Six months ago, it was clear that for Democratic Texas Senator Wendy Davis to win her race against Republican Attorney General Gregg Abbott for governor, she would not only have to present an appealing vision for Texas' future, but Abbott would have to disqualify himself, similar to how Clayton Williams talked his way out of the Governor's Mansion in 1990 by comparing rape to bad weather.
The Texas Republican advantage is high in terms of money, organization and a record of accomplishment. Yet, candidates still matter. In the month since the primary election made the general election matchup official, Davis is proving herself a capable, focused candidate.
The first month of an eight-month general election campaign is not the most consequential: candidates often use the early months to realize and correct shortcomings for the long haul.
The Davis campaign used March to successfully drive the issue of pay equity, easing doubts about her discipline to sustain a political attack. She also demonstrated a surprising ability to use a bully pulpit when the San Antonio Express-News reported on gender pay disparities among Abbott's official staff.
The Abbott campaign revealed a lack of preparation for an attack that was predictable and a defensive approach in answering the charge. His female surrogates prompted ridicule by dismissing the issue because women are too busy for equal pay and are poor negotiators. Weeks into the issue, his spokesman finally said Abbott would veto legislation facilitating pay discrimination lawsuits in state court if he were governor.
The answer probably lowers the issue's profile, but the debate's domination of the March conversation show a Davis advantage, her ability to create and sustain a message that is relevant to an important group of swing voters, and an Abbott vulnerably, a lack of preparation and defensive approach to a high-profile attack.