If any Georgia politicos are looking at today’s Alabama primary results, they are probably just trying to figure out who our next Governor will be “negotiating” with over our water in Lake Lanier. But if he’s been paying attention, Nathan Deal needs to be watching the performance of Tim James.
James, son of former Alabama Governor Fob James, was running a distant 4th place in polls as recently as the end of April. No online news story of the AL race mentioned him even as an also ran among the top three contenders. Then, Tim James decided Alabama needed to speak English. The ad went viral, and James vaulted to the top tier, running either first or second in the final polls.
Whether James is ultimately in the runoff or not, the effect of that ad will be studied for election cycles to come. A blatant appeal to broad-based xenophobia turned the Alabama Republican Primary for Governor around on a dime.
Back in Georgia, Deal’s campaign showed a flicker of life as the Arizona immigration law became a talk radio and cable news sensation. Immigration is the one issue Deal has claimed tireless efforts on, though the results from those efforts remain dubious and elusive.
The campaign Deal hoped to run is no longer available to him. His D.C. base of support, both in fundraising and for grassroots, is all but gone. Tom Price has already openly jumped shipped, and other D.C. establishment insiders are already quietly shifting support to either Eric Johnson or Karen Handel. No one wants to be on a ballot against Roy Barnes and his bankroll with a Gubernatorial candidate who has major ethics issues.
Thus, instead of running a coronation as a capstone to a long political career with the support of the D.C. and much of the GA political establishment, Deal now finds himself in a postion where his best option for nomination is to appeal to the base fears of the Republican base, and tap the anger of those losing their jobs and suffering through a bad economy and blame illegal immigrants.
In a 4+ person primary, it just might work. We’ll at least know shortly if it worked in Alabama.