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Republican governors survive in Florida and Georgia

The GOP also takes away an open Democratic governorship in Arkansas

♦By Rich Shumate, editor

southern states smELECTION CENTRAL (CFP) — The Republican firewall held at the gubernatorial level across the South in the November 4 midterm election, with the GOP keeping endangered seats in Florida and Georgia and taking away a Democrat-held seat in Arkansas.

Republicans will now hold 11 of the 14 governorships in Southern states.

Former Florida Governor Charlie Crist

Former Florida Governor Charlie Crist

In Florida, Republican-turned-independent-turned Democrat Charlie Crist lost his bid to resurrect his political career in a battle with Republican Governor Rick Scott. Scott won narrowly in the Sunshine State, 48 percent to 47 percent

Meanwhile, up in Georgia, Republican Governor Nathan Deal easily fended off a challenge from State Senator Jason Carter, the grandson of former President Jimmy Carter. Deal took 53 percent, to 45 percent for Carter.

Former U.S. Rep. Asa Hutchinson

Former U.S. Rep. Asa Hutchinson

In Arkansas, where Democratic Governor Mike Beebe was term-limited, former GOP U.S. Rep. Asa Hutchinson – making his fourth try for statewide office – defeated former Democratic U.S. Rep. Mike Ross by a margin of 56 percent to 42 percent.

In Texas, Republican Attorney General Greg Abbott crushed Democratic State Senator Wendy Davis, who garnered national attention last year after filibustering a bill restricting abortion.

Abbott took 59 percent of the vote, to 29 percent for Davis. Republican candidates have now won the last six gubernatorial elections in the Lone Star State.

Elsewhere in the South, Republican incumbents won easy victories victories in Alabama, Oklahoma, South Carolina and Tennessee.

Ten things to watch for in Tuesday’s election

U.S. Senate, U.S. House and governorships are on the ballot all across the South

By Rich Shumate, editor

(CFP) — As voters go to the polls on Tuesday, here are 10 things to watch for in races across the South:

Wsouthern states smill There Be A Peach State Runoff? — Georgia has a unique election law providing for a general election runoff if neither candidate gets an outright majority — a distinct possibility in a close race with a third-party candidate. Polls show that both the U.S. Senate race between Republican David Perdue and Democrat Michelle Nunn and the governor’s race between incumbent GOP Governor Nathan Deal and Democratic State Senator Jason Carter could be razor close. If that happens, a runoff in the governor’s race would be December 9, but the Senate race would not be settled until January 6.

U.S. Senator Mary Landrieu

U.S. Senator Mary Landrieu

Is Battle For Senate Control Headed To The Bayou? — Regardless what happens in Georgia, the in Louisiana between incumbent Democratic U.S. Senator Mary Landrieu and her GOP opponent, U.S. Rep. Bill Cassidy, is certain to head to a runoff. If Republicans need the Louisiana seat to gain control of the Senate, the Pelican State could become the focus of the American political world until the December 6 runoff.

How Much Of A Drag Is Obama? — The president’s approval ratings are anemic across the South, and none of the major Democratic candidates have brought him into the region to campaign. Linking each and every Democrat to Obama (and Obamacare) has been part and parcel of just about every Republican campaign. Tuesday will determine whether Obama’s unpopularity was a millstone that drowned Democratic prospects.

Will Florida Voters Resurrect Crist?Charlie Crist’s political career looked to be all but over after a disastrous run for the U.S. Senate four years ago. But now he’s back — this time as a Democrat — and, if the polls are to be believed, within striking distance of the governor’s mansion once again. If Crist pulls it off, it will be a remarkable feat of political redemption.

Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott

Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott

How Big Will Abbott Win? — There’s no question that Republican Greg Abbott will win the governor’s race in Texas over Democratic State Senator Wendy Davis, who ran a remarkably inept campaign. The only question is how badly Davis goes down. Democrats talked a good game earlier this year about turning Texas blue. Tuesday’s results could show how distant that dream really is.

Fallin And Haley On National Stage? — Both Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin and South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley are cruising to easy re-election wins, which could catapult them into the national conversation for 2016. Historically, being a governor has been the best way to become president, and perhaps one reason we haven’t had a female president is that no female governor has ever sought the White House. Tuesday’s results could start those kinds of conversations in Columbia and Oklahoma City.

Are Nunn And Graham Their Father’s Political Daughters? — Both Nunn, running for the U.S. Senate in Georgia, and Gwen Graham, who is seeking a U.S. House seat in Florida, are scions of prominent Democratic political families making their political debuts. Both have run strong campaigns in areas that lean Republican. So Tuesday could be a night of political deja vu.

How Many Southern Senate Seats Can Democrats Keep? — Right now, the Democrats have only eight out of 28 seats. They seem certain to lose one of those, in West Virginia, and three others — Arkansas, Louisiana and North Carolina — are in jeopardy. So the party of Jackson that once strode strong across the South could be reduced to having less than 15 percent of region’s Senate seats.

Has Georgia Turned Purple? — If Democrats pull off wins in the U.S. Senate and governor’s races in Georgia, they will no doubt crow about changing political winds in the Peach State. Tuesday’s results will show if Georgia, like Virginia before it, is becoming less reliably Republican, which would no doubt encourage Democrats to try to put the state into play in 2016.

Can Rahall Survive in West Virginia? — When Democratic U.S. Rep. Nick Rahall was first elected to Congress, bellbottoms were still the rage. But after 38 years in Washington, he is fighting for his political life in a state where opposition to the Obama administration’s environmental policies is dragging down the Democratic brand. If Rahall goes, the state’s entire House delegation will be in GOP hands, a sea change in a state that a generation ago leaned Democratic.

