CQ Politics has changed its rating on the Senate seat up for election in Georgia this year, which is currently held by Johnny Isakson:
[A] glimmer of competition has entered the contest because of the April decision by state Labor Commissioner Michael Thurmond to enter the race, which followed recruiting entreaties by Democratic officials. Thurmond is African-American, which could give him particular appeal to a black constituency that makes up more than a quarter of the state’s population. CQ Politics has changed its rating on the race to Likely Republican.
So Democrats hope to put together a stronger effort for 2010, coming off a 2008 election that saw Democrat Barack Obama trim the party’s presidential deficit in the state to 5 percentage points from 17 in 2004 – and saw Republican Senate incumbent Saxby Chambliss held under a majority on Election Day and forced into the runoff before he clinched his second term.
The effort to get Thurmond to challenge Isakson came less than a month after Isakson was hospitalized in late March due to a blood clot in his leg, an irregular heartbeat and a bacterial infection. The 65 year-old Isakson was released from the hospital on April 2. But he has kept up a regular schedule and denies he has any ongoing health concerns.
Thurmond faces some token opposition in the primary. He shouldn’t have to spend a lot of money between now and July. The Libertarian Party of Georgia has already selected Chuck Donovan as its nominee (my podcast with Donovan can be downloaded here).
In a Republican year, Isakson is a safe bet for re-election, though he is going to have to mend some fences with the conservative base after supporting immigration reform and voting for TARP and generally backing George W. Bush’s big government agenda.