Greg Abbott, the Republican running for governor, says opponent Wendy Davis' TV ad that uses a wheelchair to represent him is "offensive."
Abbott, who is disabled, talked to the San Antonio Express-News Monday after Davis, a Democrat, defended the ad that has generated a firestorm of debate. He said he didn't think it is going to "sell too well."
The 30-second ad opens with a grainy, black and white picture of a wheelchair and a reference to the 1984 accident that left Abbott paralyzed from the waist down.
The ad begins with the announcer saying, “A tree fell on Greg Abbott. He sued and got millions. Since then he spent his career working against other victims.”
The ad says that Abbott received a judgment of more than $10 million. He then supported limiting legal awards for others while he served as a judge or attorney general.
“Abbott argued a woman whose leg was amputated was not disabled because she had an artificial limb,” the ad says as it cites several cases where Abbott weighed in.
Abbott campaign spokesperson Amelia Chasse called the ad disgusting.
“I think the ad used very clear imagery to exploit Greg Abbott’s disability,” said Chasse, adding it is also misleading. “As the Attorney General of Texas and a Supreme Court justice Greg Abbott has ruled on the law without fear or favor.”
Washington Post called it was one of the nastiest campaign ads ever. On MSNBC Columbia University Prof. Dorian Warren said Davis had blundered.
“What Wendy Davis needs is to increase voter turnout and what we know about negative ads is that they almost always depress voter turnout,” he said.
But Monday, Davis appeared in her hometown of Fort Worth with three disabled supporters, two in wheelchairs, and said the ad was about one thing- hypocrisy.
“Greg Abbott rightly got his justice why doesn’t he believe a rape survivor or a person with a disability or a victim paralyzed forever should get justice too.”
SMU political science professor Cal Jillson says the Davis’ strategy is a lot like something Republican image-maker Karl Rove might have dreamed up. It targets Abbott’s ability to overcome his disability.
“A Rovian strategy would have been take him on right there in his wheelhouse on his strength and that’s what that Wendy Davis ad did. I think the weight is now that the ad works for the Davis campaign as a policy ad and there's less concern about the wheelchair,” said Jillson.
With the election just three weeks away Davis trails in the polls and needs to get the public’s attention. For better or worse, this ad has done that.