Michelle Nunn, The GOP, and The Middle

This Week’s Courier Herald Column:

Last week, Michelle Nunn made the worst kept secret in Georgia politics official.  She will be a candidate for the US Senate.  In reality for Georgia Democrats, she will be THE candidate for Georgia Senate despite the three other announced candidates who also wish their party’s nomination.  Unlike the Georgia GOP that have seven announced candidates and four or five potential contenders, institutional Democrats appear to have no appetite for a divisive primary.  Nunn is their one.

The Democrats wasted no time as labeling her a centrist, with progressive Democrats seeking out social media to brand her as such at the same time the Georgia GOP was dispatching press releases declaring her “out-of-touch” with Georgia values and convictions.  And thus, before the primary has even officially begun, the preview of a general election campaign has been signaled.  There will be a fight for “the middle” in Georgia politics.

The Democratic Party of Georgia, barely a decade removed from majority status, has been reduced to a party that seems to represent little more than urban Atlanta and pockets of Southwest Georgia.  Gone are the days when Democratic partisans refused to identify with their national brethren.  Despite the well-publicized purity efforts that regularly occur within GOP intramural exercises, Democratic activists – a much younger and nationally focused group than those who ran the party during the last days of their majority – now not only openly embrace the initiatives of the national party but expect others within their ranks to do the same. 

For those that wish to take issue with the above statement, contrast former Governor Barnes “scheduling conflict” when President Obama visited during the 2010 campaign with these activists demands to get Congressman David Scott and Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed on record regarding gay marriage the day the President announced that he had “evolved” on the issue.  Georgia Democrats have recently been as unwilling to allow their own to position themselves as needed to remain viable in general elections as their Republican counterparts.  They just haven’t had as many of them to do that with.

Nunn, of course, is the daughter of the man that the entire DPG used to identify with as a reason why Democrats wouldn’t switch to the Republican party.  “I’m a Sam Nunn Democrat” had a unique and specific meaning.  It meant “I’m a Georgia (and mostly conservative) Democrat, not one of those Kennedy-like national Democrats”.  And yet, days before her announcement, she shared a stage with President Obama – and President George H. W. Bush – to commemorate the 5,000th “Daily Point of Light” award from the Points of Light Foundation, an Atlanta based group of which she is the CEO.

The social media buzz following her announcement demonstrated that even progressive democrats cede that Nunn must be viewed as a candidate that will appeal to those voters that kept her Father and many other Democrats in power well after demographics said Georgia should be Republican.  Meanwhile, the GOP has signaled they will seek to brand her as someone far from the middle.

But where the middle is in this race is much more complicated than how a relatively unknown person who is now the Democrats statewide standard bearer is viewed and branded.  It also has a lot to do with which of the seven candidates Republicans choose to nominate.  Democrats clearly have their sights set on a battle with Congressman Paul Broun, whose views of evolution as “lies from the pit of hell” will go a long way to making the CEO of a George H. W. Bush inspired charity look downright reasonable by comparison to a wide swath of general election Georgia voters.

GOP leaders, meanwhile, understand that these voters don’t generally participate in – much less decide – primaries.   Thus, the success of Nunn in helping re-establish Democrats as a viable statewide party likely has a lot less to do with the efforts of Nunn, and a lot more with what Republicans decide to do with their nomination.

For years, the mantra in GOP circles is that you cannot be conservative enough.  Now that there is a clear and telegraphed battle for the middle, Republican leaders and grass roots workers will have to make a calculated assessment when they choose their nominee.  Will they take the risk to find the nominee that appeals most to what their inner wants and needs desire?  Or, will enough fear creep into their consciousness to allow for a little bit of pragmatism to choose the most conservative candidate that can win a general election?

This, as of now, is the central question that GOP voters will have to answer for themselves between now and next June’s primary.  The answer will likely determine, in effect, just how close or far away from the middle Michelle Nunn actually is.

 

51 comments

      • There are MANY reasons to support Handel that have absolutely nothing to do with her gender. As for me – I’m ready for a woman to hold a significant office here in Georgia.

        Georgia was 50.36% female at the last census. I want representation. If we have to all #leanin, raze the male network and usher in fiscal responsibility from the “Nunn Democrat” side….well…

            • saltycracker says:

              Fiscal responsibility is off the table until after a crisis hits. Talking about it is as productive as speculation in 2006 that real estate might loose value.
              7 years later those that got us there are more powerful and richer than ever – Easy money Democrats and government guaranteed financials.

