On May 22, 1856, Congressman Preston Brooks of South Carolina beat Massachusetts Senator Charles Sumner with his cane. Brooks used the cane as the result of injury sustained in a previous duel, and found Sumner at his desk in the Senate Chamber. In the course of a two-day Senate speech on the Kansas-Nebraska Act, which would have nullified the Missouri Compromise on the expansion of slavery, Sumner had criticized three legislators, including a cousin of Rep. Brooks, Senator Andrew Butler of South Carolina.
On May 22, 1819, the steamship Savannah left the port of Savannah for Liverpool, England. After 29 days, it became the first steamship to cross the Atlantic. On May 22, 1944, the United States Postal Service issued a stamp commemorating the voyage of the Savannah.
Kyle Kondik writes this morning in Larry Sabato’s Crystal Ball that the Georgia Senate race remains in the “Leans Republican” category, and
Ultimately, this [runoff election] process is probably going to produce a candidate, Kingston or Perdue, who will start as a clear favorite against the well-funded Democratic candidate, Michelle Nunn. Despite close horse-race polls, we see no reason to change our Leans Republican rating in this race for now. That said, the race is also far from over, and it’s not a given that Kingston or Perdue will escape unscathed from a long and perhaps brutal runoff.
Georgia and Kentucky are, as of now, the only two Republican seats the Democrats can plausibly target on this year’s Senate map, and while both are competitive, the GOP retains a clear edge in both.
Also writing at Sabato’s Crystal Ball is Emory political scientist Alan Abramowitz,
Democrats have some hope of offsetting expected losses by taking back two seats currently held by Republicans — the Kentucky seat held by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and the Georgia seat being vacated by retiring Sen. Saxby Chambliss. Based on recent polls, the Senate contests in both of these states appear to be highly competitive. In the Bluegrass State, Kentucky Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes (D) has been running even with or slightly ahead of McConnell, and in Georgia, non-profit executive Michelle Nunn (D) has been running even with or slightly ahead of businessman David Perdue (R) and Rep. Jack Kingston (R), the two finalists facing off for the Peach State’s GOP nomination.
Picking up one or both of these seats would obviously make it much easier for Democrats to maintain control of the Senate. Republicans would then need to flip seven or eight seats currently held by Democrats instead of just six in order to get to 51 seats. But what are the chances of Democrats winning either one of these contests?
Despite the results of recent polls, there are several reasons to be skeptical about Democrats’ chances of winning either the Kentucky or the Georgia seat in November. Kentucky hasn’t elected a Democrat to the Senate since 1992, and Barack Obama lost the state by 16 points in 2008 and 23 points in 2012. Georgia hasn’t been quite as unfriendly to Democratic candidates in recent years. Still, no Democrat has won a Senate contest in the state since Zell Miller in 2000, and the last Democratic presidential candidate to carry the state was Bill Clinton in 1992. Obama lost Georgia by five points in 2008 and eight points in 2012.
Beyond these recent election results, Democrats would have to overcome another obstacle in order to take back the Kentucky or Georgia Senate seats in 2014 — the increasing nationalization of U.S. Senate elections.
[S]ince the 1970s, voting decisions in these contests have become increasingly influenced by opinions of the incumbent president’s performance. This relationship set a new record in 2012. Ninety percent of voters who approved of President Obama’s job performance voted for a Democratic Senate candidate while 82% of voters who disapproved of the president’s performance voted for a Republican Senate candidate.
This trend portends problems for Democratic candidates in Red states like Georgia and Kentucky. Recent polls put Obama’s approval rating at 44% in Georgia and 34% in Kentucky. Moreover, in midterm elections like 2014, voters who disapprove of the president’s performance tend to turn out at a higher rate than those who approve of his performance.
Politico sums up the next eight-and-a-half weeks of the Republican Senate Runoff as “Nasty, brutish, and long.”
Republicans in Washington got the result they wanted in Georgia: Two candidates viewed as the strongest contenders to keep a Senate seat central to the fight for the majority.
