Campaigns May Be Headed To Extra Innings

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.


  1. Hm – I guess it doesn’t matter for the majority leader vote because one party by that point will either have 50 or not (and if the Dems have 50 even if the GOP has 49 the VP would break the tie?) but the seniority argument is pretty interesting.

    Actually I’m not even sure how seniority rules work these days, I know they’ve changed them so newly incoming senators can’t get a leg up anymore by having the outgoing guy resign a few days early, but the start of a term might throw a wrench into that. I wonder if Deal could try to appoint Perdue to the beginning of the term on the assumption that if he were to win he’d be at the same spot in line as the other new guys.

    So in theory I guess you could have Perdue as senator for 3 days and then losing to Nunn. To go back to the baseball analogy, kind of like having to use one of your outfielders to pitch?

    • David C says:

      Seniority still works the same way if you get seated after the new Congress sits. Sen. Franken, who had the long drawnout recount process in his 2008 race vs Norm Coleman, didn’t get seated until July 2009 and so is behind the other members of the class of 2008 in seniority, as well as Sens. Bennet and Gillibrand, who were appointed to fill vacancies caused by the appointments of Sens. Salazar and Clinton to the cabinet during that period. If the election had been decided on time, Sen. Franken would be ahead of them as well as Sens. Merkley and Begich, who come from less populous states than Minnesota. Presumably if a runoff takes place Georgia’s new Senator would lose seniority to their peers as well. As it stands, both candidates lose nearly all the tiebreakers anyway (they are: Former Senator, Former Rep, Former President, Former Vice President, Former Cabinet Member, Former Governor, Population of State) as neither have held any of those offices. (For what it’s worth, Rep. Kingston, with 22 years in the House, would likely have been at the head of his class. The tiebreaker within each category is length of service.)

      How that then plays into committee assignments and the like probably gets into what Senate leadership wants–I suspect both would want to shore up a relatively vulnerable first term Senator from a key state (A 2020 election with a President on the ballot will no doubt be competitive, no matter who wins) with some important committees, even if they’re dead last on seniority. If it really comes down to R 50, D 49 and this could control the Senate, then they’ll either delay organizing a week or reorganize (if Nunn won) a week later, following the precedents set with the 2001 Congress, where ‘majority’ changed three times in a few months (Gore as tiebreaker, Cheney as tiebreaker, Jeffords flips).

  2. Noway says:

    And a question for whoever wants to answer: How do we put a pic to be associated with our names? Like Spacey has with hers, for example.

  3. Will Durant says:

    Non-partisan primaries. Taxpayers aren’t funding who parties’ nominate. Two voting days per cycle max. No ambiguity on voting dates. Taxpayers wouldn’t be paying for 5 election days. More voters will participate on the day that actually chooses the office holder than would ever show for runoffs. Just like doing away with gerrymandering this issue gets us away from the will of the 2 major parties and closer to the will of the people.

  4. saltycracker says:

    The difference between baseball players and elected politicians is you must deliver results for the team in baseball.

    Carter and Nunn ads have been discredited or considered naive so backers are left to focus on gerrymandering rights and time for a woman.

  5. Will Durant says:

    As Huttman pointed out on another thread this will lead to very, very Happy Holidays for the local television venues. I’m wondering with 22.5 million already spent where the number will be for the price of a possible pivotal Senate seat. And of course how beholding the eventual winner will be to large corporations that donate to those totally unaffiliated Super PACs since their investments will be huge.

    • saltycracker says:

      The ads on both sides won’t inspire turnout – they have to get better, positive and on to real issues….

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