Last month, the Cook Political Report issued its warning on the race to replace Saxby Chambliss in the Senate. Today, the prognosticators at the University of Virginia’s Center for Responsive Politics issue a similar warning for the Governor’s race:
Gov. Nathan Deal (R), who has dealt with numerous ethical questions over the years (not to mention orchestrating a horrible response to Atlanta’s 2014 ice storm), got another bad headline late last week: A jury found that the former director of the state ethics commission was forced out of office as retribution for investigating Deal’s 2010 gubernatorial campaign. … Meanwhile, state Sen. Jason Carter (D) is raising an impressive amount of money, and the grandson of the former president could pounce if Deal gets weaker.
Hmmm — a statewide race in a Republican-leaning state where a strong Democratic challenger could pull off an upset if the Republican nominee is weak. What other race sounds like that? Oh yeah: It’s essentially the same scenario as Georgia’s other big statewide contest, the open-seat race to replace retiring Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R). Just like a poor Republican nominee could allow Michelle Nunn (D) to score an upset in the Senate race, so too could a damaged Deal open the door for Carter. In that regard, the races are similar. So we’re moving the Georgia gubernatorial race from Likely Republican to LEANS REPUBLICAN, to match our Leans Republican rating in the Senate race. We’re not yet willing to bet against the GOP holding the governorship and the Senate seat. It’s a GOP year, plus the Peach State isn’t at the tipping point to turning competitive purple. Thus, Republicans may well pull both chestnuts out of the fire. But our point is: They are playing with fire.
There’s obviously a long way to go before November, when this race will be decided. That includes a primary, where Governor Deal’s popularity within the Republican base will be tested.
The conventional wisdom says Georgia is a red state, at least until 2016 or 2020. Yet here, another political observer issues a warning to anyone who may be listening.