Sunday, November 22, 2020
I’ve complained for most of my career, that too much focus on the political world remains in Washington, DC, a city that has proven itself to be tone-deaf to changes in the philosophical landscape of American politics time after time. It’s so insulated and “in its own bubble.” Few saw the Reagan revolution coming, the Obama rise to power, and the stunning right turn to Donald Trump, and then a hard jolt back left. Why is that? Let’s “brunch” on that this week.
“All Politics is Local” – I’ve always said American politics is not run by Wall Street, but by Main Street. What happens in the financial capital of New York City, or the political capital of Washington, DC, seldom mirrors what’s going on around Main Street in Topeka, Kansas, Madison, Wisconsin, or Bend, Oregon. House Speaker Tip O’Neill knew this better than anyone when he famously said, “All politics is local.” His Irish pal, Ronald Reagan, won the White House knowing that was gospel. You must connect with voters and their priorities, then deliver local funding – outside the Beltway and Wall Street to win.
“Georgia on My Mind” – I lay out my argument because as of today, Georgia is the center of the political universe. It’s not one of the “Big Four” states of California, Texas, New York and Florida, that many people feel are running this country. It’s the “Peach State” of Georgia! What once was a solid “blue state,” became a reliable “red state,” and is now one of the nation’s most pivotal “purple states!” How did that happen, and what does it mean?
“The Color of ‘Red’” – I moved from the Midwest to the Deep South in 1984 to attend graduate school at the University of Florida. It was culture shock, but I embraced it and eventually loved it. It gave me great cultural and political insights that were gold during my reporting career. When the South was “blue,” it was mostly the very conservative wing of the Democratic party. By the time of the Reagan-Bush era, many of those voters rejected Democrat President Jimmy Carter and Senator Ted Kennedy as too liberal for their beliefs. “I didn’t leave the Democratic Party, the Democratic Party left me,” was a common quote from new GOP voters.
“The Color of ‘Purple’” – Of course, my migration to the Deep South was not the only one. There were basically two groups of “snowbirds” pouring into places such as Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, and Virginia from the 1980s through 2000, (and it continues today). There were young people like me seeking economic opportunity from the dying “Rust Belt” economy, and then there were the retirees seeking warmer, more relaxing climates. You saw, blue-collar union workers from the Midwest and Northeast (many Democrats), along with white-collar retirees (many Republicans), moving south and changing the political landscape. Today, states such as Florida, North Carolina, Virginia, and now Georgia and Arizona, are decidedly “purple!”
“Showdown Georgia – January 5, 2020!” – I present all this analysis, because we are heading toward a historic, unprecedented showdown where two U.S. Senate seats in Georgia will be decided the very same day (which is highly unusual). It will also determine the balance of power in the U.S. Senate and all of Washington, DC. Right now, Republicans have won 50 seats, to 48 for Democrats, If the GOP wins just one Georgia seat, it will control the upper chamber 51-49. But if Democrats win both seats, it’s a 50-50 tie. That means incoming Vice-President Kamala Harris, who is also President of the Senate, gets to break any ties. A tie means Democrats control the upper chamber of Congress (along with the House of Representatives and the White House).
“The Georgia Race #1” – In the first race, incumbent Sen. David Perdue (R) Georgia, won with 49.7 percent to Democrat John Ossoff with 47.9 percent. But the problem in Georgia (and many other Southern states), is that you need to have at least 50 percent-plus-one of the votes to avoid a runoff. (This remains an antiquated vestige of the pre-and-post-Civil War era, which aimed to prevent black southerners from being elected in a crowded field with a simple plurality of votes). Ossoff ran a very close race for an open Georgia U.S. House seat a few years ago but lost.
“The Georgia Race #2” – This race pits incumbent, appointed Senator Kelley Loeffler (R) Georgia, against Democrat Raphael Warnock. On Election Day, it was Democrat Warnock leading with 33 percent of the vote to 26 percent for Republican Loeffler. Again, you need 50 percent-plus-one-vote to win. The problem for both candidates is that there were five other Republicans and seven other Democrats in the ballot, plus five candidates from other parties. On January 5, it will be hard to predict where all those votes will shift. What a mess!
“Will Cash Be King?” – Both parties, and their various supporting interest groups, are pouring money into Georgia. Atlanta is one of the most expensive media markets in America. But you also must buy ads in TV markets including Macon, Columbus, Brunswick (Jacksonville, FL), and Augusta. Money for social media and old media like newspapers and radio will also be crucial and expensive.
“The Presidential Factor?” – The wild card factor here is the presidency. Both Donald Trump and Joe Biden, and I suspect both Mike Pence and Kamala Harris, will be in Georgia a lot, too, leading up to the January 5th special election. President Trump will still be in office. Former Vice President Biden will ascend to the top job when he takes the oath of office on January 20th. The future of both parties and control of power in Washington are on the line in these Senate races. It’s going to be an intense, expensive campaign the likes of which we’ve never seen before!
Who do you want to win in the Georgia Senate races? Leave a comment below.
Mark Curtis, Ed.D., is Chief Political Reporter for the six Nexstar Media TV stations serving West Virginia, its five neighboring states, and most of the Washington, DC media market. He is an exclusive MINDSETTER contributing political analyst and writer for www.GoLocalProv.com and its affiliate news websites.
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