With early polls relatively meaningless, the only real ranking we have for candidates at this stage essentially boils down to conventional wisdom. And conventional wisdom throughout this Governor’s race has been that Austin Scott has a comfortable grip on 5th place. Ahead of Jeff Chapman and Ray McBerry, but not threatening the leaders of Oxendine, Handel, Deal, and Johnson.
In fact, some polls have not included Scott at all, but those that have
generally have him in a battle for Johnson at forth place. With Johnson having a distinct fundraising advantage, most observers seem content with the reality that Johnson will be the one that moves up if and when the others above falter.
With relatively low name ID among metro Atlanta voters, Scott will have to rely on earned media to get his message out, as he is not allowed to raise funds during the general assembly session like 3 of the top 4 candidates may.
Scott was able to generate a significant amount of name ID and good will in rural areas with his “Walk of Georgia”, but this event was largely ignored by Atlanta media, and scoffed at here (myself included).
In order to generate earned media, a candidate must stand out in some way. Ray McBerry generates earned media by being fringe secessionist. John Oxendine does so by constantly topping the lastest and greatest stupid thing he did last week. Austin Scott is now doing so by delivering short, straight answers to debate questions while challenging the status quo.
Earlier this week, the Fayette Daily News editor, Trey Alverson, gave Austin props for his performance in the GA Tech College Republican’s Governor’s forum:
After Deal, Handel, Eric Johnson and Oxendine meandered their way through a question about whether or not Sunday alcohol sales should go on the ballot as a statewide referendum (all four said yes, in some roundabout way), Scott grabbed the microphone.
“I’m going to give a direct answer: yes. I support the referendum,” he said. “This is what you can expect from me as your governor: straightforward, honest answers.”
Scott is a good candidate. He has refused to accept campaign contributions from lobbyists. Instead he raised money for his governor’s bid by literally walking around the state — over 1,000 miles from Chickamauga to Bainbridge to Brunswick to Clayton.
For those that scoff at local newspaper endorsements, I would posit that in Republican vote-rich suburban/exurban areas, they are often the opinion that matters on politics. But for those that would like to see evidence that Scott is moving into the eye of larger media organizations, I point to Kyle Wingfield at the AJC:
“But he’s running for governor. And even if you end up voting for someone else — as I may well do myself — you ought to know about him. At the very least, he brings a different voice to the Republican primary.
In some ways, Scott is a stock character in politics: The candidate who won’t promise too much; who pledges to shoot straight about government’s limitations; who describes a campaign and administration at arm’s length from lobbyists.
And who never breaks 5 percent in the opinion polls or the eventual election.
Yet this might be the year for such a character to seize a leading role.”
Austin Scott still faces an uphill battle for one of the two spots in a runoff. It would be helpful to him if Rasmussen and other credible polling firms would include him in their surveys. Those and fundraising are the only ways we have to “keep score”, and without having the legal ability to raise funds, a lack of polling prohibits any objective measure of score keeping.
But for the tea leaves we do have, it does appear that Austin is getting the attention of the Atlanta media. This is the best path he has available to reach the average voter.