Update from an Accidental Swing State


ATLANTA—I arrived here yesterday to cover the U.S. Senate campaign of Libertarian Alan Buckley and the final campaign jaunt of Bob Barr, who'll be heading down to Savannah to close out the election. That's the presidential campaign I've been closest to, so I can report that the bulk of its effort right now is on getting votes in this, his home state. Months ago they purchased contact lists from his old suburban Atlanta district, and a web-based call center has been working them to the point where the campaign thinks it's pulling 5 percent of Republicans there—and who knows how many independents and Democrats. But local party chair Daniel Adams fretted that the fast tightening of Georgia polls (Obama is closer to McCain here than McCain is close to Obama in Pennsylvania) is convincing conservatives not to "waste" their ballot.

Adams is incredibly bearish about McCain's chances overall. Last night, en route to the final three-way Senate debate that included Libertarian Alan Buckley, he pointed out the Obama stickers on Honda Elements and other nice, suburban cars driven by white people in Cobb County (Bush 25 points over Kerry) and discoursed on all the neighborhoods that were thick with Bush signs in 2004, and bare today. "You've got the people who got their signs right after the primaries ended and nothing since then," Adams said. "This election ended when McCain voted for the bailout."

A pro-bailout vote has rattled the Senate race, too. At the debate Republican Sen. Saxby Chambliss, who'd been coasting to re-election last month, struggled to convince reporters that "we'll win without a runoff" on Tuesday. (In Georgia an election that doesn't see the winner get more than 50 percent of the vote goes to a runoff four weeks later.)

Whether or not the bailout anger is directed at the right people, I'm pleased that the election is closing on something sort of important. TV ads here are a barrage of bailout and tax talk (I saw two Obama ads on McCain's tax policies in one hour of local TV news). Unlike apparently everyone else in America I haven't seen the 11th hour (11th hour and 59th minute, really) 527 hit on Jeremiah Wright. The Politico's Jonathan Martin asks if conservatives should have "played the Wright card" earlier. If McCain suddenly surges to victory because swarms of independents heard about Wright the first time this weekend, I think we'll say he should have. It seems like a truly distant possibility down here.

NEXT: Only $25 Billion-plus for GM and Chrysler and Ford?

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. Republicans have spent all their time looking for some silver bullet to take out Obama, instead of, you know, organizing their base for the election.

  2. Can’t organize the base around a candidate most conservatives hate. An anti-Obama campaign was the only practical option the GOP had once McCain won the nomination, and given the anti-GOP mood, it was probably the best strategy anyway.

  3. But the anti-Obama strategy was so done so stupidly.


  4. “This election ended when McCain voted for the bailout.”

    I believe this as well. If McCain had voted for against the bailout, and then come out strong on Obama and his tax plans and other economic values he would be in the lead right now, or at the very least within margin of error. Instead they have stuck with the tried and true method of attack ads and defamation of the opponent.

    Whether we like them or not, in any other election those attack ads would have done some serious damage, they usually do. However since we are in somewhat of a recession economically (most people believe “the worst economic disaster since the great depression”) and not to mention most of the country is fed up with the last eight years of government, this was just not the time to run this type of ads. As BDB pointed out they have been searching for a silver bullet and because of the aforementioned reasons Obama is basically like a teflon coated bullet proof vest, nothing sticks to him, and nothing gets through.

  5. Where’s the update on the Lawson campaign?

  6. This GA Senate race has me really conflicted.

    OTOH, although I want the GOP crushed generally, I would still like to see the GOP keep enough seats in the Senate to act as a brake of some sort on Obama.

    OTOH, Saxby Chambliss is a real rat bastard.

    It kind of sucks that I am almost forced to root for Chambliss and Dole in their races, when ordinarily seeing them go down would be as good as watching Santorum go down last time around.

  7. You can always root for Coleman, Fluffy.

    Franken is a turd.

  8. “This election ended when McCain voted for the bailout.”

    Unfortunatley, the Maverick’s go-along-to-get-along Senatorial reflexes surfaced at exactly the wrong time.

    He should have gone to Washington (hell, even “suspended his campaign”) not to ensure passage of the bailout, but to ensure its defeat. Even if he went down swinging, he would have owned a week’s worth of news cycles on the right side of a high-profile issue.

    And, because this is a “the government must do something” nation now, he would have needed some kind of band-aid to stick on the “crisis.” I might suggest some kind of change to bank capitalization rules, allowing them to segregate their MBSs into a separate portfolio, with a deemed value of a rolling average of the last 6 – 12 months. That insulates them from volatility and keeps their available lending facilities where they were (roughly) before the collapse.

  9. I still don’t see Georgia being a swing state… I mean, compared to Michigan (an oft-talked about “swing state” that’s anymore about as blue as Massachusetts), it is, but that means squat…

  10. madmike,

    It’s not really a swing state, but it’s more of a swing state than PA is and McCain is dumping loads of cash there. Of course, by that measurement, ND, MT and AZ are all swing states.

