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Texas Republicans are Already Using the Filibuster as Ammo in Fight for Wendy Davis' Senate Seat

Even before Fort Worth Democrat Wendy Davis took the Senate floor late Tuesday morning and launched into the filibuster that would ultimately grab the nation's attention and kill attempts to railroad abortion restrictions through the state Legislature, she was at the top of Texas Republicans' hit list. Davis, they realized, has the whole package: humble back story; uncanny knack for politics; ability to rally the grassroots; ambitions for higher office; a uterus. She was, and remains, a very big threat to continued Republican dominance of state government.

So, it was no accident when GOP lawmakers attempted to shift Davis into a more conservative district during redistricting in 2011, or when the cash began pouring into Dr. Mark Shelton's no-holds-bars campaign to unseat her in 2012. And Beth Cubriel, the executive director of the Republican Party of Texas, could barely contain her glee when Davis drew the short straw and had to face re-election in 2014, two years early. Neither could party Chairman Steve Munisteri who "danced a jig."

Which brings us to the filibuster last night. While Democrats and abortion-rights supporters cheered, Republicans were loading ammunition for 2014. And it wasn't just former party Chairwoman Cathie Adams, though she did unleash quite the screed against "Whining Wendy" and "feminazis" on Twitter yesterday:

Munisteri told Politico last night that the party was phone-banking voters in Davis' district during the filibuster to "fire up our base," as he put it. Her Fort Worth district leans Republican, and Munisteri sees her Senate seat as ripe for the picking. She already has two potential opponents lined up: Shelton and tea party activist Konni Burton.

Then, there's the prospect of a run for governor or other statewide office. Davis hasn't said if she'll run in 2014 -- the political landscape could still be too unfavorable to Democrats, even one as appealing as Davis -- but the GOP is steeling for that, too.

"I wish she would," Munisteri told Politico. The attention she received from the filibuster might boost her standing and fundraising ability, he acknowledged, but it wouldn't help her win. "Maybe she'll lose by 13 instead of 17."

But why, if beating Davis will be such a cakewalk, is the chairman of the Republican Party so keen on dismissing her to the media? Maybe it's straight-up cockiness. More likely, it's fear.


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