I just completed my much-anticipated interview with RNC Chairman Mike Duncan, and he had some very interesting things to say about Saxby Chambliss' win in Georgia's Senate runoff.
Specifically, Duncan implied the Georgia results prove that Barack Obama does not have coattails in elections where he is not on the ballot (this, of course, is great news going into 2010).
The numbers seem to confirm this: Saxby took home a whopping 57% of the vote in his runoff against Democrat Jim Martin, compared to 49% in the general election. Duncan concluded that this was partly due to the fact that Obama's personal dynamism drove up turnout in the general, driving up the vote for Martin.
However, the Obama effect could not be replicated when Martin was running by himself.
In my opinion, this means that the Chambliss race is really the first race of the 2010 elections -- where congressional Democrats will have to stand on their own two feet -- rather than counting on Obama to drag them into office.
In short, the theory is that Obama is a singular phenomenon, and people do not seem to be associating him down-ticket Democratic candidates at all.
Duncan also refuted the idea that Georgia represented a safe (and therefore meaningless) GOP seat. He pointed o the fact that Chambliss not only beat Martin, but blew him out of the water with a 14% margin of victory. This was not the tight race that many Democrats had hoped for, and the GOP was able to implement a successful campaign to ensure that Martin never came close to unseating Saxby.
Duncan said that this race represented a "team effort" between the RNC and the local organizations in Georgia, and that the RNC provided the "ground game" necessary to push Chambliss over the top (volunteers were brought in from all over the country to help out).
According to Duncan, this race will help lift the spirits of the party faithful and increase with recruiting good candidates in the future. The chairman says that this victory proves that "Republicans do know how to win elections," and that is a message that people need to hear as we ramp up for 2010.
Townhall's Adam Brickley contributed to this post.