              • Three Jack says:

                Harry, I can tell you how the rhetoric will go; “save babies, runoff mexicans, cut government and USA, USA, USA!

                I’ll re-phrase the question; based on past record, Who amongst the GOP contingent has shown fiscal responsibility?

                  • Three Jack says:

                    It is rhetoric Harry. So I take it since you won’t offer the name of a fiscally responsible conservative in the race, your earlier statement should have read, “From any Democrat Politician you’re not going to get fiscal responsibility.

                    • Three Jack says:

                      ‘Democrat’ should have been erased…should read “From any Politician you’re not going to get fiscal responsibility.”

                    • mpierce says:

                      That is true, but on a relative basis I would take any of the Reps running as being more fiscally responsible than the Dem.

                  • Scott65 says:

                    Spending wisely is a fiscally responsible position… just saying “cut government” isn’t.

        • Three Jack says:

          Bridget, what do you think of the women who have held significant office previously in GA, i.e. Cynthia McKinney, Denise Majette, Kathy Cox and Linda Schrenko?

          • Moot point, 3J. I can find 50 messed up men in politics for every one woman.

            McKinney > Majette > McKinney > …Mr. Guam? That dog doesn’t hunt.

            Candidly, you’re an Equal Opportunity Hater of all politicians regardless of sex, race, and political affiliation.

            At some point, you’ll need to pick a choir to have a better chance of being heard.

            • Three Jack says:

              Just saying, women holding significant office in GA have a less than stellar track record on which to make the gender argument that we need more women. What we need are more candidates of any gender, race or sexual preference willing to fulfill their pushcard promises instead of going along to get along once they get elected.

              • We’ll have to agree to disagree.

                Like Aaron holding up the arms of Moses, I will try to help any intelligent and reasonable woman get into office over a white headed man who wants to pat me on the head (or bottom for that matter) and tell me to leave the hard stuff up to him. Bah.

                We. need. more. women. in. higher. office.

                I hope other women help me block, tackle, and cheer for those who get on the field with the big boys.

                • pettifogger says:

                  Alright, but why?

                  I’m certainly not against women in higher office, nor do I necessarily even disagree that we need more of them, but I’m just always intrigued by people who are comfortable making those types of statements.

                  This is probably because we live in a society where it is so very uncomfortable to make any statement about “needing” men to do anything.

                • Scott65 says:

                  Here is a good one for you Bridget…if you were in KY. Probably one of the best political ads I’ve ever seen

                • Three Jack says:

                  Bridget, We don’t necesarily disagree because I’m with you on your original point — supporting Karen for the GOP nomination, if she is not the one, then I am very open to looking at Nunn or hopefully a Libertarian candidate. I absolutely will not support Broun or Gingrey, that’s for sure (and neither has ever patted me on the arse or head…).

                  I just think it is foolish to limit yourself strictly by gender or some other non-factor when choosing a candidate. That’s what dems rely upon; VOTE {fill in the blank with ‘black’, ‘hispanic’, ‘woman’ or the ultimate dem – ‘gay black/hispanic single parent mom with a female partner’.

                  • The Dems have also had a President in the White House for two terms.

                    Georgia Dems might be regrouping at the moment, but nationally – Dems have handed it to us on some very key points, so…. learn from anyone who’s doing something better than you.

                    Gender and race is a non-factor for you because there are representatives just like “you” in office everywhere. Farmers want a candidate who understand and sympathize with farm-related issues. CEOs want a candidate who understands Big Business. There is absolutely nothing wrong with me wanting a female candidate who understands my concerns as a female citizen.

                    I want someone like me (a woman) promoted and elevated to US Senate to speak on my behalf; I will help whomever wants to help me reach my goal. …not an overly complicated concept.

                    Like TSPLOST – partner with any and every single organization that will help you accomplish your task.

                    • Three Jack says:

                      “Gender and race is a non-factor for you because there are representatives just like “you” in office everywhere.”

                      Really? Come on Bridget, I know you can’t possibly believe that I have such a myopic view of things as to find comfort in either gender dominating politics simply based on gender. Just because I’m male does not mean I’m just like all males any more than all women are the same. Identity politics will not solve our issues, far too limiting.

