Michelle Obama has just cut an ad boosting Democratic Texas gubernatorial candidate Wendy Davis. The 60-second spot is upbeat and focuses on state Senator Davis’s upbringing – she’s the daughter of a single mom and was a mother herself at age 19 – and her support for education programs and various Democratic initiatives such as a proposed increase in the minimum wage.
“This is Michelle Obama, and I hope you will vote for Wendy Davis on Nov. 4,” the ad wraps up.
Will this make Davis competitive in deep-red Texas? No, probably not. OK, almost certainly not. She’s run well behind the GOP nominee, state Attorney General Greg Abbott, throughout the campaign, and at this point, she is almost 13 percentage points behind, according to the RealClearPolitics rolling average of polls.
Davis may have the first lady on her side, but Mr. Abbott has a TV spot that’s widely acclaimed as one of the most effective of the 2014 political cycle.
Abbott has used a wheelchair since an accident in 1984. The ad shows how he strengthened himself by rolling up an eight-story parking garage. “Just one more, I would tell myself, just one more,” he says in the voice-over.
Politico rated it the top viral political ad of the year.
Anyway, the Democratic Party knows Davis is a very long shot, because Mrs. Obama isn’t actually visiting the state. The first lady remains a popular surrogate campaigner – her favorability ratings are about 20 points higher than those of her husband – and as she hits the trail in the last weeks before the midterm elections, she’ll probably go in person only to where she might actually swing a race.
On Friday, for instance, Mrs. Obama is going to Michigan, where there’s a close race for an open Senate seat, and Democratic Rep. Gary Peters is edging ahead of the GOP’s Terri Lynn Land.
On the same day, she’ll swing through Iowa in support of Democrat Bruce Braley, who’s trailing Republican Joni Ernst by less than two percentage points, according to averages of major polls.
The first lady has also campaigned in person this week in Illinois (a blue state), Wisconsin (purple state), and Maine (where Democrat Mike Michaud has a shot at unseating Republican Gov. Paul LePage). She’s also campaigned in Massachusetts, and in September went to Georgia to try to boost the fortunes of Senate candidate Michelle Nunn.
Cutting an ad isn’t that difficult. It takes little time and can be a morale boost for candidates who the party thinks might have a future or are otherwise. But if you want to see where parties think they really have a shot, look at where they send their popular figures in the final weeks of a campaign.