Can A Loss Be A Win In Texas Governor’s Race?

Polls show Democrat Wendy Davis trailing Republican Gregg Abbott. A Rice professor says a narrow loss would be good.

Voters exit the mega polling site at Highland Mall in Austin, Texas.


AUSTIN – It’s Election Day 2014 and campaign workers are greeting voters as they enter and exit a mega polling location at Highland Mall.

Some voters here say they want to keep Texas on its current course. Lorenzo Perales is supporting Republican Greg Abbott in his bid to move from Attorney General to Governor.

“I think Texas is one of the strongest, if not the strongest state in the union, it’s as strong as many countries in the world,” Perales said. “I like the way things are going. I like the way it runs. And I’d like to see it continue.”

Other voters, however, want to see a change in Texas politics — starting with electing a Democrat as Governor for the first time since 1990.

Lori Mathis is supporting Democrat Wendy Davis for several reasons.

“She’s trying to help us keep the things that most minorities need. The Medicaid, the social security for the elderly that can’t do anything for themselves and she’s a good person about Obamacare,” Mathis said. “That’s why I’m strongly with her.”

Davis is hoping supporters like Mathis will turn out to vote and transform her underdog campaign into a victory.

Polls of likely voters contradict that optimism.

Bob Stein is a political science professor at Rice University. His recent Houston Public Media/KHOU Election Poll showed Davis trailing Abbott by 15 points. Other polls around the state show similar double digit margins.

Stein says the final numbers will be important – because the loser could actually see defeat as a win.

“It’s sort of like in the stock market if you perform better than people’s expectations,” Stein said. “So winning and losing is not important.”

Stein says a loss in the single-digits would make Democrats delighted. That would be almost as good as winning because a close race could help the party in the future.

“Clearly winning would be better,” Stein said. “But losing by less than 45 percent means that you can hopefully recruit candidates not necessarily for statewide races, but what many believed would be the down ballot races.”

The professor is talking about more local races — for example district attorney and county judge.

Republicans on the other hand are pushing for a wide victory margin. That would solidify their control of state politics.


Laura Isensee

Laura Isensee

Education Reporter

Laura Isensee covers education for Houston Public Media, including K-12 and higher education. Previously, she was a staff reporter at The Miami Herald and contributed to South Florida’s NPR affiliate. Her work has also appeared in The Dallas Morning News, Reuters and Clarín in Argentina. Laura has won awards for...

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