                      Here are a few pols of both genders that I know of who deserve support for challenging the status quo: Rep. Justin Amash (R-MI), Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY). Governor Nikki Haley in SC followed Mark Sanford, both of whom took on the good ol boys. Michelle Rhee, former Chancellor of Education in DC made great strides no matter how hopeless her efforts seemed. Governors Scott Walker and John Kasich. There are many more and hopefully a bunch in wings running during the next cycle.

                      All I’m saying is don’t limit yourself based solely on gender, you will ultimately be disappointed.

          • Scott65 says:

            Denise Majette=just plain stupid to leave a congressional seat to run against J.I.
            Linda Schrenko=criminal (is she out of prison yet?)
            Cynthia McKinney=…well we just have time to document that brand of crazy
            I really dont know that much about Kathy Cox…is she the one who won the money on being smarter than a a 1st grader…or fifth grader…or some child somewhere (and declared bankruptcy)?
            Now…a Carol Porter type would nicely though

              • Scott65 says:

                I need to proof read a whole lot better…and PP needs an EDIT button…now Harry, that is an example of good spending (on an edit button…sapporta report has one limited to 5 min.)

            • David C says:

              I always gave her the benefit of the doubt that she thought that her beating McKinney in 02 was a once in a lifetime thing (with the North Dekalb Republican crossover vote) that she thought she couldn’t repeat a 2nd time. But maybe that’s being overly charitable.

  1. Jackster says:

    I really liked the campaign, messaging, and arguments that Handel made during her last campaign. I’m equally open to hearing opposing moral and community development views from Michelle Nunn, whenever her Empirical Stategists come up with what people want to hear.

    I’m pretty sure at this point, I can write off the other candidates as “crazy people”. Broun, Gingrey, Kingston have a record of being less than appealing for various reasons.

    Michelle Nunn has her own group of crazy people around her – they’re called Better Georgia.

  2. Spacey G says:

    I’m missing the days of yelling “pawn of the liberal media” and calling it a day ‘n a campaign by you GOP-ers. Can we bring that back?

        • Scott65 says:

          I’m not sure what your point is, thus, its awfully hard to respond. Although, your use of the word “retarded” is highly offensive…just ask Sarah Palin

  3. northside101 says:

    The main problem the Democrats have had since Roy Barnes lost re-election for governor in 2002 is their lack of competitiveness outside of metro Atlanta (generally—there are of course exceptions like the cities of Augusta, Macon and Columbus). It isn’t widely known, but Obama carried metro Atlanta (now 28 counties) in both 2008 and 2012—though just barely (by less than 15,000 votes) last November. Among the 43 percent of Georgia voters outside of metro Atlanta last year, Romney won by more than 300,000 votes, taking 59 percent of the vote in the “other Georgia.” Similarly in 2010, metro Atlanta was close in the race for governor (Deal getting just under 50 percent to Barnes’ 46 percent), but in the rest of Georgia, Deal led Barnes by a whopping 19 points (58 to 39 percent).

    It is hard to see how embracing Obama will help Michelle Nunn win rural counties such as Banks in northeast Georgia on I-85 (86% Romney), Brantley in southeast Georgia on Hwy 301 (83% Romney), Grady in southwest Georgia (63% Romney) or Gordon along I-75 between Atlanta and Chattanooga (78% Romney). Losing a few rural counties here and there, no big deal for a Democratic statewide candidate. Lose several dozen of them, and that is big trouble. Just ask Roy Barnes (whose defeat in 2002 was entirely because of rural Georgia—he ran even with Sonny Perdue overall in the state’s metro areas). And Nunn’s stances on abortion and gay marriage will not be well received in those parts of the state.

    Of course over time, metro Atlanta trends Democratic, and maybe the day could come where a Democrat could win there decisively and basically write off the rural and smaller city areas outside the 28-county region (akin to Democrats regularly winning Illinois in presidential contests—win big in metro Chicago and don’t worry about downstate, rural Illinois). But that day is not likely to be here in time for next year’s election.

    The Republican primary seems to be a battle between the conservative and very conservative, where differences on abortion (3 exceptions versus the 1 preferred by Georgia Right to Life) may be heightened—even though there is no chance (as most people know) that Roe v Wade will be overturned anytime in the remainder of Obama’s second term. Doug Collins’s CD 9 (centered in Gainesville), the state’s most heavily GOP congressional district (78% Romney) will be a critical component in making it to the runoff, and then winning it.

