Saturday, August 12, 2006

Georgia Governor Race

Race of the Day

August 12, 2006

87 Days Until Election Day

Georgia Governor

Status: Republican Incumbent
2004 Presidential Result: Red State (South)

Outlook: Likely Republican

In what was likely the biggest surprise of Election Night 2002, Republican Sonny Perdue unseated an incumbent Democrat Governor who was believed to have national ambitions by a healthy margin, and becomethe first Republican Governor of Georgia since Reconstruction. The 2002 election coincided with a time of great progress forward by Georgia Republicans in winning state and federal offices and demonstrated that the state’s Republican Party apparatus had finally outdone the Democrats in this conservative Deep South state.

Things were not all smooth sailing for Perdue in the early days of his Administration. Issues surrounding the state flag and a previous state flag's use of the Confederate battle emblem proved to be quite a tight wire act and the actions taken by Perdue, in pursuit of middleground, did not truly please activists on either side of the controversial issue. For a while, it looked like Perdue's hold on the Governorship was a tenuous one.

The past year or so though has seen Perdue turn his political fortunes around to a great extent in both job performance ratings and in 2006 election polls. Some of those polls from earlier in the year did show him in somewhat of a close race with one of his Democrat opponents for the job, the charismatic Secretary of State Cathy Cox, but her own frontrunner status for the Democrat nomination withered in the face of a challenge from the more politically savvy Lt. Governor Mark Taylor, who won the nomination in last month’s primary. Thus, Perdue does not have to worry as much about facing an opponent in Cox, who might have had an easier time appealing to women in the state’s fast growing suburban population. Instead he will have to face an opponent in the rotund Taylor, the self-described “Big Guy” of Georgia politics, who while some see as a stronger opponent for Perdue, Republicans can also easily define more as a “good old boy political insider.”

Taylor’s victory over Cox in the Democrat primary was an expensive and fairly bitter contest, leaving Taylor lagging severely behind the incumbent Perdue in the money game to the tune of $8 million, and with perhaps some bitter feelings among Democrats. On Election Night, Cox congratulated Taylor on his victory, but stopped short of a formal endorsement, explaining that her role as the Secretary of State, the chief election official of Georgia, would make it improper for to openly support or campaign for a candidate for Governor. Inexplicably, she did not explain why it would have then been appropriate for her to have actually run for Governor herself. Therefore, the statement appears to be somewhat of a snub of Taylor.

It is worth noting that while the Georgia contest, may not get as much attention as other races for Governor across the country, it will likely at least get top billing in the state itself after Republican Lt. Governor candidate Ralph Reed, a controversial national figure, was defeated in a Republican primary and will not be a target at the ballot box for Democrats to mobilize support against the Republican ticket. Instead, Reed will perhaps be more available to generate support for other Georgia Republicans among his own faithful base of supporters, as Reed was widely credited as being one of the key forces behind the very successful 2002 campaign cycle in the state, when he was the State Party Chair.

The most recent poll on the race for Governor from Rasmussen Reports, shows Perdue opening up a healthy 53-39 lead. Some polls before the primary around the time of Taylor’s campaign renaissance against Cox had showed a closer race against Perdue. Few will go so far as to call Perdue “safe”, as Taylor is a longtime political insider who is knowledgeable and has a good base of support among the state’s sizable African-American community. Democrats hold out hope that Taylor will be able to latch onto something to make Perdue look more vulnerable. A Taylor victory over the incumbent would probably be seen as a big of a surprise as when Perdue accomplished the same task in 2002.

At the time being, Perdue appears to be popular enough and well-funded enough to win this race and remove the “Big Guy” from elected politics.

Perdue campaign link:

2006 Governor Races predicted thus far: 2 D, 7 R
Post-election total of Governors predicted thus far: 10 D, 13 R