But the runoff between Rep. Jack Kingston and businessman David Perdue will be nasty, brutish – and long. As in the lengthiest in the state’s political history — a nine-week intra-party slugfest at a critical moment in the battle for control of the Senate.
The “good part” of a longer contest is that it allows campaigns to restock their respective war chests for the runoff, said Georgia Sen. Johnny Isakson, a Republican who lost a three-week runoff in 1996 for the Senate GOP nomination.
“The bad thing is it’s nine weeks, and it’s really a third race,” Isakson said Tuesday. “Now you got a runoff that is the length of some general elections — endurance-wise, organizationally and cost-wise, it’s really going to put a burden on whoever is in it.”
The two men have engaged in a bare-knuckle fight over the past several weeks — with Kingston questioning Perdue’s Republicanism and business acumen and Perdue comparing Kingston to a crying baby causing the mess in Washington.
The runoff is bound to intensify those differences.
For the first time, a Georgia Senate runoff will be nine weeks long — rather than three weeks as it has historically been. That’s due to an Obama Justice Department lawsuit in 2012 arguing that the three-week runoff disenfranchised overseas and military voters.
The nine-week race ahead of July 22 is certain to not only be a bruising affair — but also entirely unpredictable. It will force the two candidates to run full-fledged campaigns. They’ll launch hard-hitting ads against one another and barnstorm to Republican strongholds mainly in Northern Georgia, courting the small set of activist voters who traditionally dominate runoff elections.
Nate Cohn, of the New York Times Upshot, assesses the November General Election:
The Georgia Republican primary is over, and so are Democratic wishes for their dream outcome.
Democrats had hoped they might face Paul Broun or Phil Gingrey, two Tea Party-backed conservatives with a record of outlandish statements. The possibility that one of those two might win the Republican nomination was a big part of why some thought Michelle Nunn, now officially the Democratic nominee, would have a good chance of winning this November.
But on Tuesday, Mr. Broun and Mr. Gingrey failed to advance to the runoff. Instead, Ms. Nunn will face David Perdue or Jack Kingston, who will battle to win the Republican nomination in July’s runoff primary. Mr. Perdue and Mr. Kingston are not especially strong candidates, but they haven’t yet said that evolution and the Big Bang theory are “lies straight from the pit of hell,” as Mr. Broun did. As a result, Ms. Nunn’s chance for victory is now weaker, even if the mediocre competition and her family name — she’s the daughter of the former senator Sam Nunn — make an upset possible.
In the racially polarized South, where white voters have been trending Republican for more than a generation, the Democratic route to 50 percent is mainly a matter of racial demographics. Democrats must wait for more nonwhite voters to overcome their disadvantage with white voters.
That wait might end soon in Georgia, but not in this November’s election. In the midterm balloting, the share of whites will be around 64 percent of registered voters, down from 72 percent in 2002, when the Democratic senator Max Cleland lost re-election by 7 points. Ms. Nunn will need nearly 30 percent of white voters to prevail. If Mr. Cleland were running today, his 30 or 31 percent of white voters would probably be enough to squeak out a win.
Atlanta-based Cameron McWhirter, writes for the Wall Street Journal about the field before the eventual November candidates.
ATLANTA—Michelle Nunn handily won the Democratic nomination Tuesday for a key U.S. Senate seat. Now she faces the task of convincing voters that her message of bipartisan cooperation is enough to overcome the Republican Party’s domination of Georgia for more than a decade.
Ms. Nunn, the 47-year-old daughter of former Georgia Sen. Sam Nunn, will face off in the fall against either businessman David Perdue, who won about 31% of Republican primary votes, or U.S. Rep. Jack Kingston, who won 26%, according to results from the Georgia secretary of state. A runoff between the Republicans will take place in July.
A fall win by Ms. Nunn, who has never held elected office, would signal at least a partial revival of the state’s Democratic Party, which has been in decline here for more than a decade. The outcome could help decide which party controls the U.S. Senate.