  4. Jawgadude says:

    Bridgett, it is ALWAYS wrong to vote for a candidate based upon gender or race. Your statement has really lowered my opinion of you.

    • Jackster says:

      But voting for a candidate because they will help your situation, which has been discriminated against and historically minimized is also wrong?

      • pettifogger says:

        For real? I for one, do not support everyone voting. I support everyone having access to vote, but I absolutely do not want opposing ideologies represented on election day.

        • Scott65 says:

          Neither do most republicans…which in turn, moves more people in the category you dont want to vote to in fact, vote…example Florida 2012, 8hr waits to vote, and people waited and voted. NC republicans are going to be the poster children of the term “backlash” come next election

          • pettifogger says:

            You’re confusing “don’t want” with “limit access” despite me anticipating same and including it in my comment.

            • Scott65 says:

              no, I’m not…but the fact is legislating “dont want” is limiting…very hard to separate the two

              • pettifogger says:

                Any legislation aside, is it your position that everyone should always vote, and if so, why?

                I indicated my disagreement with that, but that doesn’t have anything to do with legislation. I simply think apathy is as much of a part of American democracy as involvement is.

  5. Jon Lester says:

    I’ve offered to do what I can for Dr. Rad, because I’d like to have someone who’s actually from the Slavic world (and who isn’t named Brzezinski) helping form foreign policy, and because I’d like to have an actual mental health professional weighing in on the whole background checks thing, before we find the state deciding who’s mentally fit to exercise their rights, at the expense of medical privacy and worse.

    Michelle Nunn would make a fine neighbor, I’m sure, but I’m not happy at all with how her campaign is unfolding. She sounded like a typical and tenured Senate Democrat in that WSB interview last week, quite frankly, and I don’t think Georgia voters really want to hear the things she said, and certainly not the way she said them. And I honestly don’t care that her old job had her hanging out with Colin Powell, Rahm Emanuel and Wolfgang Puck.

    Georgia Democrats have more than earned their place in Roll Call’s “Seven Most Dysfunctional State Parties” list, and they seem poised to outdo themselves yet again.

  6. Scott65 says:

    You guys should get out more. If you think for a moment that abortion and gays is what is going to drive this election…that would be some bad political crack you’re smoking. The only way abortion moves voters is when republicans go to FAR limiting it (forced vaginl ultrasounds anyone) which turns out ANTI-republican vote (notice I didnt say democratic). The ACA exchanges go live Oct 1…and the anti-obamacare rhetoric will die its timely death. Why do you think congressional republicans are back peddling at light speed? They know its a propaganda tool that they are poised to lose. Like I said…you dont have to have much state level organization if you have ANTI-republican voters turning out. The SCOTUS VRA ruling, SNAP removal from the farm bill, limits on voting (voter ID…just not that pesky student one…but a gun license is ok) are all going to turn out nonwhite and young voters at levels not seen in a midterm…and republicans, famous for overreach have done it again. Once again…mark my words…nominate Broun or Gingrey…you will lose. Nunn isnt a liberal (though they might try to paint her as such, being CEO of a Bush program isnt buying into that narrative) …Broun and Gingrey are part of the lunatic fringe…there is no way they could ever move to the center (they dont even know where it is they are so far removed). If you really want to know whats up in GA…get outside your bubble and have a couple of conversations…you might be surprised (or horrified) at what you hear.

  7. saltycracker says:

    Bridget

    The fast track to get more women in office would be to push “term limits” to the top of their legislative causes.

  8. Mrs. Adam Kornstein says:

    Karen Handel will implode mid GOP primary, she seems to have more pitbull in her than is necessary to win in a both a Primary & a General. Her views on reproduction and equality are not much more evolved than Phyllis Shaftley.

    The days of pies in the face are not really that far behind us.

  9. Trey A. says:

    “The Democratic Party of Georgia, barely a decade removed from majority status, has been reduced to a party that seems to represent little more than urban Atlanta and pockets of Southwest Georgia. Gone are the days when Democratic partisans refused to identify with their national brethren.”

    This sounds good on paper and ‘feels’ true until one remember’s that John Barrow is still in Congress–representing a district not in the metro or southwest Georgia and one that happened to go for Romney. Is Michelle Nunn as tactful as John Barrow? Nominate anyone but Handel and we’ll get to find out.

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