Friday, November 07, 2008


I'm told that the upcoming Senate runoff in Georgia is the beginning of the GOP's battle for 2012 -- Saxby Chambliss's campaign has asked Sarah Palin, Mitt Romney, Mike Huckabee, Newt Gingrich, and Rudy Giuliani for help.

But I think it's the beginning of the battle for 2009 -- i.e., control of how the nation sees the Obama presidency. (John McCain will also show up in Georgia to campaign for the Republican.) The GOP plan is simple:

1. Chambliss wins the runoff.
2. Republicans declare that Obama has no mandate, that he is out of touch with real Americans, and that the failure of his presidency is inevitable.

Step 1 seems likely -- African-American turnout in Georgia is almost certainly going to be lower than it was when Obama was on the ballot, and the votes of the third-place finisher, Allen Buckley, a Libertarian who got 3% of the vote on Tuesday, will almost certainly go to Chambliss.

But Team Obama mustn't let the Republicans get away with Step 2.

The Republicans are going to make these noises, however -- it's inevitable. It's going to be a rerun of 1992, when Bill Clinton won and Democrat Wyche Fowler got into a runoff with Republican Paul Coverdell. Coverdell won the runoff and Bill Clinton was deemed a president who didn't really have a mandate to govern:

...Senator Phil Gramm of Texas, the chairman of the Republican Senatorial Campaign Committee was among those who saw the Coverdell victory as a blow to Mr. Clinton.

"The entire involvement of Gore and Clinton in coming to the state was to make the argument that the people of Georgia should give them a blank check in Congress," said the Texas Republican who had come here to campaign for Mr. Coverdell. "Well, the people of Georgia said no to that blank check."

Senator Bob Dole of Kansas, the minority leader who also campaigned for the challenger, called the outcome "proof that the Republican Party is alive and well".

Republicans See Big Victory

Similarly the Republican chairman in Georgia, Alec Pontevint, said, "This was of national importance because Clinton put his credibility on the line by coming here and he lost."

E. Spencer Abraham, co-chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee called the Fowler defeat "the first sign that Bill Clinton will have the shortest honeymoon in Presidential history".

(Abraham was right, of course -- Clinton did have the shortest honeymoon in presidential history.)

There were differences, of course: Clinton, because of Perot, didn't come close to winning a majority of the popular vote nationwide. The losing Democrat he backed that year in Georgia was an incumbent, who lost even though Clinton had won Georgia.

But spinners will think of some reason why a Chambliss win, in a state Obama lost, is a sign that Obama is weakened.

For the love of God, ignore these people.

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