Friday night's debate between Texas gubernatorial candidates Greg Abbott and Wendy Davis could be a game-changer in one of the nation's most contentious races this November.
Republican Attorney General Greg Abbott could have the most to lose in the Edinburg debate, reports The Texas Tribune
. He's favored heavily to win the race, with an overall 12.6-point lead
in national polls over the Democratic challenger, state Sen. Wendy Davis.
Abbott has been careful to limit his unscripted appearances, The Tribune reports, and even though he's been involved in Texas politics for years, he's only been in one formal TV debate back in 2002, against Democratic attorney general candidate Kirk Watson.
"For Abbott, it's going to be seen more as a source of risk than opportunity," said Jim Henson, director of the Texas Politics Project at the University of Texas at Austin. "He needs to stay on message for Republican voters and not produce anything that is a headline the next day that will disturb existing patterns."
Davis, on the other hand, will be taking the offensive and hopes that the debate will tighten the race.
"When you're behind as she is in the polls, and the big underdog, a debate is opportunity knocking," Jerry Polinard, a political scientist at the University of Texas-Pan American, told The Tribune. He predicted Davis will try to provoke an "oops moment" against Abbott.
The contentious race heated up
even more this month after Davis released her memoir, "Forgetting to Be Afraid," in which she reveals that she has had two abortions.
The book rekindled not only the abortion debate, but sparked an ethics complaint from Abbott, who is accusing Davis of misusing campaign contributions to promote the book.
"Senator Davis' book promotion has gone from ethically questionable to outright unlawful," Abbott campaign spokesman Matt Hirsch said.
Friday night's debate, sponsored by The Monitor themonitor.com newspaper, will start Friday at 6 p.m., and is being held in the Rio Grande Valley, a move hailed as bringing attention to a mainly Hispanic part of the state.
Davis has already won a coin toss and is taking the first question, and candidates will also be prompted to question each other.
The newspaper will stream the debate live, and it will be on Texas television stations live as well. After that, C-SPAN will re-broadcast the debate at 9 p.m. Central Standard Time.
Abbott and Davis will also debate in Dallas on Sept. 30.
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