abortion regulations. Since it is easier to take down your opponent's positive identification than build your own, this is simply what Davis must do. Abbott can be merely complacent with maintaining the status quo. Only time will tell which strategy is succesful.
Horwitz is an associate editor.