In Defense of Nunn – A Response to Ed

In Ed’s piece, he brings up three reasons he, and others, are concerned about Michelle Nunn’s viability in her race for US Senate. Stefan responds to each in turn:

1) Michelle Nunn does not have hardcore liberal positions.

I will concede this point. But there aren’t purity tests in the Democratic party the way there are in the Republican party. There is no Left Wing version of the Tea Party to enforce compliance with non-mainstream positions. David Perdue has been turning himself into a pretzel to try to comply with the modern mandates of the Republican primary electorate – there is no such pressure on Nunn. Part of that is that she didn’t have fully funded opponents, but part of that is that she didn’t need to change her positions or paradigm to appeal to voters. Her views are palatable to Democrats and to Independents. Much as David Perdue’s were in 2012. Now, not so much.

The VRA points you bring up are valid. But there is zero support for a new VRA that targets individual states so why fall on your sword to advocate such a position? And as for Obamacare, there are policies in the bill that people support and those that they don’t. Many people don’t even know what it does. So if she said he was for it, she’d be saying she was for what people think Obamacare is, rather than what it actually is. Why would you delegate your policy position to the vicissitudes of the underinformed voter’s mind? That seems like a bad idea.

Nunn did not drag herself into any positions or statements during the primary that can cause her problems now. Jack Kingston tried to force children to sweep for their bread and water and David Perdue has backtracked on so many positions he can barely remember the name of his Uruguayan masseur. That is not the solid base you want to have when vying for those who are just now starting to pay attention. They’ll now go in search of the Broun, Kingston, and Handel voters. That cannot make your views more reasonable.

So, yeah, she doesn’t have policy and issue statements on everything that has been voted on in Congress for the last ten years. But what she does have is a clean, reasoned approach to the issues she’ll confront. She’s also been able to spend money on an ad campaign to introduce her to voters. Which means she’s robbed the Republican opponent of the opportunity to define her before she defined herself. It also gives her a foundation from which she can attack the record of Kingston (or the various records of Perdue) should she need to.

2) Primary turnout numbers spell doom for Dems! Not so much.

Picture 6

These are the primary numbers from 2010. There was an exciting Republican Governor’s race, and a not so exciting Democratic Governor’s race. By the time of the primary, it was pretty clear Barnes had it locked up. All the action was on the R side. Here are the November results in those two districts.

thompson results

stoner results


I recognize your point is the statewide numbers, but those are just districts like these in the aggregate. People who pulled the Dem ballot were outnumbered in the primary in both cases, yet the Dem candidate won the general handily. More than that, look at the total numbers of voters. 4k in the primary compared to 18k in the general for Thompson, 9.5k in the primary and 36k in the general for Stoner. I’m mostly unconcerned about the lack of Democratic voters in the primary.

3) Can we buy into the polling showing Nunn ahead?

We can and we should. Nunn is up in the latest poll over either Kingston or Perdue. It is tempting to view this as part of the demographic shift that favors Democrats long term, but I don’t think that’s it. If you look at the cross tabs the improvement over past years, the improvement is in the White vote as opposed to a change in the makeup of the electorate. It may be that the Republicans have slid too far into the anti-science, anti-reason ditch and Michelle looks like an alternative to that.

As as to Michelle Nunn’s viability, not only is she viable, she’s winning.



  1. Ed says:

    1) Thank you for this. That last guy had no idea what he was talking about.
    2) I will respond more in depth later.

  2. Ed says:

    My point about her stances aren’t so much that she doesn’t adhere to left-wing Democratic views; it is that she seemingly subscribes to nothing. Or at least, not anything positively. And to stake out some sort of flip-flopping middle ground on Obamacare is idiotic. Even if people don’t know what it does, *everyone* has opinions on it. The 75-year-old Catholic monks in Conyers have opinions on Obamacare… and they will literally never be impacted by it.

    The turnout point wasn’t as big as a point for me as people have turned it into. I’m just saying that there are some potentially worrying signs.

    I don’t know man. I could be wrong (first time for everything) but I just don’t see what playbook she can use to get to victory.

