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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Targeting Georgia

As the general election contest begins to take shape, a lot of the early talk from the Obama campaign about “changing the map” has been symbolized by its much-broadcast interest in going after my home state of Georgia. It’s an audiacious move, or perhaps even a feint, on the surface. Yes, Georgia went comfortably for native son Jimmy Carter in 1976 and 1980, and narrowly for Bill Clinton in 1992. But beginnng in 1996, Georgia trended heavily Republican (mainly because of the population explosion in the Atlanta suburbs), with Bush winning the state by 12% in 2000 and 18% in 2004.
The Obama campaign’s been listing Georgia as a potential target for a while, on the theory that a massive increase in African-American turnout (and in the Democratic margin there) could significantly narrow the gap. And indeed, the last big Democratic year in Georgia was in 1998, when black tunout (motivated in part by an overtly racial GOP statewide campaign) exceeded white turnout for the first time ever, and leapt from about 19% of the statewide vote to 29%.
But there’s another factor in play, which the first recent general election poll for Georgia has illustrated: Bob Barr. The former Republican Congressman for Georgia, and now the Libertarian candidate for president, gets 6% in an Insider Advantage poll of the Peach State, clearly cutting into John McCain’s vote, who leads Obama 44%-43%. (There’s actually another Georgian running for president, Green Party candidate Cynthia McKinney, but under current conditions she’s unlikely to dent Obama’s African-American support).
This data led Nate Silver of fivethirtyeight.com and TNR, who earlier mocked the idea of targeting Georgia, to recant a bit. But it’s all very, very early. Every presidential campaign talks about expanding the battleground at this stage, before focusing its resources down the home stretch to the states that are clearly winnable. But having money to burn, the Obama campaign has every reason to throw a scare into the relatively cash-strapped McCain campaign in places like Georgia. If McCain fails to rise to the bait, and banks Georgia as a sure thing, he could get a nasty surprise if Georgia looks dead-even in late October. If against the odds, Obama’s running-mate is Sam Nunn (who’s still well-known in his native state if not elsewhere), Obama could actually be the favorite in GA, which would indeed scramble the map.

3 comments on “Targeting Georgia

  1. ducdebrabant on

    I’ve also begun to wonder if the veepship is being floated in order to innoculate Nunn later, in case Obama plans to make him Secretary of Defense. That, of course, would outrage gay people as well. It would be putting the fox in charge of the henhouse, in the administration of a candidate who likes to talk about ordering military brass to come up with plans for after DADT is repealed (easier than ordering Congress actually to repeal it). The thought of Nunn cooperating with that is hard to conjure up. If that’s Obama’s real pan, maybe we’re supposed to sigh and say “Well, at least he’s not Vice President.” Nunn already is being mentioned for that cabinet post as well — yet nobody is talking about it. Nobody is worrying as yet about an obstructionist Secretary of Defense digging in his heels or dragging his feet or otherwise creating problems. We surely would be if they weren’t talking about him for the Vice Presidency as well.

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  2. Christopher Carrington on

    Any comments on Barney Frank’s clear indication today that if Obama takes Nunn as a VP, he will have a hard time voting for the ticket? My own view is that in choosing Nunn, Obama will raise integrity issues among independent voters in swing states (think Colorado, New Mexico, Wisconsin, Nevada), states where many people harbor harsh and negative feelings toward the South. The last thing Obama needs to do is align himself with the cultural politics of Georgia in an ill-fated effort to win Georgia and in so doing leave himself open to the very charges of inconsistency and pandering that he levels against McCain. It’s painfully akin to Gore’s choice of Lieberman, a choice that pissed off a lot of independents who objected to the Lieberman’s moralizing toward Bill Clinton.

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  3. ducdebrabant on

    And picking Nunn might be Obama’s signal (not just to Georgians but to people in other deep south states, and Nebraska and Utah) that his commitments on cultural issues — especially to gay people — are meaningless posturing, and may be safely disregarded. Primary season, by golly, is over.

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