It was a banner year for the Republicans. We gained seats in both chambers of Congress and won gubernatorial races that showed in pre-election polling that we wouldn’t win. Even here in Georgia, Republicans had the pleasant surprise to see a wide margin of victory in the top two races.
We did well. Statewide, we held a pretty good margin. However, the devil is always in the details. Northwest Georgia is traditionally a strong, conservative base for Republicans, but there are a few numbers that should be looked at and analyzed by Republican Party officials in our state: the trend for a few counties up here in northwest Georgia showed an increase in voter turnout, but a decrease in percentage points when compared to 2010. Those numbers didn’t decline due to the spirit of l/Libertarianism grabbing the hearts of folks. In fact, the number of votes for the Libertarian candidates in both the US Senate and gubernatorial races decreased when compared to 2010. I’ll use the numbers from my own county (Walker) to illustrate since the trends are similar in Dade, Catoosa, Chattooga, Floyd, and Whitfield.
Walker County saw an increase in voter turnout–around 11%–when compared to 2010, but the percentages for both Perdue and Deal were down when compared to numbers from four years ago. David Perdue earned 75.4% last night, but compare that to incumbent Senator Johnny Isakson’s percentage of 76.3%. Michelle Nunn saw a bump when compared to previous Democratic contender for US Senate in 2010, Michael Thurmond: 21.5% and 19.0%, respectively. Libertarian Amanda Swafford actually lost ground rather than gain as it was somewhat expected among the politicos: her 3.1% vs. Chuck Donovan’s 4.7% in 2010.
Turning to the gubernatorial race, Deal won against Roy Barnes in 2010 73.7% to 22.0% while Deal defeated Jason Carter last night 70.2% to 26.4%. The Libertarian Andrew Hunt fared just like Swafford: 3.4% vs. John Monds capturing 4.1% in Walker County.
Two counties are worth noting: Dade and Whitfield Counties. Dade County actually saw an increase in votes for David Perdue when compared to Johnny Isakson: 75.4% for Perdue and 73.6% for Isakson. In Whitfield County, Hunt may have garnered a small amount of support with the endorsement from former Dalton Mayor David Pennington….Hunt only lost 0.2% when compared to Monds in Whitfield County. What should be concerning to Republicans is this: Deal didn’t reach 70% in Whitfield. The Governor only garnered 66.9% of the vote, compared to 72.1% in 2010, in a county that is one of the largest conservative counties in northwest Georgia. Jason Carter was able to pull close to 30% (28.6%, specifically)–a few percentage points more than Michelle Nunn who came in at 24.1%. Democrats seem to be chipping away, and that may be due to the large Hispanic population and them trying to capture their voting bloc. What is interesting is that Perdue’s comments on outsourcing didn’t seem to phase voters in the Carpet Capitol as he captured 72.9% of the vote.
What could be an explanation is the voter sentiment that seems to be growing around here: “we don’t like incumbents.” At least, that’s the sentiment I get when folks talk about national political figures. Perhaps that sentiment translated down to the Governor’s race. But one thing is probably for sure…Jason Carter did a better job of capturing the Millennial vote. That is something we, as Republicans, need to do a better job on. The College Republicans and the Young Republicans do a fantastic job of getting like-minded folks of like-age and involved with politics. The GAGOP needs to bring the message home to folks of my generation. Our Party, as we have said before, needs to listen to our generation and understand our beliefs. I’m not saying that we aren’t conservative, but we have different priorities on what our Party should do.
My generation is listening, and we want compelling reasons to vote for our candidates and support the Party. “Stop Barack Obama and the Democrats” will not be good enough in 2016 and beyond. Conservatism strikes a chord with both young and more seasoned folks. We must start today to plan our strategy on how to communicate our beliefs and policy goals to both the older and younger generation. I know we can do it.