There have been a lot of things to criticize the campaign team of Texas Democratic governor nominee Wendy Davis for. It hasn’t been well run. But perhaps the most egregious so far was the recent decision to run an attack ad against her Republican opponent that focuses on his disability (wheelchair-bound partial paralysis from an accident).
Don’t get me wrong: Attorney General Greg Abbott is awful. And he is indeed probably justifiably labeled a hypocrite (see below). But calling politicians hypocrites isn’t that effective in general, because most people kind of assume it anyway, and this is bound to make her look far worse than it does him.
The ad argues that Abbott successfully sued for his 1984 injury, but later as a Texas Supreme Court justice and state attorney general opposed similar efforts from other people suing hospitals and corporations.
“Abbott argued a woman whose leg was amputated was not disabled because she had an artificial limb,” the narrator says. “He ruled against a rape victim who sued a corporation for failing to do a background check on a sexual predator. He sided with a hospital that failed to stop a dangerous surgeon who paralyzed patients.”
Here’s the the thing: Those actions are terrible, but emphasizing his own disability and criticizing him explicitly for being a heartless hypocrite wasn’t necessary to make that point. He’s been campaigning all year with ads talking about and featuring his disability. Given that many of Abbott’s own ads mentioned or showed his wheelchair, she could just have pointed out his shameful positions without also explicitly bringing up the wheelchair and suggesting he’s a hypocrite. People could figure that out on their own because they already know the other half, without it being brought up explicitly, and without empty wheelchair images.
Therefore, this seems like a really bad move, even if the criticisms raised are warranted. Instead of the focus being on how horrible his record is, the focus is on how nasty the Davis campaign’s TV ads are. Already, most of the past long weekend was taken up debating whether or not it was out of bounds, and she keeps defending it. I don’t really see the point.