Georgia’s Republican Governor, Sonny Perdue, and his opponent, Democrat Lieutenant Governor Mark Taylor, have taken to the airwaves as the November gubernatorial election approaches. Both have gone on the offensive, with Taylor questioning Perdue’s cheap land buy in Florida – and personal, back-dated $100,000 tax deferment – and the Governor’s campaign hitting back at the fact that Taylor has “never had to work an honest day in his life,” as he has been continuously bankrolled (including allowance) by his father since reaching adulthood.
The Georgia Republican Party is, naturally, the driving force behind the Perdue campaign; in a midterm election year, with an incumbent Governor (the first from the GOP since Reconstruction), this race is the party’s top priority. However, with the funds the state party – and, by extension, the Perdue campaign – have available, the product thus far has been less than desirable, and is in need of improvement in the final two weeks of the season.
Both ineffective and contradictory, Perdue’s advertisements thus far convey no realistic achievements, proposals, or ideas, other than to set himself up as an everyman who represents the people, and who is at risk of being slandered by his opponent. Perdue has one ad which bemoans the idea that his opponent would consider running negative ads against him – a message which lost any force behind it when Perdue began running just the type of advertisement he decried in his own.
Mary Perdue’s appearances in advertisements, should have been effective, as the Perdues’ 35-year marriage stands in sharp contrast to Taylor’s three marriages and current trophy wife; however, the couple’s ads wore out their welcome all to quickly, largely due to their weakly-staged conversations about poorly cited initiatives which, if effective, would have been welcome during Perdue’s four previous years in office, had he gone to the correct people for policy proposals at the time.
The Governor’s campaign must improve its efforts, as well as its mindset, if he is to succeed in his bid for reelection. In a year when turnout is expected to be remarkably low (the Atlanta Journal-Constitution has reported that turnout as low as 30% would not be surprising), candidates must motivate constituents, and provide compelling reasons for them to vote.
However, many in the Perdue campaign seem too busy being enamored with their own positions, assuming the “arrogance of incumbency” found among those who hold, or, more often, are in the employ of elective office holders. Rather than working for the success of their own employer – much less for the good of the people their employer hopes to continue representing – many members of the Governor’s campaign have demonstrated, through their attitudes and their actions, that, to them, potential voters and volunteers across the state are mere pawns for their disdainful use. This overt show of hubris, on the part of those who have achieved nothing on which to base their arrogance, has over recent months been slowly contributing to the Governor’s quiet loss of support at the grassroots level – the very level which, through hard work and dedication, made his victory possible four years ago.
As of last week, Governor Perdue had a surprisingly comfortable lead in most polls (19 in the Mason-Dixon poll, and 13 in Strategic Vision) as election day nears. However, such polling could be providing false comfort to the Governor’s quest to remain in office. The circumstances surrounding the gubernatorial election in 2002 were eerily similar to the present, and should serve as warning to the Perdue campaign and to Georgia Republicans, lest this election be taken for granted.
Four years ago, an incumbent Governor, then Democrat Roy Barnes, was running for reelection; he had a commanding double-digit lead in the polls throughout the fall, carrying an 11-point advantage into the week of the election. However, the rising tide of displeasure with the incumbent throughout the state, flagger support, and a pro-Republican national climate (the GOP gained seats in both the House and Senate that year) all combined to lift the challenger’s campaign to a remarkable and unexpected victory.
This is not 2002, and Sonny Perdue is not Roy Barnes. Perdue is now the incumbent, and must stand on his record and ideological credentials – neither of which is stellar – in the face of a concerted effort to dethrone him.
Also looming large is the evolving national climate. One result of the appalling Mark Foley (R-Fla.) page scandal, and its poor handling by Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) was to reverse the slowly growing pro-Republican sentiment across the country. GOP voters have become more discouraged than ever, and may be likely to stay home on election day in greater numbers than previously expected.
Both gubernatorial candidates must increase, and improve, their efforts if they are to be victorious this November 7. Taylor must pull more undecideds to his side, and convince GOP voters not to turn out to the polls. Fortunately for him, the latter appears ready to largely take care of itself. At a time when confidence and trust in politicians is both rightly and quickly waning, Sonny Perdue has thus far failed to present an inspirational persona or message. He may be the first Republican governor since Reconstruction, but that is not enough to motivate a lackluster voter base.
Despite the polling numbers, Governor Perdue must perform a number of mid-course corrections, overruling his overrated campaign staff and vaunted consultants if necessary, and he must bring an excitement to his campaign which has heretofore been lacking, lest he wind up enduring the same humiliating fate he inflicted upon Roy Barnes by losing while a heavy favorite – and, in the process, become not only the first Republican Governor since Reconstruction, but the last.