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Georgia on my mind...[Updated]

by Frank Schnittger Wed Dec 3rd, 2008 at 06:05:59 AM EST

[Update 2] Chambliss has secured a resounding victory in the run-off election to the US Senate in Georgia in a campaign dominated by Republican calls to avoid giving Democrats a "super majority" in the White house, Senate and Congress. [End update]

As I write this the polls are closing in the Georgia Senate runoff election between Saxby Chambliss (R) and Jim Martin (D).  The Runoff has been necessary because although Chambliss won the original election 50-47%, he just barely missed out on a 50% overall majority and so a runoff is required under Georgia electoral law.

Chambliss has been ahead in the opinion polls by 2-8% margins and all the Repuplican "heavyweigthts" including Sarah Palin and John McCain have been campaigning on his behalf.  Meanwhile Obama has stayed in Chicago - a decision the pundits have interpreted as a concession of likely defeat - and an unwillingness to risk his political capital on a lost cause so early in his accession towards power.

The conventional wisdom emanating from Georgia itself doesn't give Martin a prayer because:

  1. He is a lacklustre candidate
  2. African Americans won't come out to vote without Obama on the ticket
  3. Early voting has heavily favoured Chambliss, according to exit polls, and
  4. The republicans are making a big play on the necessity of preventing Obama obtaining "absolute power" by achieving a 60 seat filibuster proof Senate representation.

However, somehow, from a distance of 5,000 miles, I am not so sure...


My first reason is that the Republican scare tactics about Obama may not work as well now as they did during the General Election.   Consider the following numbers from a recent Gallup poll.

"Do you approve or disapprove of the way Barack Obama is handling his presidential transition?"

78% Approve
13% Disapprove

"Do you approve or disapprove of Barack Obama's choice of Hillary Clinton as his secretary of state?"

69% Approve
25% Disapprove

"As you may know, Barack Obama has asked Robert Gates, the secretary of defense for President Bush, to stay on the job for at least a year to continue dealing with the Iraq war and other matters of national defense. Do you approve or disapprove of having Robert Gates stay on as secretary of defense?"

80% Approve
14% Disapprove

"Barack Obama says that once he takes office he will push Congress to pass a large spending package, estimated by others at $500 billion to $700 billion, to spur economic growth. Would you favor or oppose such a measure?"

58% Favor
33% Oppose

Hardly scary numbers are they?  In fact Obama's 78% approval rating during his transition is far higher than Bush (63%) and Clinton (66%) during their transitions.

Then there is the fact that large numbers of Obama Volunteers from all around the USA have volunteered for the Georgia campaign - many travelling down there, and others phonebanking from their home states.  The GOTV effort seems to be up to the usual Obama standard.

Then there is the fact that Obama has not come down to Georgia to campaign, but instead has busied himself about the Nation's business.  Precisely what has he done to agitate and mobilise the Republican base and justify all those fear stereotypes the McCain/Palin campaign put out about him? Re-appointed Gates as Defense secretary?  Appointed (McCain adviser) General Jones as National security adviser?  Hillary Clinton as Secretary of state?  Ex-Republican Geithner as Treasury Secretary?  

Could it just be that, even in deepest South Georgia, the penny is dropping that a vote for moderate Jim Martin is not a vote for a Muslum, Communist, Terrorist loving liberal?  However the turnout in a runoff election is often only half that in a General election so the side with the better organisation and more committed party base generally wins.  The GOP has hugely outspent the Martin Campaign in TV advertising and so this may end up being the decisive factor.

Meanwhile up in Minnesota the buzz is that Franken (D) might just pull an upset victory in the recount of the Minnesota senate election for a lot of very arcane reasons you would want to be seriously nerdy to want to follow.  Suffice to say that that election could go down to less than 50 votes out of 3 million cast.  Interestingly, it is the Senate itself which in January will have the final say as to who was the victor in Minnesota.  Expect to see skin and hair flying (a la Florida 2000) if Franken is ultimately declared the winner.  The issue once again turns on whether a few disputed votes were validly cast and with discernible voter intent...

Whether the Democrats ultimately get 58, 59 or 60 seats may ultimately not matter all that much because the Senate rarely votes on purely party political lines, and those figures in any case include a certain Joe Lieberman who is not renowned for his loyalty to the Democratic cause.

[Update] The The early counts are starting to come in and so far Chambliss seems to be doing far better than he did on Nov. 4th.  So Much for my long distance punditry! The Republican narrative that voters must deny Obama an absolute majority appears to have won the day. Either that or Georgians really do believe Obama is a Muslim, Communist, terrorist loving liberal... The more charitable interpretation is that weaker candidates have difficulty being elected even in a Democratic year, and especially in a conservative GOP leaning state like Georgia.

Display:
pseudo=Xtian bigotry.  Not shocking that the R's did a better job motivating their peeps.
by HiD on Wed Dec 3rd, 2008 at 01:06:42 AM EST
I thought Alabama was even worse!  

As a student in the late 1970's I did summer work in Wildwood, New Jersey (Howard Johnson's take out window, best hotdogs on the Boardwalk; making beds in Motels, and skinny dipping in hotel pools just ahead of the cops) and in Virginia Beach, Virginia (road construction work in *90 F - phew, never again).

