Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Georgia Sen Runoff: Could it have been "Peach-ier" for Vernon Jones than Jim Martin?

Most press previews of today’s Georgia Senate runoff focus on how the result is expected to hinge on Afro-Am turnout.  Black voters were believed to have boosted overall turnout by over 600K this year and sliced McCain’s margin over Obama by ten points as compared to Bush’s 2004 margin over John Kerry.  And conservative white Democrats are believed to have returned to the fold down ballot after going for the McCain-Palin ticket for president.  (No wonder that the GOP has sent in Sarah Palin to rally the base in this expected low turnout runoff.) 

Performance doesn’t seem to be too far off, geographically-speaking.

Here’s the map of county returns for president:

County Map

 And here’s the Senate county map

Note Mitchell County’s tie!):

 County Map

 Given this playing field, it’s difficult not to speculate how this race might be panning out if Dem nominee Jim Martin, a fmr. State rep. and failed Lt. Gov. nominee, had fallen to DeKalb Co. CEO Vernon Jones in the primary.  Jones’ bid might have been fatally wounded by ethics questions, but given his moderate – and even conservative – views on some issues and his geographic base, Jones might have been an ideal candidate.  In fact, Jones has flirted with Republicans: donating to the Georgia Republican Party and confessing to voting for George W. Bush, twice, all the while hectoring Martin for being insufficiently pro-Obama.   

Jones’ controversial temperament seems to have stunted his growth into a politician in the mold pioneered by Black Caucus Blue Dog Georgia House Democrats Sanford Bishop and David Scott, who have built up a support in white rural Georgia – the heart of Lester Maddox country! – by staking out conservative positions on issues such as gun control and positioning themselves as guardians of local and ag interests – particularly peanuts, in Bishop’s case.

Jones would differ significantly in that he would be the first politician to carve such a support base out of a booming New South county like DeKalb.  DeKalb is now majority Afro-Am, but continues to be fairly affluent even as its residents’ hues have changed.  Despite being home to the notorious giant bas-relief memorial to Confederate generals in Stone Mountain, DeKalb was a rare oasis of support for Richard Nixon, as George Wallace swept the Peach State in 1968.

While Bishop or Scott might be secretly harboring questions of how they might have been better positioned in this post-Obama runoff, Jones might be wondering - if he had crafted a more careful career – how he might have been able to cobble together an energized black Georgia electorate with just enough of a sliver of suburban Atlanta McCain voters still disaffected with the Bush Administration and Saxby Chambliss’ Congressional Republican cohorts to pull off a victory that might be just beyond the reach of the Democratic nominee, Jim Martin. 

No comments: