This week’s Courier Herald column:
With the passing of Labor Day, we’re in the home stretch of the 2014 Campaign Season. This has been one of Georgia’s longest, with Senator Saxby Chambliss starting the process a bit early with the January 2013 announcement of his retirement. And yet, for those closely paying attention, there are signs that we’re already in a campaign that is destined to be a bit longer.
Senator Johnny Isakson is up for re-election in 2016. There are those who quietly whisper that he will retire. There are others, many with their own agendas and/or ambition, who have done more than whisper this rumor. Isakson has heard them – and asserts quite confidently that he is running for re-election.
Words come easy, especially from politicians. Actions usually are better indications if the words are of convenience or have meaning. Isakson’s schedule for the Summer recess has been an indication that he is not only looking forward to returning to a Senate that may be majority Republican in 2014, but that he’s quite comfortable on the campaign trail that he will likely be on for the next two years.
Isakson managed to work eight official town hall meetings into his official summer schedule. Notably, only two of them were in Metro Atlanta. From Towns County in the North to Glynn County in the South and many stops in between, Isakson managed to cover a lot of territory demonstrating that he remains a Senator for all of Georgia.
Three of the town halls – in Laurens and Richmond Counties with one upcoming this week in Liberty County – were organized to specifically focus on Veterans’ issues. The emphasis is more than just for constituent service. Should Republicans manage to wrestle control of the Senate from the Democrats in the November elections, Isakson will likely become the Chairman of the Veterans Affairs Committee. As such, any long term fix to the troubled Veterans Administration will come through his committee – and as such be influenced by him.
Isakson also serves on the Senate Finance Committee. If Republicans gain their majority and decide to advance tax reform as a prelude to the 2016 Presidential election, the Senate Finance committee will be at center stage. Should the GOP somehow manage to take and hold the Senate and gain the White House, the Committee’s role moves from one of framing an issue to potentially one of sweeping change. It’s a challenge Isakson relishes. But it’s one that starts with a GOP held Senate.
As such, Isakson’s unofficial schedule beyond those town hall meetings has included a long list of official and unofficial campaign stops. There were speeches to Rotary and Kiwanis groups. There was an engagement with a Cobb County Tea Party group in Marietta and Isakson will address the Gwinnett GOP breakfast on Saturday.
At many of events, Isaskon is keenly aware he isn’t the one on the ballot this November. He’s effectively become the running mate of David Perdue as he was to Governor Deal during the Primary.
At the inaugural meeting of the West Georgia Young Republicans a few weeks ago, Isakson shared the stage and introduced Perdue with great praise. In return, Perdue noted that Isaskon was “one of the five people in the Senate that had actually run a business”. Perdue – who ran his entire primary emphasizing that he is an outsider – seems quite comfortable associating himself with Isakson during the general election phase of this campaign to emphasize that he intends to be an effective problem solver. The association is promoted by a hefty advertising campaign from the American Chemistry Council which calls the pair “the right team for Georgia”.
It’s a bit of a change from the year and a half of primary rhetoric that seemed framed to win the “just say no” vote from the base of the GOP. It’s not lost on many that the Senate runoff pitted a Congressman with two decades of DC experience against a CEO touting his business credentials. The two combined to receive roughly 60% of the vote.
And now, with eyes already starting to look at the 2016 election before the 2014 election is complete, Republicans are seeing their current nominee compared favorably with a two term incumbent Senator with significant business experience. A man who was with the Georgia GOP from its infancy yet still appeals to independent and potential crossover voters. One who never forgets to come home, and campaign like his next election is always next week.
It’s that kind of resume and record that could possibly make a 2016 primary campaign unnecessary.