Ms. Nunn’s supporters believe demographics and GOP infighting all work in her favor. The percentage of minorities, who generally favor Democrats, has risen in the state in recent years.
The Nunn team hopes to attract independents and some Republican voters disillusioned by GOP infighting between tea-party activists and mainstream elements.
Her strategists also plan to try to win over female voters in battleground areas like Atlanta’s suburbs by stressing that Ms. Nunn is the only woman in the race. If she were to win, she would be the first woman elected to the Senate from Georgia.
But she will face an uphill battle against her Republican opponent. Midterm elections tend to have lower turnout in the state and a higher percentage of Republican voters. Democrats have launched voter registration drives, but so have Republicans.
Eric Tanenblatt, an Atlanta-based Republican strategist and fundraiser who is one of those leading the effort, worked with Ms. Nunn when he served on the board of Hands On Atlanta, a volunteer service organization where she was executive director, and called her “a smart, capable person.” But she will lose, he said, because she will have to align with President Barack Obama to excite the state Democratic base, a move that will alienate Georgia Republican and independent voters.
“I just don’t think she matches up with where Georgia voters are,” he said.
Class after an election
Two people whom I am happy to call friends have shown an example of how to wind up on the losing end of a hard-fought election without being losers, and I wish to lift up their examples.
Jessica Szilzgyi tells me her last name is pronounced “like Salami with a ‘G,’” but that would be “Galami,” and that doesn’t sound right. Anyway, she managed the Delvis Dutton for Congress campaign and after Rick W. Allen’s victory without a runoff, she took up the pen again on her blog, the Perspicacious Conservative. I highly recommend reading the piece in its entirety, but here’s an excerpt.
The majority of news outlets today will say that it “didn’t go our way”, but I just can’t see it that way. Since the inception of this campaign, it was never leaning “our way”. It was always “not enough time”, “too big of a district”, “too small a staff” (thanks, y’all) and “not enough money”. Too tall a hill, if you will. But the fight was never about that. The fight was about the unique non-political message of our candidate and the ever-turning wheels of the vehicle in which this grand movement is traveling.
The messenger of this movement will say otherwise but there is no better example, no better mentor, no better delivery than what we’ve seen through this culture shift. If you followed the campaign even a little, or the legislature for the last 4 years, you know exactly what I’m talking about. A lot of you don’t have a clue what I’m talking about, though, because it’s a quiet, yet effective push to make a difference and do what is right. It’s grace.
I moved to South Georgia on a whim and a prayer just 77 days ago to work in a capacity I didn’t understand, in a town I didn’t know for a cause that is still much larger than myself or anything I will ever be. I put fear, doubt, and everything known to me aside and trusted in the Lord’s plan for my life. It’s the most freeing feeling I’ve ever felt.
I’ve never been prouder of a campaign, of a candidate or my own work.
I have nothing negative to say about the entire process, or “The Other Guys”, and I know that that isn’t always a gift we are granted the morning after an election. Only Grace.
The majority of news outlets today will say that it “didn’t go our way”. I cant find one filter to look through that presents the situation in that light. Only Grace.
I can put my campaign shirt back on WITH A SMILE to go pick up 2,250 yard signs across 19 counties.
State Rep. Ed Lindsey also provides a great example of grace.
Dear Fellow Georgians:
Obviously, I wish I had done a little better last night. Nevertheless, I am proud of my family, excellent staff, wonderful volunteers, and sharp consultants who worked tirelessly on behalf of my Congressional campaign. I will always be grateful for their efforts.
I congratulate Bob and Barry who are in the July 22nd runoff. They both ran an excellent race. Like the rest of the residents in the 11th Congressional District, I will be watching the runoff closely to see who can best serve the needs of our state to take on the problems facing our nation. Good luck to both of them in the weeks ahead – and to their families who stand with them.
I close and say good-bye with a simple prayer that may God bless our beloved state and nation and may the Peace of the Lord be always with you.
To Jessica and Ed, I ask the question so often on the lips of fictional President Josiah Bartlet, “What’s next?”