    My favorite new conspiracy theory is that Malcolm X is Obama’s father. I will say, conspiracy theories are nothing but fun.

  11. Mad Max – It’s being edited. It’ll be up before too long.

  12. Madmike,

    Georgia isn’t really a swing state for votes, but it represents a break from the solid south if it turns blue, which could throw off the whole “play to the base” argument the republicans have been playing. They worried so much about “war, marraige and babies” that they forgot how to appeal to independents and libertarians who actually got them into power. The moral majority is revealed for the farce it is, a few (relative to the nation) loudmouthed bigots who tried to direct the discourse their way against the will of the nation. Let’s hope Obama will decide to play the centrist and pragmatist for the next 4 years and the moral minority can go back to the roadside protests against gays until they are eventually replaced by a more rational generation.

  13. BDB | November 3, 2008, 9:06am | #

    But the anti-Obama strategy was so done so stupidly.

    I saw Ken Blackwell on Hardball last night, striving heroically to link Reverend Wright to the Joe the Plumber/economics campaign strategy.

    He ended up with “Reverend Wright is a big-government radical.” That’s right, the guy we all saw ranting and raving about the government is a fan of big government. That’s what makes him such a radical.

    That’ll work.

  14. I find it interesting how the old “Upper South/Lower South” division has become so outmoded.

    Now, North Carolina and Georgia are joining Virgnia moving blue, while Tennessee might as well be Alabama.

  15. Joe,

    Someone else on here said with the exception of the Govt. created AIDS thing, what Rev. Wright said is little different from what is said at most Ron Paul meetups. As JtP says, “I’m gonna go ahead and agree with you on that”.

  16. Joe–

    It is Atlantic South vs. Inland South now. South Carolina is a “special” case (no big city).

  17. Hmm…the Floridafication of the southern Atlantic coast?

  18. South Carolina is definitely “special”. (Campaigned for RP there.)

  19. Whatever you want to call it joe, if GA, NC, FL, and VA all go blue by low single digit margins, they are going to replace PA, OH, and MI as THE swing region. Doubly so once they gain EVs in the next census and the rust belt bleeds EVs.

    So we won’t be hearing about central PA or southern OH in 2012 nearly as much.

  20. You can always root for Coleman, Fluffy.

    Franken is a turd.

    Nah. Turds are occasionally funny.

  21. Man, I hope the message is loud and clear to McCain and other R’s about him losing because of being for the bailout.

  22. The Politico’s Jonathan Martin asks if conservatives should have “played the Wright card” earlier. If McCain suddenly surges to victory because swarms of independents heard about Wright the first time this weekend, I think we’ll say he should have.

    Am I reading this wrong? If McCain wins based on this, wouldn’t we say that he played up the Wright angle at just the right time? Do it too early and those people incensed by Reverend Wright have another chance to miss a paycheck or pay some huge bills before election day, and maybe they change their mind again. I’d say that if he surges to narrow defeat for that reason, you’d have a point.

    If McCain wins, I’m not sure there’s any strategy they used over the last two weeks that can be criticized from a strategic standpoint (anyone is free to criticize the tone or honorableness – which spell check says is a word – or whatever else strikes their fancy). A win is a win.

    It’s like studying for the bar exam. You only question how hard you worked after you fail. If you pass, then everything you did was exactly right. Political capital is essentially meaningless. Elections are pretty much pass/fail by nature.

  23. I’m not terribly happy about the prospects of the south becoming the swing region. Hearing candidates explain that rural Pennsylvanians and Midwesterners are the Real Americans (for the record, I was born and raised in Wisconsin) is bad enough.

  24. Don’t worry t. The South isn’t a swing region. It, along with the Mormon heavy states in the Mountain region, are the Republican firewall. There’s no real demographic math that works without the Republicans (as they’re currently constituted) winning handily in the South. It’s just like Bush’s competitiveness in the moderate New England and Pacific NW states. New England wasn’t a swing region, it was an indication of Bush’s strength that Kerry had to play defense in places like Maine, Oregon and Washington. Same goes for McCain and the urbanizing South.

  25. Mo–

    After PA, MI, OH, along with NY et al. lose even more EVs next census and they’re picked up by the Atlantic South and Southwest, there isn’t going to be any math that works out for the Dems unless they carry one of those two regions.

  26. BDB,

    Well, unless they can be competitive in those regions. They don’t have to win them outright.

    But your comment sheds some light on what’s going on: the southern Atlantic states are experiencing the same trends that turned the southwest blue (or at least purple), namely, the growth of “creative economy*” jobs and in-migration from the long-blue areas.

    *look it up before you start whining at me, wingnuts.

  27. Just as birthrates fall when education levels rise, so do faith-based ideoloigies like market fundamentalism. The whole country is moving left and gradually becoming more secular. That’s what you’re seeing in the South. A new, more european-like, capitalism will eventually emerge, and the U.S. will no longer be odd man out on things like universal health care. Lunatic pockets of crazed libertarians will mourn the death of freedom. But Reason can prevail. Donate now!

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.