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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Ralph’s Uphill Climb

While perusing today’s Atlanta Journal-Constitution in order to wallow in the misery of Georgia’s close loss to Florida, I ran across some interesting polling data, thanks to Tom Baxter and Jim Galloway’s Political Insider column.According to a Republican-commissioned poll conducted on October 18, Ralph Reed, candidate for Lieutentant Governor (the first step towards an intended gubernatorial and perhaps presidential run) is viewed favorably by 11 percent of Georgians, and unfavorably by 16 percent. His name I.D. is 42 percent. Here’s what Baxter and Galloway say about that last number:

If 42 percent know who Reed is, and only 27 percent offer an opinion of him — whether good or bad — then 15 percent are purposely keeping their mouths shut.GOP analysts think Reed may be generating hidden negatives — that Reed supporters who have stuck with their charismatic leader in the past are beginning to have second thoughts. But they aren’t yet ready to voice them.

Interesting theory, eh? But more to the point, there’s the simple fact that Reed is about 39 percentage points away from convincing a majority of the electorate to think favorably of him, after two decades as a big wheel in national GOP circles, and a very successful tenure as state party chief. He’s been an announced candidate for statewide office for several months now, frenetically touring the state with big names ranging from Democratic apostate Zell Miller to Atlanta Braves pitcher John Schmoltz. Yet here he is with a favorable/unfavorable ratio of 11/16 (an earlier poll pegged it at 15/17). Ralph’s 42 percent name I.D. is also a cautionary sign about the extent to which voters pay attention to the obsessions of us political junkies. In addition to all the above attention-getting activities of Reed over the years, there’s the Casino Jack Abramoff scandal, in which Ralph has played a conscpicuous and unsavory role again and again. The Atlanta newspapers and several local television stations have been following the story quite diligently. Ralph’s Republican primary opponent, state Sen. Casey Cagle, and his large network of legislative supporters, have been regularly piling on, suggesting that Reed’s troubles could blow up the whole state ticket next year. Yet 58 percent of Georgians have apparently never heard of the guy.This will obviously change as we get closer to the 2006 elections, but if Ralph Reed hasn’t earned the loyalty of Georgia Republicans–much less the general electorate–by now, he’s got a long, long way to go. And his vast dossier of political skullduggery will continue to serve as a goldmine for opposition researchers in both parties.

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