- - Wednesday, October 15, 2014


The Democratic accusation that the Republicans are waging a “war on women” doesn’t make sense. It might be the only thing left for the Democrats to say, but nobody’s buying it. A couple of Democratic female candidates, however, are doing well in their merciless war on themselves.

Wendy Davis‘ campaign for governor in Texas doesn’t have room to fade farther, and Alison Lundergan Grimes and the Democrats seem about to give up the ghost in their attempt to unseat Sen. Mitch McConnell in Kentucky. Mrs. Grimes is trying to put so much distance between herself and President Obama that she won’t even say whether she voted for him in 2008 and 2012. If she gets any further from him she will fall into Tennessee or Ohio, depending on the direction she falls.

The ladies forgot two fundamental rules of politics. Rule 1 is that you never, never show anything but love for children, dogs or anyone in a wheelchair. Rule 2 says that when you say something stupid you never, never double down on the stupid. You say something humble and mildly apologetic, change the subject and never go there again.

Republicans learned this two years ago, when Senate candidates in Missouri and Indiana said really dumb things about conception and abortion, and when everybody jeered wouldn’t let it go. They both lost.

Mrs. Davis is particularly irritated that Greg Abbott, the state attorney general who is her Republican opponent, worked successfully to put a cap of $250,000 on personal-injury awards. Mr. Abbott has been in a wheelchair for nearly a quarter of a century since a tree fell on him, and he received $10 million to settle a lawsuit. “After receiving justice in the form of millions of dollars from a lawsuit,” Mrs. Davis said, “Greg Abbott has made a career of kicking the ladder down from behind him and denying others the same justice that he both deserved and received.”

Harsh, perhaps, but just within bounds. But then Mrs. Davis put up a television commercial calling attention to what she called his “hypocrisy,” with the camera panning across an empty wheelchair, representing Mr. Abbott’s absence in the struggle for other disabled Texans to obtain justice. The empty wheelchair was a big mistake. Condemnation poured down from every quarter, from Democrats and Republicans alike. Her chances of winning fell into that gap between zero and none.

Mrs. Grimes fell afoul of the fine print of Rule 2, about resisting the temptation to double down on stupid. Given several opportunities to explain the votes everybody knew she had cast for Mr. Obama not once but twice, she took refuge in her right to privacy at the ballot box. “I’m not going to compromise a constitutional right provided here in Kentucky in order to curry favor on one or other side, or for members of the media.” She then fell afoul of Rule 3, which is never make a joke of yourself, because that laughter always dies in sorrow.

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