Trickle Down Presidential Politics

This week’s Courier Herald column:

President Obama isn’t on the ballot next month, but there are times when you would wonder about that.  Television ads and direct mail from Republican candidates at all levels are doing their best to remind voters who have traditionally remained loyal to their party who remains at the top of the party that is trying to woo them away.  Democrats, while avoiding direct association as much as possible with the President publicly, are still utilizing the association with their national party to motivate and mobilize a new generation of Georgia Democrats – ones that wish the party were a bit more reflective of the President’s policies.

Within political circles, the 2016 Presidential election has actually been under way for some time.  Democrats have already been asked if they are “Ready for Hillary”.  Republican skies are filled with trial balloons from familiar names like Bush, Romney, and Paul – and many, many others.  Anecdotally, I can say that I’ve been asked about handicapping the 2016 Presidential race during speaking engagements to GOP leaning crowds for at least 18 months.  My answer has remained the same as it does now:  It doesn’t matter.

The reason it doesn’t matter is that despite many within the GOP’s obsession with President Obama and retaking the White House, substantial change will likely not be made within a gridlocked Washington if Republicans do not also hold a majority in the Senate.  Given that Republicans will likely be playing more defense to hold seats in 2016 than Democrats, that means that those who are pining away for change from the President and his policies needed to be at work taking the Senate this year.  They probably will need to bank a few extra seats if they expect to hold a majority when the next President is inaugurated. 

This, of course, has direct implications for the top of the ticket races next month here in Georgia.  Clearly, it makes it much easier for Republicans to replace Harry Reid as Majority Leader if David Perdue replaces the retiring Saxby Chambliss.  While Michelle Nunn has been coy about her potential vote for Majority Leader, her fundraisers have not.  National fundraising efforts on behalf of Democratic interests continue to include Nunn as part of their plan to keep control of the Senate.

The Governor’s race also has a direct impact on 2016’s presidential contest as well.  Democrats already sense that Georgia is a purple state, and have a long term strategy to turn the state blue.  Having control of the Governor’s mansion (and possibly a Senate Seat) would almost certainly add Georgia to the list of battleground states for President.  With Democratic voter turnout usually higher in Presidential election years, even close contests for Governor and U.S. Senate will keep the Democrats interested in a sustained effort to organize the community of Georgia.

The Governor’s office is also one that has the power to appoint a replacement Senator, as happened upon the death of the late Paul Coverdell.   Coverdell, a Republican, was replaced by Democrat Zell Miller by Democratic Governor Roy Barnes.   While many Republicans ultimately ended up enjoying Miller as he became a thorn in his party’s side, the feelings were significantly less than enthusiastic when an electorate that had just selected a GOP Senator were given a Democratic replacement early in  the term.

The Governor’s office is able to wield enough power through official and unofficial channels that assist with party fundraising.  Thus Georgia will either have a member of the Republican Governors Association or the Democratic Governors Association, and direct access to the support from one of those groups during upcoming elections.  The Governor will also hold a veto pen – including one for line item vetoes of budgetary items – that provides a bit of sway with legislators whether with the same or a different party in the majority.

As such, while many have spent their time playing with hypothetical matchups for 2016, there are actual elections occurring here in Georgia in four weeks.  They are for positions that Georgians have much more say in how we will be affected.  They are for offices that directly affect us where we live.  And these elections, in turn, will also determine how Georgia will stand as the 2016 presidential contest officially begins.

That’s a lot for one ballot.  As such, the choices we make now need some serious attention before we jump ahead to the contests that are not yet even formed.


  1. David C says:

    “Vote Deal! Isakson might die!” doesn’t seem to be a particularly compelling campaign slogan. Especially to the Isakson family.

  2. John Konop says:

    Very good post….this is a symptom of Georgia changing from a state that the turf war was just in the GOP primaries….Now the GOP has to shift to a general election mind set….a different mind set for many….

  3. northside101 says:

    Though there is talk about “third term fatigue”—the supposed difficulty of a president’s party holding that office for a third consecutive term—Republicans face a more daunting task when one looks at the Electoral College. 18 states with 242 electoral votes have voted Democratic in the last 6 presidential elections, big states like California, 55 electoral votes (which Obama won by 3 million votes last time), New York, 29 electoral votes (Obama +2 million votes) and lllinois, 20 electoral votes (Obama +900,000 votes). Those 3 states combined account for nearly 40% of the Electoral votes you need to win (270 ensure election). Of the states larger than Georgia (which has 16 electoral votes), only Texas (38 electoral votes) has been reliably Republican between 1992-2012. Another 3 states (Iowa, New Hampshire and New Mexico) have voted Democratic 5 of the last 6 presidential elections—15 electoral votes combined. Probably no scenario where a Republican can get elected without taking Florida’s 29 electoral votes—perhaps one reason Republicans are looking at Jeb Bush in 2016…hard to see a Rick Santorum, for instance, changing this math much…

