Now that, for the time being at least, the last mud pie has been flung and the last stink bomb hurled, the Ol' Bloviator deems it safe to emerge from his bunker, where he was fully prepared to slurp down a cyanide capsule the very next time ol' Zig-Zag Zell talked up Michelle Nunn in one ad only to endorse Nathan (Double) Deal-er in the following one. In fact, the O.B. even dares at this point to toss out a few little "drive-by" observations about this most recent demonstration of our state's chronic electile dysfunction.
The first is that a bunch of blindly optimistic liberals high on polling data churned out by everybody and his first cousin who happens to have a telephone and a calculator is a recipe for a resurrection that turns out to be a wake . We can go a long ways toward explaining how so many pollsters could be wrong about what unfolded in Georgia by allowing for the fact that their ranks are so swollen that they were probably surveying each other half the time. It seems that one presumed short cut to institutional legitimacy these days is opening up a brand new polling center. (Ask yourself if there was really ever any reason to suspect that a Quinnipiac University existed before there was a Quinnipiac poll. Didn't think so.) As a result, you've got a bunch of pollsters who have so little experience and training in survey research that they not only don't know what they're doing, they don't even know why they are doing it. Things only get worse when you throw in a bunch of political media slugs who are no less addicted to "momentum shifts" than their counterparts who call football games. Recall how many times you have heard sportscasters seize on the fact that Vandy actually made two consecutive first downs at the end of the first half as evidence that Bama will have a fight on their hands in the second, and you can better understand why some of the liberal persuasion in these parts were all prepared to really whoop it up when the Democratic governor- and senator-elects rode down Peachtree through a blizzard of tickertape in an open Mustang ragtop on loan from Barrack Obama. Beloved, as ol' Brother Dave Gardner would likely say, clear your heads of such foolishness. The demographers and survey researchers and assorted sunshine pumpers leaping to absurd conclusions may shout all they please that Georgia is getting "bluer" by the minute, but they would be a lot more accurate -and get a lot less attention, of course--if they described it as gradually "purpling" instead.
As a testament to that gradualism, that map yonder shows the 34 Georgia counties (in blue) carried by Barack Obama in 2008. These also account for all the counties carried in 2014 by Democratic senatorial candidate Michelle Nunn and gubernatorial aspirant Jason Carter, except for the two (in lighter blue), Henry (carried by both) and Wilkinson (carried by Carter). In many of the old Obama counties, the margin was razor thin to non-existent. Nunn battled to a flat-footed tie down in Baker, which Carter lost by 13 votes. The counties captured by Nunn and Carter include all those with black majorities, and, save for the little hotbed of sedition and free love that we Athenians call home, none of their remaining counties are less than 40% black. Black ballots were clearly very much a factor in about the only good news to come out of this otherwise disastrous election for the Democrats, the breakthrough in Henry County, where the black population share has now grown to 40 %. Mitt Romney managed a 3,000-vote win there two years ago, but both Nunn and Carter squoze by this time with about 400 votes to spare.
However pleased Democrats may be to see some apparent movement in their direction in Henry, things were at an almost dead calm in the six additional metro counties that have gone Democratic in the last two presidential elections. Nunn and Carter ran within a point of Obama's percentages in 2012 in all of them. Obama gobbled up about 98% of the black vote statewide in that contest, compared to 92% for Nunn and 89% for Carter this year. As always for Democrats in these parts, however, the problem was not with the black support. Exit polls show Nunn and Carter receiving but 23% of the total white vote, precisely the share apparently claimed by Obama in 2012.
It might be worth noting that there was something of a departure from recent precedent along gender lines among whites this time out. In recent years, the gap between the voting preferences of white women and white men in the South has been negligible, and, if anything, enthusiasm for the Repubs was slightly higher among the former. The eight-point advantage Nunn enjoyed among white women as opposed to white men in this election might simply be ascribed to gender loyalty, were it not for the nine-point male-female differential favoring Carter. As with most such shifts in voter behavior, we won't know what, if anything, this one means until it's election time again.
One thing we definitely know hasn't changed is the rock-hard resistance of working class white southerners to any and all Democratic entreaties and advances. Five majority white counties showed average weekly wages below $500 in 2012. Sure enough, that sweat-shoppin' outsourcin' son of a gun, David Perdue, carried all of them resoundingly, three of them by more than 80%. In fact, ol' down-sizin' Dave actually ran a teency bit stronger with whites making less than thirty grand a year than among those knocking down more than a hundred.
It is no less striking, of course, that white Georgians would re-elect a governor who, by all rights, should be stamping out license plates, instead of signing bills into law. One thing is clear, both Carter's and Nunn's disappointing showings demonstrate that political coattails go threadbare in a hurry once nobody is actually wearing the coat itself.
There was a time when moderates could sell themselves as more conservative than they were, as Jason' grandpa did in 1970, when he managed to pull in enough Wallace and even Maddox voters with a bunch of jawboning against busing and government social programs to whup that liberal elitist Carl Sanders in the Demo Primary and breeze into the governor's mansion past hapless Hal Suit, the nominee of a bunch of equally hapless Georgia Republicans. Not so today, however. The Republicans are firmly ensconced at the top of the political pyramid, and there is absolutely no chance of their letting you con voters into thinking you are anywhere near as conservative as they are. Still, to varying degrees, both Carter and Nunn were ultimately reduced to employing what amounts to the "I'm-more-like-my-opponent-than-you -think" strategy, and their altogether predictable failure simply affirms that if you're running against a Baptist preacher, "What a Friend We Have in Jesus" just doesn't cut it as a campaign theme.
(The data cited above was drawn almost exclusively from CNN Election Central. Any errors you detect are almost certainly theirs. A somewhat briefer version of this rant will show up in honest-to-God ink this week in America's favorite indie, The Flagpole.)