Dr. Bullock on the Midterms

Dr. Charles Bullock is the Richard B. Russell Professor of Political Science at UGA. Wednesday evening, he spoke about the midterm elections to a group of College Republicans.

Reviewing the situation nationwide, he was able to point out many reasons why Republicans should do well this year. He cited some statistical realities, including the fact that the President’s party typically loses six Senate seats in the sixth year of a presidency, which is what the GOP needs to take the Senate. he pointed out the fact that Democrats have more seats to defend this cycle than Republicans do.

He also cited the mood of the country. Support for President Obama is at low levels, with his approval by women and younger voters less than what it had been in the past. Most people say the country is on the wrong track. While four years ago Obamacare drove voters to the polls, this year it’s the economy that is driving the public policy debate.

Other factors influencing the midterms include the ground game. While the ground game played a big role in the 2008 and 2012 elections for President Obama, it didn’t here in Georgia, where the parties are trying to catch up. Between the party and superPACs, Democrats generally have more money than the Republicans. Countering that are some better qualified Republican candidates, especially when compared to some Tea Party candidates in previous years that were unable to win a general election. While the President’s approval rating is low, the approval rating of the political parties–Democrats at 39% and Republicans at 33%–and an even lower approval rating of Congress in general will also affect the election

Against this background, he talked about the situation here in Georgia. Bullock notes that the Democratic strategy was laid bare when the Nunn campaign had a “Snowden moment” as a campaign strategy memo was leaked. Part of the Democrats’ overall strategy was to register and mobilize minority voters, but in Bullock’s opinion, that effort fell short of what was needed to guarantee wins. As a result, Nunn’s campaign is targeting white single women.

Bullock reminded the audience of several ads run by the Nunn campaign. In an ad that talked about David Perdue’s time at Pillowtex, all but one of the workers that told their stories were white females. An ad dealing with Perdue’s time at Dollar General reminded voters of a class action suit against the company filed by white women. As a bonus, it dealt with wage discrimination, one of the economic issues that is important this cycle.

Dr. Bullock pointed out rookie mistakes by David Perdue that could be important for a Nunn victory. He referenced the deposition made by Perdue in which the candidate admitted to spending much of his career outsouceing, but the real gaffe in Bullock’s mind was going on WSB-TV to defend his statement. The second major gaffe was referring to the wage discrimination lawsuit filed by Dollar General employees as just affecting 2,000 people compared to 70,000 total employees. This remark reminded the professor of Mitt Romney referring to his speaking fee of $375,000 as “not too much money.”

In the gubernatorial race, Bullock thinks it could be headed to a runoff. While Governor Deal has talked about low taxes, his response to last winter’s snowpocalypse and the state’s high unemployment rate have hurt him. Jason Carter’s famous grandfather both helps and hurts him, but the fact that Carter voted against the 2015 budget, which included a large increase in education funding, goes against his claims of being pro education.

In the other major Georgia race, between Rick Allen and John Barrow in the 12th congressional district, Bullock noted that many are saying it will end up being a Barrow win. While Allen is a better quality candidate than some who have run against Barrow previously, Barrow’s success at fundraising and voter contact will likely lead to his retaining the seat.

While runoffs in the Governor or Senate races, on separate dates and stretching through the holidays, are regarded with trepidation by most, the co-author of Runoff Elections in United States says they are what he lives for. And, a good Christmas present for him would be a runoff that determines control of the Senate, something that would likely bring major political players, from 2016 Presidential candidates on down, to the Peach state.

Noting the Republican Party’s five time winning streak in runoffs (something he goes into more details about in this piece for Insider Advantage), Bullock said any runoff would be a real test for the Obama get out the vote machine. The bottom line for him is his opinion that if Jason Carter or Michelle Nunn squeeze out a win, it will have to be in November, not December or January.