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Rick Perry Bails Out: Run Statewide, Wendy Davis!

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Striking while the iron is hot matters in life and politics. Ask Barack Obama. He went from unknown Illinois state Senator to U.S. Senator to President in less than five years.

Wendy Davis is now hot iron, and she faces reelection next year. A Democratic state Senator from Fort Worth, she'd normally be safe until '16, but a quirk of redistricting forces her to face voters after two years instead of the customary four. A quirk, and a conundrum, too, because next year is when all statewide offices are contested.

She must decide between fighting to hold her senate seat, thus waiting four more years to expand her reach, or give it up and jump into a bigger battle. She won her Republican-leaning district by two points in both '08 and '12, although there's no guarantee she wins next year when the climate includes the dicey midterm congressional elections.

Suddenly, big news arrives and dominoes start to topple.

The strutting Republican Governor, aka "Ricky Bobby" Perry, announced today that he's abandoning ship. He's wandering off in search of another "Oops" moment on his dead-end quest for the White House. This creates an open seat at the top, a huge opportunity not seen in almost a quarter-century, since Ann Richards won in '90.

A Republican Attorney General with an $18 million war chest is already making waves about replacing Perry, so the AG's chair might also be empty. Enter a prominent Democrat, fearless in Mizuno running shoes, easy on the eyes and holding a Harvard law degree.

Davis doesn't need encouragement to pursue higher office, but she'll need money, and lots of it, probably $30 million in a far-flung state with 20 separate media markets. Thanks to Republican mismanagement of her filibuster against an anti-women's rights abortion bill, she's a rising star nationally, not just within the borders of the Lone Star State.

She should broaden the brand. Gear up for serious fundraising this instant. Make it job one politically. Can you say "Super PAC?" Karl Rove can.

Getting her party's nomination is easy. The real question is whether Texas will be sufficiently purple enough to carry a moderate Democrat over the finish line, as it did Richards. Conventional wisdom says not yet, but conventional wisdom accepts the status quo, doesn't push the needle toward change.

It's up to Wendy Davis, and the people. Austin, the state capital, is an island of blue in a sea of red. That sea, however, is quite choppy.

Mitt Romney won the state last year, 57 percent to 41 percent, but took only one of the five most populous counties, bound by Fort Worth. Of the others, Harris County (Houston) was closest, 49-all, while Travis County (Austin) was bluest, 60-36 Obama. Bexar County (San Antonio) was 51-47 Obama, and Dallas County actually flipped Romney's statewide number, going a stout 57-41 Obama.

Yes, Dallas, J.R. Ewing's backyard. Big D has been trending "D" for some time.

Another sign is a Gallup poll earlier this year. It ranked Texas merely the 17th most conservative state, and that's after more than a decade of total domination by a far-right state Republican Party. Indeed, Texans who self-identified as "moderate" or "liberal" were a combined 54 percent of poll respondents. That's the people. They're purple.

If I were giving a speech as a Democratic official in Texas, I'd be tempted to invoke that ancient political cliché, "My friends, we stand today at a precipice...." The fact is, that's exactly where the state stands. It's time to build a bridge.

Run, Wendy, run!