A friend who also has impeccable Democratic Party credentials asked if I’d post this to the front page:
Democrats across the state are wondering what to expect in next Tuesday’s runoff for US Senate. Nobody was surprised by the primary results, everyone figured Vernon would have enough solid support to make a runoff and that Jim’s TV ads and residual support from Atlanta liberals would put him at #2. But now with Martin’s television ads disappearing and just some bickering between the two candidates in the AJC nobody knows what to expect.
Some things to consider: Statewide primary turnout was probably about split racially, with an outside chance that African Americans voted at a higher rate than whites in a state Democratic primary for the first time ever. Some clues: DeKalb County’s primary turnout was 61% African American and 36% white, a point blacker than it was in 2004. At the same time, Vernon Jones got less than 43% of the votes in DeKalb, with Martin pulling in 33%. In the parts of the state that watch WSB, African American voters seemed to go to Dale Cardwell if they didn’t like Vernon. He pulled in 21% of the votes there. Had Cardwell run a more serious campaign, he could have made this a real race as a white candidate who was already winning a sizable share of African American votes.
So the question is: do Vernon’s voters come out, what do African American Cardwell voters do in a runoff and how many votes can Martin pick up from Knight and Lanier voters. To the extend that they vote, everyone who voted for the two also-rans will be for Martin, even as Josh Lanier seeks his 16th minute of fame by refusing to endorse Martin. Cardwell’s white voters will be heavy for Martin. Many of them cast a protest vote for Cardwell instead of Martin due to their perception that Martin was running a lame campaign. Even though they might not be crazy about the prospect of Jim in the general, Vernon Jones scares them to death. At the same time, look for many of Cardwell’s African American voters to come home to Vernon, if they bother to vote. They were also casting a protest vote but ultimately probably prefer Jones to Martin (though the rumored Lowery endorsement could shake this up). Add it all up and Martin probably finishes with 54% on Tuesday.
You never know, though. Martin’s making a gamble. He doesn’t think Jones has a good plan to mobilize his voters and he thinks his own voters are either mobilized or will be by a combination of email, targeted phone calls, Facebook messages and friends and family. If he starts a media buy, it could backfire by reminding more of Jones’s folks that they need to come out than it will Martin’s. At the same time, Albany’s Senate District 12 Democratic primary between two popular African American candidates is now resolved, as are primaries for John Lewis and John Barrow’s seats that drew heavy African American interest. One thing is for sure: most Georgia Democrats are already looking past Tuesday to the real headlining fight in November between Barack Obama and John McCain.