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Wendy Davis is pro-life, pro-choice, an international figure, and trailing by double digits for Texas Governor

Democratic Senators Wendy Davis and Royce West at a protest before the start of a special session of the Texas legislature in Austin, Texas

Above is the filibuster that made her famous. Thing is, as some would argue, Wendy Davis won the battle, and Rick Perry won the war. Now, months later, she’s writing a memoir and running for Governor of Texas in 2014 (more on that in a second), but the current story about her seems confusing on surface: her filibuster would seem to make her very pro-choice, but now she’s claiming she’s pro-life? It’s more of a semantic issue, in a way, as she notes that she “cares about life, and has a record of fighting for people above all else.” Ultimately, though, isn’t it possible to be both pro-life and pro-choice, in the sense of having moral concerns over abortion but also thinking a woman’s body should be something she makes choices about? The whole thing has been quite the cluster: see here, here, here and here.

Unfortunately, it’s hard to discuss this issue without framing it in the context of electoral politics to some extent. Four days ago, Politico reported that the margin in Davis vs. Greg Abbott 2014 is six pointsThe Dallas Morning News seems to think it’s closer to 15 points, and Real Clear Politics has it around 10. The only thing everyone agrees on is: Davis is running No. 2 in the race about a year out. So was her “I am pro-life” comment a pander for votes in Texas? Probably not, since she couldn’t be classified as pro-life in the traditional, conservative sense: she voted twice against this bill requiring ultrasounds before abortions (and “description of the fetus to the mother”), claiming it would “traumatize women.” The issue is, being a popular Democrat in Texas isn’t enough to win a state-wide election, so the theory goes that Davis had to re-brand. (This whole ‘Dems can’t win in modern Texas’ thing could hold back Julian Castro too, although some believe Davis and Castro are the future of Texas politics.)

Davis’ terminology when speaking about abortion might confuse some voters, and she’s deeply tied up in the issue because of (a) the filibuster and (b) people like Erick Erickson calling her ‘Abortion Barbie.’ (There’s also the Rick Perry ‘teen mom’ jab.) The interesting thing is, though — even though we’re consistently told how divisive and strong the positions on abortion are along party lines, that might not be true, via Gallup this past May. 20 percent of those polled said abortion should never be legal; 26 percent said it should always be legal. There was another 52 percent who believed it should be legal in some circumstances. If you add those last two up, 78 percent of people essentially think abortion should be legal sometimes or always; but yet, only 48 percent of the poll ID’ed as pro-life. That means there are pro-lifers (at least within this sample) who believe abortion should be legal sometimes. Hence, aren’t American attitudes swinging towards a world where it’s OK to be pro-life and pro-choice, partisan bickering and rhetoric aside?

A bigger issue for Davis, apart from the abortion topic, might be how she chooses to run her campaign — there’s been a lot of discussion about a lawsuit (or series of lawsuits) she filed against The Fort Worth Star Telegram in 1996, after losing a city council election in that city. She claimed her rights under the First Amendment were being denied; conservative pundits all over Texas hold it up as a claim that she’s unfit to serve as Governor (Erickson, linked above, is a prominent person who does that).

Hopefully Davis does this AMA during her campaign, because ‘twould be interesting. While she’s running for state-wide office, she might want to tackle this voter ID thing, as well as embracing her personal narrative and continuing to flame Ted Cruz, which will bring her more national press corps. It’s going to be an uphill battle, for sure — but it might be one of the most interesting ’14 races from an issues, semantics, and quotable moments perspective.

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