Wendy Davis press conference: Meet all my friends who are in wheelchairs

The closest she’s been to Greg Abbott in any poll this year is eight points. The NYT/CBS poll two weeks ago had her down 14. Why not make the race a referendum on whether she cares more about the disabled than a man who’s been paraplegic for 30 years?


The smartest read I saw on the instantly infamous wheelchair ad that had even MSNBC grumbling about her was this one from Sean Davis. What do you do if you’re a Democratic strategist trying to win a marquee race in America’s most famously red state? Simple: You don’t try to win. You try to make bank by encouraging a left-wing cause celebre to run as your nominee, knowing that lots of gullible liberal pro-choice warriors will shower cash on Davis as thanks for her filibuster in support of the right to abort. I saw a lot of tweets on Friday after the wheelchair ad debuted asking, “What sort of people would come up with an ad like this?” Answer: Rich people, my friends. Rich people who know they’re going to lose.


A quote from today’s “I love disabled people, no, really” press conference:

“In 1984, Greg Abbott sought out and received justice following a horrible injury, rightly so…receiving millions of dollars. And I’m glad, he deserved justice for the terrible tragedy that he endured,” Davis said at her Fort Worth, Texas, field office. “But then he turned around and built his career working to deny the very same justice that he received to his fellow Texans rightly seeking it for themselves.”

She added, “Greg Abbott got his justice. Why doesn’t he believe that a rape survivor or a person with a disability or a victim paralyzed forever…should get justice too? What makes Greg Abbott think it’s okay to deny them, his fellow Texans, the justice that he rightly went to court to receive?”

Go watch the wheelchair ad again and listen to the sneer in the narrator’s voice when he notes that Abbott “got millions” after he was injured. Does it sound like Wendy and her campaign are “glad” that “justice” was done? Between that and the sinister shadowy shot of a wheelchair, it felt like they were hinting that Abbott’s millions were somehow ill-gotten, just another Republican rich guy who came by great wealth without doing anything to earn it. You didn’t need to do any of that to make the broader point about his supposed hypocrisy towards other victims. The ad seemed to imply, as Ed put it in his post on Friday, that Abbott being crippled by a falling tree was some sort of “profit-producing enterprise.”

Just to play devil’s advocate, though, let me ask: Is there any evidence that Americans are less likely nowadays to elect disabled candidates? That is to say, if the wheelchair ad is really just a fully audible “dog whistle” to Texans that the Republican candidate is crippled and we can’t trust the state to someone like that, er, why would even a dumb campaign like Wendy’s think that strategy would succeed? Abbott himself makes no bones about the fact that he’s disabled; he talks candidly about it and even appeared in his wheelchair in one of his own ads. The fact that he’s risen as far as he has despite his disability is a testament to his character and work ethic and he knows it, which is why he isn’t shy about discussing it. (And rightly so.) When Gallup polls personal traits that might make voters less inclined to vote for a candidate, it doesn’t even include disabilities on the list anymore. All of that being so, why would Team Wendy think an ad targeting his disability would work? Maybe they didn’t but their choice of imagery and narration just came out very … wrong.