While many Democrats in southern states are running away from Barack Obama as fast as they can, state Sen. Wendy Davis leaned into her embrace of the president on Wednesday, saying she valued his support and would welcome him on the campaign trail.
“I would be thrilled if he or the Clintons, anyone, wanted to come and help,” Davis told reporters in Austin. “I’m very honored to have their support and the support of so many prominent Democrats across the country.”
The rhetorical hug contrasts sharply with the arms-length approach many Democrats are showing Obama in other states. In Louisiana, for example, Democratic Sen. Mary Landrieu ran an ad calling the Obama administration's policies on oil and gas "simply wrong." And in Kentucky, Democrat Alison Lundergan Grimes, running for the U.S. Senate, refuses to say if she even voted for the president.
But unlike those races, the Texas governor's race doesn't look close, according to polls. Davis — badly trailing Republican Attorney General Greg Abbott — has worked in recent days to pump up minority turnout. In Houston on Tuesday she directly appealed to African-American voters at Texas Southern University, and she has been running a radio ad featuring first lady Michelle Obama — signs that she’s focusing more on motivating her base than trying to persuade swing voters.
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Abbott spokesman Matt Hirsch said the embrace of Obama is a new strategy for Davis. He noted that during the candidates’ first televised debate in September, Abbott asked Davis if she regretted voting for Obama as president.
Quoting a TV news report, Hirsch said on Twitter that Davis had “uncomfortably skirted” the question.
Davis said the next day, though, that she did not regret her vote for Obama.
“I’ve never backed away from President Obama,” Davis said after a press conference at the Travis County Democratic Party headquarters in Austin.
She said she was “thrilled” to meet Obama during a celebration of the 50th anniversary of the signing of the 1964 Civil Rights Act and noted that she had talked with him at length about the “discriminatory intent” of the state’s voter ID law.
But Davis hasn’t asked Obama to campaign for her in Texas — and with less than two weeks to go before Election Day, that seems highly unlikely.
“I haven’t, no,” she said. “I imagine he’s busy doing other things.”