    • David C says:

      Third Term Fatigue is a bit overrated. You only have to look at the actual elections when it happened in the post-WWII era where you had a party holding the Presidency for eight years:

      1960:Kennedy beats Nixon 49.7-49.6% in the popular vote, 303-219 in the electoral college
      1968: Nixon beats Humphrey 43.4-42.7%, 301-191
      1976: Carter beats Ford, 50.1-48.0%, 297-240
      1988: Bush beats Dukakis 53.4%-45.7, 426-111
      2000: Bush actually loses 47.9-48.4, but wins 271-266 thanks to Florida! Florida! Florida!
      2008: Obama beats McCain 2.9-45.7, 365-173

      So you have one landslide win for the in party in ’88 and one landslide loss for the in party in ’08, and then a lot of narrow wins for the out party that could have easily gone the other way.

      Northside’s point about how static the electoral college is these days since Clinton’s 92 and ’96 wins flipped what became the core of the “blue states” that have remained loyal to the Democrats for six elections after voting at various points for Bush-Reagan-Ford-Nixon before. In ’08 Obama expanded the map again, with double Bush states Colorado, Nevada, Virginia, and North Carolina swingy, and making the upper midwest (MN, WI,MI, PA), plus New Mexico that had been swingy for Bush less so. Republicans have to de-swing the former and re-swing the latter to help break that lock, and no ‘third term’ jinx will make that happen on their own.

  4. Trey A. says:

    If you truly believe in good government and ethical leadership, you can’t vote for Deal. In Deal we have a party-flipper with so much ethical baggage that it would overwhelm Hartsfield-Jackson’s domestic terminal. A guy who has repeatedly used his office for the financial benefit of himself, his friends and his family.

    Arguments like “Isaakson might die” hammer the point home that party allegiance is overwhelming some folks’ better judgment. Many will hold their nose and vote for Deal, thinking the party (and our state’s future) can “get away with” 4 more years of having him in office. After all, his Snowpacalypse bosom buddy Kasim is just as corrupt as he is, they say. But winning a battle does not win you the war.

    Having a Carter veto looming over the Gold Dome is in line with giving the GOP control of the Senate–it’s an effective check on power. Both are good ideas for the future of the state and country.

    Perdue’s not my favorite candidate. But he and Carter are clearly the best options on the ballot.

    • NoTeabagging says:

      Interesting comment. Reminds me of a family member, and Republican BTW, that always believed the House and Senate should have different party majorities as a check against one side running amok over the whole kit and caboodle. HE carefully voted his best to keep this balance.

  5. Bull Moose says:

    My opinion is that the GAGOP by and large is so desperate just to hold onto power for powers sake, that they have abandoned almost all of their principles.

    I think all sides agree that the status quo of gridlock at the federal level is not sustainable. Beneath the surface there is a real need to address corruption, waste, and duplicity within government. At some point, you have to adjust how you are operating government if you want to truly find areas of enhancement to improve efficiency and quality of delivery of services.

    Once upon a time GAGOP elected officials rallied the faithful with promises to reform state government and clean up the waste, fraud, and abuse. What they’ve done now is convinced themselves that somehow principles mean nothing and power is everything. Not many can honestly say that their word is their bond.

    Finally, let’s not jump ahead just yet in talking about 2016 just yet. The people that serve in office would be wise to spend a little more time legislating and getting things done than posturing over future political ambitions.

    And my God, using the example of Coverdell’s death and the possibility that the same thing could happen to Johnny Isakson as a reason to vote for Nathan Deal might be the most disturbing thing I read today.

    • Trey A. says:

      Amen to this: “And my God, using the example of Coverdell’s death and the possibility that the same thing could happen to Johnny Isakson as a reason to vote for Nathan Deal might be the most disturbing thing I read today.”

      That’s what we call “jumping the shark.”

  6. Bobloblaw says:

    The GOP in 2016 is in the same position the Dems were in 1988. The debacles of 1979-80 were not forgiven in 8 years. It took 12. And even then it took a recession, a split GOP in the primaries, the incumbent breaking a major campaign pledge, a third party, a southern Dem gov who disassociated himself with his own party. All that just to get Clinton to 43% and a win.

    The GOP will needs essentially the same to happen in order to win. People still blame Bush for the bad economy and foreign policy crises. Why they don’t think Obama is competent enough to fix it, they don’t blame him or Dems.

    What has to happen us the economy has to return to full employment and the international situation must improve. So much so that no one blames Bush anymore. Then things have to fall apart on the Dems watch. Then the GOP can win again. Then states that have voted Dem since 1992 will flip like MI and PA.

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