    As far as the demographics… I’m also not buying it. I mean, yes, Georgia is changing but in 2008, the year everything could go right for Democrats nationwide and in the US (and let’s be honest, Democrats had some good results here and started to show some life), Obama still lost by more than 5% and 200k votes in Georgia. In 2012, with a terrible candidate and incumbency, Obama lost by 300K votes and nearly 8 points. Have the demographics changed so much in less than two years that Michelle Nunn can find the votes that Obama couldn’t? Come on….

    • Ed says:

      Basically, my point on the issue of Obamacare is that Obamacare is like the War in Iraq in 2004. There’s no way to not stake out a stance and win. It would be interesting to go back and compare who, uh,flip flopped/meandered and won. I’d say the number is around 0.

    • David C says:

      Those Obama numbers don’t show what you think they mean.

      In 2008, with a very favorable national environment, and actually spending money in the state through the summer, Obama lost Georgia 52-47, by a little over 200,000 votes while winning the country 53-46 and by 10 million votes.

      In 2012, Obama’s margin shrunk to 51-47, and from 10 million to five million. He didn’t spend a dime in Georgia. And he still only lost Georgia 53-46, by a little over 300,000 votes. His result in Georgia in 2012 isn’t a bad showing, it’s a sign of how the state is still changing and becoming more favorable to Democrats.

      • Bobloblaw says:

        Actually the 2012 results versus the 2008 results show the opposite of what youre claiming. Obama went from losing by 5 to losing by 7 in GA a two point swing to the GOP. That is exactly consistent to Obama’s national change, a 2 point swing to the GOP.

        • David C says:

          To get into political science parlance, two-party swing is essentially taking the change in each party’s vote share, adding them up, then dividing by two. So if Party One’s vote rises by 4% and Party Two’s vote falls 5%, the swing is 4.5% from Party Two to Party One. So in 2012, the Democrats share of the national vote went from to 52.9 to 51.1, and the Republican share went from 45.7 to to 47.2. So, there was a swing nationally of 1.7 from D to R–not enough to overturn the President’s large majority in the electoral college, but still a pretty decent shift.

          People expected 2008 to be a high water mark for Ds in Georgia, with substantial black turnout for ‘making history’ and the strong national environment, and that the tide would roll back out the way it did in say, Indiana, which Obama won 49-48 in 2008 but lost 54-43 (Swing of 6) this time, not even bothering to campaign or spend money there, or even near swing states like Montana (R49.5 D47.2 to R 55.3 D47.3; Swing of 5.6). Instead, Georgia (R52.1 D46.9 to R53.3 D45.5; Swing 1.3) behaved more like the two Southern Swing States: Virginia (D52.6 R46.3 to D51.1 R47.3; Swing 1.25), which pretty much matched the national swing, and North Carolina (D49.7 R 49.4 to R 50.4 D 48.4; Swing 1.15) which, while moving enough to switch back from D to R, shifted less than it would under a uniform natural swing.

          It should be noted of course that Georgia also didn’t behave like fellow ‘Deep South’ states which swung far less: Alabama (0.3) and South Carolina (0.7) or Mississippi (-0.8) and Louisiana (-0.7), where Obama actually did slightly better in 2012. So why does the fact that Georgia’s swing is smaller than the national one mean it’s more likely to be Democratic going forward, if these states clearly aren’t? The reason is that the electorates aren’t moving there. Rather, they’re already so polarized that they’re largely immune from national swings. They’re stuck. The fact that Georgia can move, and it’s moving blue, should worry Republicans.

    • penguin says:

      I think there is some serious illogical tension with Nunn staking her position on a) taking a middle ground to avoid offending people and b) the changing demographics of Georgia make it more Democratic.

      If the latter is true, then avoiding Democratic positions should be a liability. And I think worse yet, the avoiding taking positions period is even worse. Everyone does have opinions on the ACA, and well no matter what Michelle Nunn says about it, she’s still for “socialism” or whatever else they will say – because that is a genuinely prevailing view in the unpopularlity of “Obamacare.” The upside of that is there is no way that Nunn was ever going to win those people’s votes anyway. So why bother trying to not offend them now. What she should be doing is capitalizing on the “changing demographics” and energizing people that don’t want to come out now because there’s no hope for Georgia politics anyway.

