This week National Journal unveiled its “Against the Grain” awards, an evaluation of campaigns, candidates, and ads at what could be called the halfway point of the 2014 cycle.
Finding her way into the mix was Michelle Nunn, the anointed Senate choice of Georgia Democrats. She drew an honorable mention for “most surprising candidate,” falling to Republican Joni Ernst in Iowa.
All due respect, but Michelle Nunn has yet to actually be tested as a candidate. The pop quizzes she’s had thus far have largely been failed.
What she has done well comes in the form of fundraising. Nunn again posted a massive haul in the second quarter of 2014, totaling $3.45 million. She’s raised over $9 million now since launching her bid over a year ago.
Not to discredit the effort, but the buck really stops there.
Unlike the crowded field of Republicans who vied for their party’s nod, two of whom will square off in a final showdown on Tuesday, Nunn faced mediocre primary opposition. It showed; she was the only candidate who could even afford TV ads and she cleared the field easily without the need for a runoff.
Nunn’s fundraising effort has further been aided by the legacy and network of her father, former Senator Sam Nunn. It meant an immediate national rolodex upon announcing her campaign and a cleared primary field, the result of which has meant she’s honestly untested as a candidate.
Which means raining accolades on her campaign is a bit premature.
In fairness, Nunn, and national forces desperate for Harry Reid to keep his majority, have ensured she’ll have the resources to wage a competitive effort in Georgia.
None of this is exactly surprising, though. It’s unlikely she ever would have gotten in the race had the field not been clear nor the resources present. This was predicted from the beginning. What’s more telling is how Nunn has reacted to politically troublesome situations thus far, before the real scrutiny even begins. The results are far less impressive.
Asked how she would have voted on Obamacare had she been in the Senate at the time, Nunn made dodging a question look like anything but an art form.
“At the time the Affordable Care Act was passed I was working at Points of Light,” she stammered out when asked. “I wish we’d had more people who tried to architect a bipartisan legislation.”
It gets better. “So yes or no?” Kasie Hunt of "Morning Joe" flatly asked.
“I think it’s impossible to look back retrospectively and say what you would have done when you were there,” Nunn continued.
Well, most would say that’s only the case when you’re a Democrat running in a red state, but whatever.
The most recent snafu that’s gotten Nunn in the headlines comes from an unforced error of her campaign’s own making. Last week, she was wheels up for yet another round of fundraising in DC, this time a Capitol Hill confab with her famous father as the honored guest.
What her camp now claims it didn’t know at the time was that an ex-felon and former Black Panther leader with a history of controversial words and actions was co-hosting the event.
They’ve since vowed to return any donations that originated from Virtual Murrell, yet when asked by Atlanta’s WSB news what that would total out at, Nunn’s campaign couldn’t even say how much was raised at the event, much less how much would be returned.
So, the snippets of Michelle Nunn we’ve actually seen in the political limelight seem more akin to amateur hour rather than a campaign ready to do battle.
Doting on her and her campaign may make for a good story and engaging narrative at the moment, but for the last year we’ve been nowhere near seeing whether or not it’s deserved.
That all changes next week, when the real test of Michelle Nunn, and Georgia Democrats hoping for revival, begins.