With Chambliss, Republicans win one in the South
GOP’s conservative base in Georgia prevents a Democratic filibuster-proof majority in the US Senate.
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Chambliss’s supporters presented him as a “fire wall” against a filibuster-proof Senate, while Martin promised he’d be a “bridge” to help President-elect Obama achieve his promised overhaul of national tax and defense policies. In the end, turnout was moderate.Skip to next paragraph
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African-American turnout dropped from 30 percent of all voters in the general election to 23 percent. Republicans reasserted themselves in the suburbs.
Chambliss faced not only an Obama head wind, but his own record. Dissatisfaction was so intense that many Republicans who came out to vote for John McCain in the general election left the Chambliss box unchecked, forcing the runoff.
“Some people did not vote for Chambliss, period,” says Karen Hewitt, Republican Party chairwoman in Bryan County, the home of Fort Stewart and the Army’s 3rd Infantry Division. “And now, in all honesty, I’ve heard from quite a few individuals who say they are voting for him only because of needing the Republican side [in the Senate].”
While the Republicans flew stars Sarah Palin, Mike Huckabee, John McCain, and Mitt Romney into the state, the biggest Democrat of them all – Mr. Obama – did not come, leaving Martin to campaign with hip-hop artist Ludacris in the last days. In 1992, newly elected Bill Clinton campaigned in a similar runoff situation in Georgia and helped the Democrat win. The former president also campaigned for Martin last month.
Mr. Strahan at Emory University explains that the rough-and-tumble Georgia runoff could have tarnished Obama’s promise of postpartisanship. If Obama had appeared and Martin still lost – which was likely – the political impact could have been even more dramatic.
“If this is framed as kind of a referendum of the country from here on out, Democrats don’t want that interpreted as the first kind of negative response to the president-elect,” says Strahan.
While the direction of the Republican Party is still very much up in the air, Chambliss’s dramatic victory showed, most of all, that there’s still political capital for conservatives in the South, and perhaps beyond.
“Southern whites had a few years ago the feeling they were part of the nation’s governing coalition, and now they see that drifting away,” says Hastings Wyman, a correspondent with the Southern Political Report. “This election is part of getting back in the game.”
In Minnesota, meanwhile, the neck-and-neck recount – expected to be completed Friday – has incumbent US Sen. Norm Coleman ahead of Democratic challenger Al Franken by just a few hundred votes out of nearly 3 million cast. Disputed ballots will still have to be sorted out.