Tossing Cold Water on That Georgia Senate Poll

Brandon Howell
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Posted: Aug 08, 2013 9:45 AM
Tossing Cold Water on That Georgia Senate Poll

For Democrats in Georgia and across the country it feels like a good week, with a Public Policy Polling survey indicating Michelle Nunn, their likely standard bearer in next year’s Georgia Senate contest, is tied with two and leading the rest of a crowded Republican field.

The logic, of course, is that a bruising primary will drive up the negatives of would-be GOP nominees whilst the daughter of a political lion storms the state with a calculated platform tailored towards peeling away moderates and disaffected Republicans.

Which all sounds well and good for Democrats, hence their relentless pushing the poll as a sign that their long-awaited Georgia resurgence has drawn nigh.

Sure, it might be coming, but not in 2014.

Numerous issues blunt any straw man momentum found here, beginning with the poll itself.

Break down the 520 respondents by party and we see a demographic of 39 percent Republicans, 38 percent Democrats, and the remaining 23 percent as independents.

Recent history clearly indicates otherwise.

The 2010 cycle saw Republican Governor Nathan Deal swept into office with 53 percent of the vote, compared to 43 percent for former Governor Roy Barnes. The average share of his and nine other GOPers on the statewide ballot that year was 54.9 percent.

Democrats clocked with an average of 41.1 percent.

Much like the situation confronting Republicans in next year’s Senate contest, the 2010 race for governor saw a bitter, crowded primary come down to a neck and neck runoff on the Republican side, while Barnes essentially got a coronation as his party’s nominee, a future not too off for Nunn.

To boot, Mitt Romney drew more votes out of Georgia in last year’s election than John McCain did in 2008, though the realities of voter turnout yield greater significance to the midterm totals.

More cold water for Nunn’s numbers.

A non-incumbent Democrat hasn’t won statewide since 1998 and the state hasn’t sent a Democrat to the U.S. Senate since 1996 when Max Cleland replaced Nunn’s famous father.

The goodwill Sam Nunn retains will help prop his daughter’s numbers above Democrats’ 2010 average, but he hasn’t been on a ballot in 23 years. Georgia’s changed a lot since then, and it’s highly unlikely that enough voters who cast a straight Republican ticket three years ago will veer away on the first vote on the ballot.

That presumes the demographic makeup of voter turnout will be along the same lines, a notion that most onlookers agree would be more likely to change in a positive way for Democrats during a presidential cycle.

Beyond the numbers problem confronting Nunn past the toplines, there’s also the simple reality that the head of her party just isn’t that well-liked in the Peach State.

Even the PPP poll showed President Obama underwater with a 43 percent approval rating compared 54 percent who felt the other way.

It goes without saying that Republicans will mount a vigorous effort at exploiting that unpopularity, comparing Nunn to the president every step of the way. Ammunition on that front came the same day as the poll that indicated hope for her chances: POLITICO reported that Organizing for Action was pitching donations on the basis of aiding her bid over the next year.

No one really thinks that Republicans will forget that OFA’s web address is literally www.BarackObama.com, do they?