Jim Martin-Saxby Chambliss Runoff in Georgia
For those of you who can't get enough US electoral excitement, it's worth pointing out there are still a couple of important races that have not yet been decided. One is the Al Franken (D)-Norm Coleman (R) Senatorial race in Minnesota, still on hold per a recount. The other is between Jim Martin (D) and incumbent Saxby Chambliss (R) in Georgia, which will be decided by a runoff election being held today (Presidential Race Is Still Alive in Georgia Runoff, Robbie Brown, NYT, 01 December 2008). Since I lived in Athens, Georgia for 5+ years, I just couldn't let this pass without comment. As it happens, I left Georgia for New Hampshire at the beginning of 2002, the same year Chambliss won his Senate seat by defeating the previous incumbent, Max Cleland (D), so I didn't have a voting stake in that contest, but took considerable interest in the result. For anyone who didn't hear about it, or has a short memory, Max Cleland is a decorated veteran who lost both legs and his right arm during the Vietnam War; Chambliss ran a shameful ad, juxtaposing pictures of Cleland, Osama Bin Laden, and Saddam Hussein, that predictably raised the ire of liberals, but also drew fire from fellow Republicans such as Vietnam War veteran John McCain. The same John McCain who went to Georgia a couple of weeks ago to campaign for Chambliss. "I'd never seen anything like that ad," said McCain at the time. "Putting pictures of Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden next to the picture of a man who left three limbs on the battlefield - it's worse than disgraceful. It's reprehensible."
Of course such apparent turnarounds in attitude are par for the political course; we don't have to look any further than the recent love-fest between Obama and Clinton (which I have to admit I endorse). So I'm not going to make that my major point. My major points are (1) that Chambliss' record in the Senate has been that of a typical conservative Republican douchebag; and (2) that you can still hear the same idiotic statements from Republican supporters that characterized their campaign against Obama. Take for example, this fine nugget from the NYT story quoted above: "I’m scared to death," said Ms. Mock, 65, a small-business owner from Rockdale County. "Obama’s going to put our country further in debt. He’s going to push a socialist agenda." But she added, "Saxby Chambliss can stop him." Gee, where have I heard this kind of talk before? Really, Ms. Mock, are you kidding me? Further in debt than Bush has put us over the last 8 years? (Remember that Bush started with a budget surplus left him by the last "socialist" President we had, Bill Clinton.) Even as progressive bloggers complain that Obama's recent list of appointments make him appear about as radical as Dwight Eisenhower, it's not difficult to find evidence of how relative that assessment really is.
A lot is at stake, here. If by some chance Franken and Martin were both to win, the Democrats would hold the magic number of 60 seats in the Senate. For this reason alone, the Republicans have marshalled all their forces (e.g., McCain, Palin, Romney, Huckabee, Giuliani, and lots of $$) to the cause. For their part, the Democrats have rallied the troops as well (e.g., Bill Clinton, Al Gore, and $$ - although Obama has not made a personal appearance). The probability is that Chambliss will win (he started with a 3 percentage point lead from 04 November, although he had less than the required 50% majority), but the fact that the Senate race in this decidedly Red State was close enough to call for a runoff is pretty remarkable. Today's result will show if this was a glass half full or half empty.
Update 05 December 2008: Chambliss won, of course, and it looks like Franken is about done, although the margin of Coleman's victory looks about as thin as it gets. According to the Minneapolis-St. Paul Star Tribune, the latest (almost final) count has Coleman winning over Franken by a mere 192 votes. Too bad.