Here we are a week out from Austin Scott’s victory over incumbent Congressman Jim Marshall and what a better time to reflect upon this campaign. How did Scott manage to do what Calder Clay, Mac Collins, and Rick Goddard couldn’t do? One could say that Austin just rode the wave crossing the country – but I think that theory is lacking.
Mac Collins attempted to tie Marshall to his national party – didn’t work. Rick Goddard tried to tie Marshall to Nancy Pelosi – didn’t work. The anti-Pelosi backlash surely had something to do with Scott’s victory, but he had to tie Marshall to Pelosi and that required work on his part. Ultimately Marshall’s downfall was his failure to define himself. Looking at his voting record, Marshall is a moderate in a sea of extremes. Some votes conservative, some liberal. But two weeks out, Jim Marshall was making commercials and speeches saying he wouldn’t vote for Nancy Pelosi. Distancing himself from the Speaker of the House. Some people pointed out that in 2008, he stated that it didn’t matter who he voted for Speaker. That argument didn’t catch much traction, but it appears the damage had already been done. Marshall had been tied to Nancy Pelosi.
As I drove through GA-8 on my daily 140 mile roundtrip commute, I noticed something that I had never seen before in this district. Signs. Ok, so I have always seen signs in this district. But these signs were different. In 2008, I can count the number of signs I saw in Dodge County and Bleckley County for Rick Goddard on one hand. Austin’s team pushed signs out and had them everywhere, not just Houston. But there was more than just Scott and Marshall signs. Two of the more notable homemade signs I saw read: “JIM MARSHALL = NANCY PELOSI ‘NUFF SAID” and “FIRE NANCY PELOSI, VOTE OUT MARSHALL.” A lot of people question the effectiveness of yard signs, I think they are good tools and I think they really helped push Austin to victory.
I would be remiss if I didn’t talk about the candidates, both of them worked hard. Marshall had his people on the ground moving and Scott himself was working the phones early on. Listening to Marshall speak after conceding, it should be clear to everyone that he has a sharp political mind and I honestly doubt his political life is over.
All of that said, Scott won not just because he tied Marshall to Pelosi but because he’s a good candidate and fought hard. Victory wasn’t won in one large county, in Houston Scott barely beat Marshall. In Bibb, Scott was soundly defeated by Marshall. But in counties like Pulaski, Bleckley, Wilcox, and Dodge – that is where Austin got his win. In Dodge County, Austin won 3 out of every 5 votes casted to Marshal’s 2. Previously Dodge had been a solid Democratic Party voting county. Dodge is like a lot of rural counties in this state, rich with local offices filled by Democrats – that’s something that has been changing in recent years. As rural Georgians identify more and more with Republicans, the harder it will be to run as a conservative Democrat.
GA-8 wasn’t won simply because of a national tide against Democrats. It was won through hard work and shifting partisan identification in rural Georgia.