Sensing that a list of projects, designated by various committees to be the transportation needs funded by the tax, were really not helpful to their community, the head of the DeKalb NAACP and one of the most prominent African-American state senators announced they would actively oppose the tax. They also knew what the pollster for the group must not have known: African Americans are suffering through this economy, too.
Both groups had virtually no money. They went door-to-door handing out "Vote No" signs. They held press conferences that often were sparsely attended. Perhaps one automated call went out to voters asking them to vote no. The cities' corporate leaders, who are not and should not be political experts, likely viewed their effort as unimpressive. But what was going on out of their view was a gathering revolt.
On the Republican side, virtually every candidate running for office in a contested race would tell voters to vote for them ... and to vote against the transportation tax. And with "the experts" who had been hired to advertise the vote on television, it did not take long for the whole thing to get out of control. With every ad, their likelihood of winning decreased.
As for African-Americans, who normally overwhelmingly vote Democrat, something happened that is fatal to any effort: The preachers in the predominantly black churches started coming out against the tax.
The Atlanta story gives us two lessons. First, Mitt Romney should not take the tea party for granted this year. Second, Barack Obama may not see the same enthusiastic turnout from the African-American community. And there is one other lesson: Never let consultants have $8 million to play with.