Polls: Georgia’s races for U.S. Senate and governor appear headed for runoffs

None of the major candidates in either race is above the 50 percent threshold required for a win under the state’s unique election law

♦By Rich Shumate, editor

georgia mugATLANTA (CFP) — Races for U.S. Senator and governor in Georgia appear heading for December runoffs, thanks to close races, support for third-party Libertarians and the Peach State’s unique requirement of general election runoffs if no candidate wins a majority on election day.

A runoff could leave control of the Senate hanging in the balance until January 6 if Georgia’s race is needed to decide the balance of power.

Democratic nominee Michelle Nunn

Democratic nominee Michelle Nunn

Recent polling in the Senate race between Democrat Michelle Nunn and Republican David Perdue shows both candidates neck-and-neck within the margin of error but short of 50 percent.

The Libertarian candidate Amanda Swafford, a lawyer and former city councilwoman in Flowery Branch, is polling between 3 and 6 percent – enough to cause a runoff if the battle between Perdue and Nunn is close.

Likewise, in the race for governor, the Republican incumbent, Governor Nathan Deal, and his Democratic challenger, State Senator Jason Carter, are within the margin of error but below 50 percent, with Libertarian Andrew Hunt, an Atlanta technology executive, polling at about 5 percent.

Governor Nathan Deal

Governor Nathan Deal

Georgia is the only state in the union that has a general election runoff. The runoff for governor would be December 2, but the runoff for Senate would not happen until January 6.

Louisiana has a slightly different system in which candidates from all parties run in a primary in November, with a runoff set for December 6 if no candidate gets a majority.

The U.S. Senate race in Louisiana also appears to be heading for a runoff, with recent polls showing both incumbent U.S. Senator Mary Landrieu and her GOP challenger, U.S. Rep. Bill Cassidy, polling in the low to mid 40s.

In the Georgia Senate race, Nunn and Perdue, both political newcomers, are seeking the seat of retiring Republican U.S. Senator Saxby Chambliss. Nunn is the daughter of former U.S. Senator Sam Nunn, while Perdue is a cousin of former Governor Sonny Perdue.

In the governor’s race, Carter, the grandson of former President Jimmy Carter, has run a surprisingly strong campaign against Deal, who is seeking a second term as the state’s chief executive after serving more than 17 years in Congress.

Deal’s prospects for re-election may have been harmed by the state’s sluggish response to a January snowstorm that paralyzed metro Atlanta.

Analysis: Will Atlanta’s Snowmageddon imperil Gov. Nathan Deal’s re-election?

Snowstorm that snarled metro area comes in the middle of 2014 campaign

♦By Rich Shumate, editor

georgia mugATLANTA (CFP) — Georgia Republican Governor Nathan Deal appeared to be in cruise control toward re-election this fall — until Mother Nature brought an avalanche down around his head.ME sm

Deal is being widely criticized for the state government’s handling of a snowstorm that struck midday on January 28, stranding commuters on icy freeways and forcing schoolchildren to take shelter in their classrooms overnight.

After first deflecting criticism by suggesting that forecasters didn’t provide enough advace warning, Deal switched course and apologized unreservedly, telling Georgians that “the buck stops with me” for the mess.

“We didn’t respond fast enough,” he said, promising an investigation into what went wrong. “Our preparation was not adequate.”

In the aftermath of the storm, though, one big question is how much Atlanta’s Snowmageddon has damaged Deal politically.

Deal is being challenged in the May GOP primary by State School Superintendent John Barge and David Pennington, the mayor of Dalton, a small city in the northwest corner of the state.

Both Barge and Pennington have been highly critical of Deal’s handling of the storm. Pennington said Deal “failed miserably”and noted that in Dalton, officials started pre-treating roads hours before the storm hit.

Of course, Dalton has a population of just 33,000. Metro Atlanta, on the other hand, sprawls across 28 counties — nearly the size of Massachusetts — and is home to almost 6 million people. The management task is, well, substantially more substantial.

Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed, a Democrat, has also come under fire for his handling of the snow storm. He has shot back, noting — with more than a bit of frustration — that most of the chaos didn’t take place in the city itself, which has only about a tenth of the metro area’s population.

True enough. Most of the thousands of people stranded on highways and separated from their children live in the suburbs that circle the city — places where Republicans are plentiful and elections for governor are won and lost. Not good news for Governor Deal.

State Senator Jason Carter, grandson of former President Jimmy Carter, is running unopposed for the Democratic nomination for governor. He has been more circumspect in his criticism of how the snowstorm was handled, perhaps to spare Reed, one of his key allies.

But the political implications are obvious. Even as people were still shivering in their cars, pollsters were calling voters, asking questions about Deal’s performance, according to a report in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

It was unclear just who was doing that polling. But clearly, Deal’s opponents smell an opportunity. While Reed is also getting his share of the grief, the mayor was already re-elected last year. For Deal, the timing couldn’t be worse.

Ironically, his first inauguration in 2011 had to be moved indoors because of a ice storm that shut the city down for four days — after which state and local officials promised to do better the next time.

The next time has arrived, and now Deal’s second inauguration could be endangered by what appears to be an inability to learn from the past so as not to repeat it.

Snow has imperiled other politicians, the most famous example being in Chicago in 1977, when Mayor Michael Bilandic was swept from office after a series of storms that paralyzed the city. Mayors in Denver and Seattle faced similar fates.

Of course, Deal is a governor, not a mayor. He doesn’t have to face voters until May, when the weather will be balmy and the snowstorm but an unhappy memory. He also has more political heft than either of his GOP rivals, and Georgia’s Republican tendencies give him an advantage over Carter.

But thanks to Snowmageddon, Deal’s road to re-election could be more, er, icy than it might have been.

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