This week’s Courier Herald Column:
The late Skip Carey used to have a saying when a Braves game was tied up after nine innings. It was time for “free baseball”. It was usually a bit of mocking wit to explain that the public was going to get to see more of a team that, especially during his earlier career, had probably already shown the fans enough during nine innings. And yet, there was going to be more, despite few people ever complaining that a baseball game had gone by too quickly.
A new set of polls released last week in the Governor’s and U.S. Senate races show that we may very well be headed for “free baseball” in campaigns that have already been going on for quite some time. Most of the polls are showing close races at or within the margin of error, with only one of four polls released showing any candidate for the top two offices at 50% support from likely voters.
The polls were released by 11Alive/Survey USA, The AJC, Insider Advantage, and WSB TV. The first three show a slight advantage for Governor Deal over Senator Jason Carter 45%-44%, 44%-40%, and 43%-42%, respectively. WSB’s poll, conducted by Landmark Communications, shows Carter with an edge at 47-44.
The same polls show that David Perdue has a few points more support than his effective GOP running mate, with the partisan edge remaining the same across polling companies. WSB/Landmark shows Nunn ahead of Perdue 46%-43%. The other three, in the same order, show Perdue leading 47%-44%, 45%-41%, and 50%-40%.
Much like this year’s unique 9 week primary runoff, the runoff for any race in which no one receives more than 50% of the vote would be unprecedented. The nine week runoff was mandated by a federal judge and agreed to in a consent order from Secretary of State Brian Kemp. The case specifically applied to Federal races and as such, if there is a runoff for the U.S. Senate the runoff will be held on January 6th, 2015.
Saxby Chambliss announced his retirement on January 25th, 2013. Thus, the race to replace him could make it just three weeks short of a full two years for this campaign. That’s a lot of free baseball.
Of more direct importance, the 114th Congress is scheduled to begin on January 3rd, 2015, three days before Georgia’s potential runoff. Given that election results must be certified, Georgia could be a week late in sending a Senator to Washington. This could mean Georgia not having a vote for majority leader, as well as Chambliss’ replacement being at the end of a seniority line behind an expected relatively large class of incoming Senators.
Unlike the July 22nd primary runoff where federal and state runoffs were held on the same day and ballot, runoffs for any state and/or local candidate will be held on December 2nd. This would include the Governor’s race. It would allow for vote certification well ahead of the Governor’s scheduled January inauguration, as well as allow for the members of the General Assembly to tailor their agenda for any potential change in the resident in the big house on West Paces Ferry Rd.
The money that has fueled a competitive race for the top two ballots does not seem to extend the competitiveness to other statewide races. 11Alive’s poll also included surveys for Lt. Governor, Attorney General, Secretary of State, and State School Superintendent. It shows Casey Cagle leading Connie Stokes 51% to 40%, Sam Olens leading Greg Hecht 49% to 41%, and Brian Kemp leading Doreen Carter 52% to 39%. Only the race for School Superintendent, where Republican Nominee Richard Woods continues to walk well out of lockstep with other GOP leaders who have implemented Georgia’s current policies, shows a race with a similar tightness as the top two candidates. According to 11Alive, Woods leads Valarie Wilson 47% to 43%.
Troubling to some GOP observers is the fear that the three polls showing Republicans ahead also use a survey sample with African American voter turnout at levels not seen for almost a decade. WSB/Landmark’s poll uses a number more similar to 2010’s turnout ratio. It also is the poll showing Republicans behind.
A large part of Democratic turnout strategy is to energize a base of Democratic voters that have skipped many of Georgia’s recent non-Presidential elections. Much of the ad dollars, especially from Michelle Nunn, have been aimed at centrist and independent voters, featuring a lot more of George H. W. Bush than Barack Obama. It is a curious strategy to boost Democratic motivation.
Furthermore, President Obama will be in Georgia this week to visit the CDC. It will be interesting to see if either Nunn or Carter are willing to be seen publicly with President Obama. And, if they are not (as it is a time honored tradition for Georgia Democrats to be…anywhere else when a President of their party comes to visit) what that does to motivate the partisan voters they need to turn their optimistic polls into election results.