The tides of Georgia

On Tuesday, will they run red or blue?
By Sam Patten | Jan 02, 2021

With over a hundred miles of coastline, Georgians — or at least the coastal ones — know a thing or two about tides. According to a visiting Frenchman some time back, a rising tide lifts all ships, and that seems to jibe with the strategies of both Democrats and Republicans in the Senate run-offs there that will finally be over Tuesday, Jan. 5.

The result will determine control of Washington, and this election made the interminable 2020 election creep into 2021, if only by a few days.

This all-or-nothing approach makes sense, for the parties anyway, and there have been interesting developments since I last wrote about this race about a month ago.

Back in early December, it was the comely Kelly Loeffler who was the lead balloon on Republican hopes. Recently appointed by Governor Brian Kemp, Loeffler — whose husband owns the New York Stock Exchange — appeared to have a target on her back. But she’s rallied, launched an all-out offensive on Democrat opponent Rev. Raphael Warnock, and now appears to have some wind in her sails.

Incumbent Sen. David Perdue’s reelection campaign has been on a lower key. His opponent, a one-time staffer, two-time failed candidate and alleged investigative journalist Jon Ossoff, has a pretty thin resume.

There’s never been a question as to whether a preening, unctuous type like Ossoff would fit in Washington, but rather one of whether he could really represent Georgia. Is his best shot riding Warnock’s coattails or letting Warnock take all the serious fire, and then slink into office while everyone else is distracted?

I remember the ad that elected Bob Corker in Tennessee about 15 years ago. His opponent, Harold Ford, was African-American and Corker’s campaign ran a closing ad where a white woman left a suggestive phone message on Ford’s answering machine (remember those?), ostensibly highlighting his reputation as a ladies’ man.

But the ad also said something darker, and it stuck in my head because it was so atypical of the moderate, decent former Chattanooga mayor Corker was. Is Team Loeffler making the same play right now, and if so, how does that look for Republicans, who have otherwise been making inroads with minority voters?

Calling Warnock a “radical liberal” is hardly racist. New York Sen. Alfonse D’Amato beat a well-pedigreed opponent in the early ‘90s by calling him “just too liberal.” In New York!

In Warnock’s case, the charge rests mainly on his association with the controversial Rev. Jeremiah Wright (from who Obama distanced himself in 2008 so as not to alienate white soccer moms) and false claims about his support for de-funding the police.

Linking him to Wright evokes the third rail in politics for African-American men: the angry black man. Yet after a summer of BLM, is the angry black man so unreasonable anymore? We’re about to find out.

Georgia also boasts a weird x-factor this election: the nihilists. From recently-pardoned Roger Stone to Richard Jewell lawyer Lin Wood gone rogue, some activists are calling for cannibalism in the Peach state, whether it’s through calls for Republicans to boycott the run-off or, as Wood did on New Years Day, calling Vice President Mike Pence a traitor, who should be executed (if he certifies the Electoral College vote).

But Stone’s not from Georgia and Wood’s not a Republican, so I predict this will be more of an oddity than a determinant.

The take from well-informed Republicans and Democrats in the last 24 hours suggests both Loeffler and Perdue hold an edge. Loeffler’s luck is having an opponent who can be accused of radicalism, and Perdue’s is having an opponent who seems like a caricature of a grasping, under-qualified politician. My Democrat pollster friend points to the fact that the margins are so slim right now — a couple points this way or that in both cases —that the hope of painting Georgia blue may be fading. Can a final swing-thru by President-Elect Joe Biden and VP-elect Kamala Harris change that? Again, we’ll see Tuesday.

The other tell-tale indicator will be turnout at the polls. Early and mail-in voting has favored Democrats, for Republicans to cancel out that advantage they will need robust same-day participation.

Former Maine Sen. Bill Cohen said Jan. 1 that Republicans should consider forming a new party. If they lose Georgia, that may happen more quickly. But if gravity holds, and Georgia stays red, it will just take longer. The new de-facto leader of the GOP, Mitch McConnell, will make sure of it.

Sam Patten is a recovering political consultant who was raised in Knox County and worked for Maine’s last three Republican senators.

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Posted by: Paul Rosen | Jan 04, 2021 07:35

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