      • David C says:

        The ideology v. changing demographics isn’t an illogical tension at all. Georgia’s becoming more Democratic and less Republican, which increases the floor for a Democratic candidacy. It gets her closer to 50%+1. But the Democratic base isn’t 50%+1, and neither is the Republican one. Georgia still has a lot of independent / moderate voters that will vote Republican in some elections but can vote Democratic for others, and those votes are needed to win a majority. Softening her message to be more centrist appeals to votes among those moderate/independent voters is necessary to assemble the coalition. The key advantage of the changing demographics is that by raising that floor it means you can win a lower percentage of other groups and still win the election. For example: Mitt Romney won the same percentage of the white vote in Florida that Ronald Reagan did in 1984. In 1984, that was good enough to win the state by 30 points, 65.3-34.6. In 2012, he lost the state by about 0.8%. Basically, demographic shifts mean Nunn could win with a percentage among white or swing voters that would have been fatal to someone like Jim Martin in 2008 or Roy Barnes in 2002. While turnout matters, a few centrist positions aren’t going to be enough to depress turnout drastically, while still appealing to the moderate white suburban women that might hold the key to the election.

        • penguin says:

          Do you have anything to corroborate this view? I can’t say I have something to say its false, but anecdotally, and certainly based on the elected representatives of much of suburban Georgia, I just am unconvinced that the voters are who are “independents” are going to be moved by Nunn’s centrist positions. I think the move to the center logic is easy enough to do, but really achieves little politically and makes the rest of us feel completely underwhelmed.

          BUT, the changing demographics that will purportedly make Georgia purple, require that those people responsible for the change go vote. So, maybe centrist views don’t “suppress” voter turnout, but I think think they do fail to get people to care whether they vote for her. And that is the tension. She should be getting a new base, not trying to win over people who she won’t win over.

    • Stefan says:

      As to demographics, I don’t think the polling represents much demographic change. It is a change in the %age of the white vote the dems are getting.

  3. Ed says:

    I’ve now posted in this thread four times while Stefan is yet to respond. Thus I will acknowledge that he has conceded the argument and I have won.

  4. David C says:

    If you want to go statewide, let’s have some fun with that:

    2006 Governor’s race:

    Primary: D: 482,117 R: 419,254
    General: R: 1,229,724 (58%) D: 811,049 (38.22%)

    Somehow a competitive Democratic primary getting more voters than a far less competitive Republican one didn’t promise Mark Taylor’s easy ride to West Paces.

    2008 Presidential:
    Primary: D: 1,060,851 R: 963,541
    General: R: 2,048,744 (52%) D: 1,844,137 (47%)

    Nor did this primary tell us Obama was going to glide to victory in Georgia that fall.

  5. linuxfanatic says:

    “But there aren’t purity tests in the Democratic party the way there are in the Republican party. There is no Left Wing version of the Tea Party to enforce compliance with non-mainstream positions.”

    Come again? You do realize that Democrats are responsible for losing the governor’s mansion in 2002, right?

    1. They just had to change the Georgia flag when most voters wanted it left alone. Tyrone Brooks, the CBC etc. was working on organizing a civil rights boycott of the state.

    2. Sonny Perdue, who had previously resisted previous party-switching waves, finally made the plunge, changed from D) to R) and ran for and was elected governor with a surprisingly media-savvy, technologically adept, populist campaign. Why? Because he was passed up for a leadership position and committee chairmanships in the Dem state caucus despite having seniority. And why was this? Because he was pro-life. This is not speculation. The Dem leadership was asked about it and openly admitted it.

    So if what you stated was actually true, the Dems win the Georgia governor’s race in 2002 pretty easily and the history of the state is entirely different. Better? Worse? Who knows. But different.

    “It may be that the Republicans have slid too far into the anti-science, anti-reason ditch and Michelle looks like an alternative to that.”

    Wow. Huge “big tent” statement there.

    “We can and we should. Nunn is up in the latest poll over either Kingston or Perdue.”

    First off, because the supporters of Kingston and Perdue don’t much like either candidate or for that matter each other. But once one of them wins the runoff, the supporters of the other will hold their nose and back the winner.