I did the obligatory hitch-hiking around to see more of the USA but stopped just north of the Carolinas because I was told my long hair would be enough to get me lynched - "there tbe monsters down there, there be ..." - and as I was acting as involuntary protector for two fellow female hitch-hikers at the time, I decided that discretion was the better part of valour.

Hitch-hiking or giving lifts in Islamic/African countries never inspired the same sense of terror!


notes from no w here

by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Wed Dec 3rd, 2008 at 04:16:37 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Oh, my dear HiD, no.  There's plenty of faux-Christianity in Jawjuh, but it's is nothing compared with places like Louisiana, Alabama, or -- the most insane of all -- Oklahoma.  Georgia's just stuck with some Old South nuts who'll eventually die off, but those other three operate in an entirely different dimension of crazy.

Hell, Obama only lost Georgia by 5 points, maybe a bit less (haven't checked the scores in a few weeks at the state level).  Give it another few cycles.

Be nice to America. Or we'll bring democracy to your country.

by Drew J Jones (pedobear@pennstatefootball.com) on Wed Dec 3rd, 2008 at 01:12:59 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I've spent very little time in the south but having a city like Atlanta radiating out modern values has to help tremendously. Alabama, Louisiana, and Oklahoma have no such city.

you are the media you consume.

by MillMan (millguy at gmail) on Wed Dec 3rd, 2008 at 04:24:45 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I wouldn't call the values "modern," except for the actual city core.  The suburbs are not filled with total Neanderthals, but they aren't exactly San Francisco either.

But basically, yeah, that's the long and the short of it.

Could be worse.  Imagine Louisiana without New Orleans.

Be nice to America. Or we'll bring democracy to your country.

by Drew J Jones (pedobear@pennstatefootball.com) on Wed Dec 3rd, 2008 at 05:32:47 PM EST
[ Parent ]
FiveThirtyEight.com: Politics Done Right: Saxby Shows Republicans The Way Forward?
I tend to think that we should not be too dismissive of Saxby Chambliss's win in Georgia tonight. Although the outcome was expected, and although run-offs and special elections sometimes behave in idiosyncratic ways, moving from a 3-point margin of victory on November 4 to a 15-point margin of victory a month later is a significant accomplishment.

Nate has an interesting take on the reasons for Chambliss's win and the implications for Democrats in 2010.  Essentially he is saying that Chambliss didn't run against Obama this time around, but for an independent bipartisan voice in Washington.  Quite a re-invention for Chambliss given his previous track record and an example of how easy it seems to be, in US politics, to re-brand yourself as something quite different from your previous incarnation as recently as a few weeks ago.

Perhaps there is some truth in Reincarnation (at least in US politics) after all!

notes from no w here

by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Wed Dec 3rd, 2008 at 04:58:19 AM EST
Turns out the conventional wisdom was spot-on...
by nanne (zwaerdenmaecker@gmail.com) on Wed Dec 3rd, 2008 at 06:06:57 AM EST
I did not look at any exit breakdown of voters but I would bet that AA participation has fallen a lot. Correct me if I am wrong.

I think that this result would be extremely easy to forecast precisely because of that.

It was only apparently a draw because at that time, for some reason not-very-difficult-to-explain, AA voters felt compelled on November the 4th to vote. That reason now faded away...

by t-------------- on Wed Dec 3rd, 2008 at 07:08:01 AM EST
FiveThirtyEight.com: Politics Done Right
Unfortunately, nobody conducted an exit poll of this race, which makes the postmortem a little bit more difficult to conduct. From early voting statistics, it appears that African-American turnout was substantially lower, which no doubt was a significant factor in Martin's defeat, as roughly 55 percent of his vote on November 4 came from black voters. If black turnout was closer to the 25 percent of the electorate that it was in 2004 rather than the 28 percent of the electorate that it was on November 4, that would cost Martin a net of about 4 points, implying a loss of about 7 points. If it was closer to the 22 percent of the electorate that turned out to vote early, that would have cost Martin a net of 8-9 points, implying a loss of 11-12 points.

It appears that reduced AA turnout is not sufficient to explain the degree of Martin's defeat, but the lack of exit polls data makes this difficult to asses.  The fact that Martin narrowly defeated another AA, Vernon Jones, for the Dem nomination in the primary would not have helped his case.


notes from no w here

by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Wed Dec 3rd, 2008 at 09:39:45 AM EST
[ Parent ]
It's tough to explain this stuff, really.  It's a runoff, so basically a special election, and nobody really knows what to expect in those.  We've won some upsets in special election, such as Childers's race in Mississippi.  Win some, lose some.

Be nice to America. Or we'll bring democracy to your country.
by Drew J Jones (pedobear@pennstatefootball.com) on Wed Dec 3rd, 2008 at 01:15:24 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The low turnout is what makes it so unpredictable - that, and the new context.  The context was now that of an overwhelming Democratic victory in the Presidential and congressional elections.  Did voters want to reinforce that even more, or exert some balancing restraint - especially in a state which is very conservative/Republican in the first place.  Were Democrats sated or still enthused?  Republicans alarmed or despondent? Martin didn't seem to enthuse anyone whilst Chambliss could present himself as an independent voice of restraint on the wilder excesses of a still unknown President/liberal congress.  If Obama couldn't be bothered to turn out, why should his supporters?

notes from no w here
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Wed Dec 3rd, 2008 at 03:38:12 PM EST
[ Parent ]


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