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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Georgia Senate Run-Off Tests Voters’ Tolerance for Sleaze

Tomorrow’s Senate run-off election in Georgia is getting national attention because of the implications for the Democrats’ quest for a filibuster-proof Senate majority. All bets are off, since polls for run-off elections are notoriously unreliable. There is a temptation to say that this one is all about African American turnout — if the percentage of eligible Black voters casting ballots exceeds the percentage of eligible white voters who do so, then Martin has a chance.
It’s as plausible a supposition as any. As a Georgia resident, however, I have to add that this election also provides an instructive lesson about negative campaigning. I don’t believe I’m being overly partisan in observing that the quantity of nasty, even vicious television ads being aired on Chambliss’s behalf has probably set a record for state-wide campaigns, perhaps nation-wide. One after the other, making outrageous charges, one even suggesting that Martin is soft on child molesters. Martin’s attack ads are quite tame in comparison.
Tomorrow’s vote in Georgia will also be an instructive test of how much character assassination fair-minded Republican voters can stomach. If decency prevails, many of them will vote for Martin or stay home. And, If Martin wins, I suspect some of the credit should go to Chambliss’s ad-makers, who have set a new standard for sleazy attack ads. If Chambliss wins, on the other hand, it will be a disturbing affirmation of the power of relentless, mean-spirited attack ads.

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