    Second, because Nunn has not had to take a position on issues yet. She avoided the debates, her rivals for the nomination were not able to raise enough money to go after her on TV, and has been given uniformly favorable coverage from the media. (Seriously. She has.)

    Nunn would get a break if she draws Perdue as an opponent. It would at least give her a chance. But Kingston? Game over. He would turn out huge margins in south Georgia, an area of the state that oft feels neglected by both parties, just like Chambliss used to. This is a problem for Dems, because they need votes from economically struggling whites in “the other Georgia” to build a winning coalition to help offset the big advantages that the GOP will rack up in the Atlanta suburbs. Those voters are not going to turn out for Perdue (the Georgia Romney) but they would for Kingston, especially after he reminds them of his track record in bringing home jobs-producing earmarks (which ironically is the main reason that the Tea Party opposes him).

    In the debates, the experience and the breadth and depth of policy knowledge that he has would simply embarrass her. And unlike Perdue (with his ham-handed “high school” remark), Chambliss is media-savvy enough to go negative against Nunn without provoking a backlash among female, moderate and independent voters. And as Kingston is merely center-right as opposed to far-right, Nunn would not be able to draw attention to Kingston’s voting record without positioning herself as a center-left (at best) candidate.

    Example: so far Nunn has totally avoided the immigration issue. Hasn’t touched it in her ads. Her primary opponents were not able to get on TV and make it an issue for her, and it did not come up in the one debate that she attended because they knew that she was going to win the nomination anyway and did not want to embarrass her. And – again – the “mainstream” media has not mentioned the issue in a single interview with her.

    But in the general election, the issue will be raised in the debates. What will Nunn do? Will she back the Obama administration’s position on the issue? If so, she will almost certainly lose because Hispanics are not yet an organized, political force in this state. (Maybe they will be in 5-10 years but they are not now). Will she adopt the GOP position? Because Nunn has no track record of that sort of conservatism – either in elected office or private activism – it will come off as pandering – and possibly lying – to moderate and independent voters, and it will enrage the activist base even more so than the VRA and Obamacare answers did. Will she come up with some “third way” that is better than the GOP position but will avoid being labeled as “amnesty”? Even if she has the policy background to come up with such a stance (she doesn’t) she doesn’t have the political experience needed to articulate and defend it. That is one example, there are many others.

    Nunn’s best chance was to draw Gingrey or Broun as a primary opponent. Now her ONLY chance is to hope that Perdue prevails and then in a general election campaign somehow manages to offend BOTH the far right AND the independents. It is possible … Romney did it with 47%. But Perdue’s already having done so with the high school gaffe makes it much less likely that he will again.

    • Dave Bearse says:

      April ’98. I’m no Perdue fan, but Perdue deserves respect for the integrity of changing parties upfront, after the session was over and before running for re-election. Shady Deal switched a few months after 1994 re-election, not coincidentally to join the first House GOP majority in 40 years.

  6. jiminga says:

    Both Perdue and Nunn have a problem….neither has a record in office. Neither is “graduating” from experience in an elected position where there is a record to be examined. All they have is “positions”, not unlike a certain POTUS without any record of accomplishment either before or after being elected. And since we all know that politicians will say anything to get elected, why would we think either candidate would actually do what they claim they can do, or even have the skills to do it?

    I, for one, am sick and tired of words. It’s time for deeds.

  7. Bobloblaw says:

    The poll showing Nunn up is Rasmussen. They have a poll out today showing Carter up big over Deal. I have been following Rasmussen for sometime. The founder left the polling firm after the 2012 elections. Rasmussen in this cycle is the ONLY pollster to show Obama with net positive approval ratings. Not only that but Rasmussen will show large swings in Obama’s popularity over a 10 day period. Going from 46-54 disapproval to 50-48 approval in a 10 day period and back again. This is occurring with little to no news and no changes in other polling company’s results. I suspect with the departure of Mr Rasmussen, the polling firm has drastically changed methodology.

  8. Bobloblaw says:

    Does anyone think a Carter/Kingston victory combination is possible? I would think S GA might have a few ticket splitters.

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