Atlanta — The political barometer here keeps changing. Is the 2010 U.S. Senate Democratic primary race up for grabs? Is a tough storm of a contest looming on the horizon for the general election in the November?
There seems to be no way to measure the atypical, somewhat fluctuating political climate in Georgia. Once a state that voted only according to political, economic or racial lines, Georgia is emerging although slowly into a southern state with a mind of its own.
The election business may not be the same as usual.
Take three opinions from influential experts, polls, and an economic advisor and the predictions may all be the same. Everyone agrees. Georgia’s 2010 U.S. Senate primary is attracting national attention. Even Washington, D.C.-based political experts have a comment on two on the likely November race, which will feature state Labor Commissioner Michael Thurmond versus Republican incumbent Johnny Isakson. Isakson was released from Atlanta’s Piedmont Hospital, according to his Washington office, after treatment of an irregular heartbeat and a blood clot in his leg. Thurmond is opposed by a county employee who has never held public office.
Political blogger Steve Rankin said, “Georgia is now the only state in which parties officially nominate candidates and 50% plus is required to win the general election.” The Georgia U.S. Senate primary election is July 20.
The Congressional Quarterly (CQ) said, “With the long-running trend in mainly conservative Georgia uninterrupted by the 2006-2008, national Democratic upswing, Isakson initially looked safe for reelection this year. However, things have changed.”
The CQ added, “Last month…Thurmond entered the race which followed recruiting entities by Democratic officials. Thurmond is African American which could give him particular appeal to a black constituency that makes up more than a quarter of the state’s population. CG Politics has changed the rating on the race to Likely Republican. Thurmond is a three-term state labor commissioner, a former state lawmaker and head of Georgia’s Department of Family and Children’s Services.
According to analyst David Bositis of the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies, “on the statewide level for federal office, it is pretty reliably Republican, because of the economy” and the prospects for Democrats (prospects) is not that good.”
Bositis, the author of more than five books including Research Designs for Political Science (1990) explained, “The South has become very divided. Some southern states have not changed since the 1950s and those states include Mississippi, Alabama, Louisiana and South Carolina. There are other states which have left the Confederacy, the South (as far as education and high-tech is concerned) and they include Florida, which is a majority-minority state with a lot of (transplanted) retirees, Virginia and North Carolina.”
He added, “Georgia, I would put it in the middle. It is starting to change, but not to the degree of Virginia and North Carolina. It is still changing and race still matters. That being the case, I wouldn’t count on the (present) environment in Georgia and that Michael Thurmond can get elected.”
“The U.S. Senate elections are defined by partisanship,” Bositis said. “There is a Republican advantage. Unless the political environment changes substantially; the economy is getting better but slow on the environment front. The Democrats would have to have an advantage.”
If the economy is a major factor, the Democrats may fall short in the Georgia federal Senate race. Georgia State University Economic Forecasting Center Director Rajeev Dhawan recently said, “Marked by significant job losses, a double-digit drop in tax collections over the last 12 months and an upward trend in foreclosures, Georgia’s economy continues to struggle to find the necessary momentum for a full economic recovery.”
Dhawan predicted that “job growth in 2010 will be lackluster and the unemployment rate will stay around 10.0%. In 2011, only 70,000 jobs will be added per month and in 2012 that number will reach 100,000 per month.”
Can the state’s labor commissioner’s run for the Senate federal office escalate into a position of strength when Georgia’s economy is still trying to rebound?
In a Blueprint Magazine article published almost nine years ago when running for the office of state labor commissioner, Thurmond said his campaign’s “message trumped race in two Georgia contests and that biracial coalitions trump polarized voting when the message is right.”
He and Georgia Attorney General Thurbert Baker (an African American) are at it again; stomping on the campaign trails. Thurmond is running for U.S. Senate and Baker for governor.
Will the duo be part of a lucky charm despite predictions of Republican wins for offices that Democrats have not held in years? How will their races be measured for success?
Of the three Democrats including Thurmond and Baker who currently hold statewide offices, the Democratic Party is taking a gamble of win all or lose everything. If Thurmond and Baker win, the Democrats will enjoy more popularity in Georgia. If they lose, since the other Democrat holding statewide office is retiring, no Democrats would hold a statewide office in Georgia.