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U.S. Senate, U.S. House and governorships are on the ballot all across the South
By Rich Shumate, Chickenfriedpolitics.com editor
(CFP) — As voters go to the polls on Tuesday, here are 10 things to watch for in races across the South:
Will 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.
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.
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.
Democrats across the region making little headway in overcoming Republican hegemony
♦By Rich Shumate, Chickenfriedpolitics.com editor
This year, 10 GOP-held U.S. Senate seats are up for election across the South. Democrats mounted serious challenges to just two of them.
This year, seven Republican-held Southern governorships are on the ballot. Democrats mounted serious challenges in just two of those races as well.
Heading into this election, Republicans hold 108 of the 151 U.S. House seats in the South. Democrats put just six of them in play and could very well come away without gaining a single seat, while at least four of their own seats are in serious jeopardy.
With the exception of Georgia, where Democrats are making surprisingly strong runs for both U.S. Senator and governor, 2014 has been a year of miscues and might-have-beens for the party of Jackson.
For example, at the beginning of the year, South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley had shaky job approval numbers and looked like she might be vulnerable. Now, she’s poised to roll to re-election on Tuesday, which could put her in the national conversation in 2016.
Down in Florida, Republican Governor Rick Scott’s rocky tenure in Tallahassee gave Democrats a golden opportunity, which they may have squandered by giving their nomination to the deeply flawed Charlie Crist.
A year ago in Texas, State Senator Wendy Davis was the darling of liberals everywhere, poised to lead Lone Star Democrats to the promised land after 20 years in the wilderness. Her inept campaign for governor has left those hopes in tatters, although it could be argued that a candidate best known for a full-throttled defense of abortion wasn’t that viable in a place like Texas to begin with.
In Florida earlier this year, Democrats failed to wrest the 13th District U.S. House seat — which Barack Obama carried twice — from Republicans during a special election, which left them with no chance to win it in the fall.
Florida 13 is one of three Republican-held House seats in the South that Obama carried in 2012. The GOP is poised to carry all three on Tuesday.
Meanwhile, there are five Democrat-held Southern House seats that Mitt Romney carried in 2012. Republicans are making strong runs in all five.
So moribund is the Democratic Party in Alabama that it didn’t even field a candidate to run against Republican U.S. Senator Jeff Sessions. And in both Oklahoma and South Carolina, where both Senate seats are up this year, Democrats couldn’t muster a serious challenge in any of those four races.
Senate seats are likely to flip from Democratic to Republican hands in both West Virginia and Arkansas, with Democrat-held seats in both North Carolina and Louisiana in jeopardy. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell appears to be beating back a Democratic challenge in Kentucky.
That leaves Georgia as the only bright spot for Democrats. Michelle Nunn has combined innate political talent with a strong campaign to make herself competitive in a state where Democrats haven’t won a Senate race since 1996.
However, if she can’t polish off David Perdue on Tuesday, the race will head to a January runoff — and runoffs can be nasty, brutish and unpredictable.
So here is the state of play, heading into Tuesday:
- Republicans hold 20 of the 28 Southern Senate seats. That number will almost certainly rise.
- Republicans hold 10 of 14 governorships. Given that the GOP will likely make a pick-up in Arkansas, the best Democrats can hope for is to go from four to five, if they take out incumbents in both Georgia and Florida — a tall order..
- The GOP holds 108 of the 151 House seats. Odds are the Republican margin will increase slightly.
All in all, Republican hegemony is alive and well across the Southland.
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, Chickenfriedpolitics.com editor
ATLANTA (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.
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.
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.
GOP holding leads in Arkansas and West Virginia; Democrats holding tough in Georgia and Kentucky
♦By Rich Shumate, Chickenfriedpolitics.com editor
WASHINGTON (CFP) — Two weeks out from election day, races for four southern U.S. Senate seats — two held by each party — are still too close to call, with control of the Senate hanging in the balance.
The latest polling shows races in North Carolina, Kentucky and Georgia are within the margin of error, while the race in Louisiana now seems certain to be heading toward a December runoff.
Depending on how these Southern races turn out, the question of which party will control the Senate could linger for more than a month before runoffs in Louisiana and possibly Georgia.
However, Republicans appear poised to pick up an open Democratic seat in West Virginia, and GOP U.S. Rep. Tom Cotton appears to have opened up a small lead over incumbent Democratic U.S. Senator Mark Pryor in Arkansas.
Democrats hold only eight out of 28 southern Senate seats. One of those seats, in West Virginia, is likely gone, and three others — in Arkansas, Louisiana and North Carolina — are in jeopardy.
The good news for Democrats is that two GOP-held seats, in Kentucky and Georgia, have turned out to be surprisingly competitive, despite the Republican tilt in both of those states.
Here are the current states of the southern Senate races:
Arkansas: The race between Cotton and Pryor has been neck-and-neck for the better part of a year, as outside groups poured tons of money into the Natural
State. But a Talk Business and Politics/Hendrix College poll released October 15 showed that Cotton has opened up an 8-point lead, the third media poll in a row that put the challenger ahead.
Louisiana: Recent polling shows Democratic U.S. Senator Mary Landrieu and her chief Republican rival, U.S. Rep. Bill Cassidy, about even but both far from the 50 percent either would need to avoid a runoff in the state’s jungle primary, where all candidates from all parties run in the same race. That would set up a December 6 runoff between the two, a head-to-head match-up that’s still too close to call.
West Virginia: This race is to pick a successor to retiring Democratic U.S. Senator Jay Rockefeller, and it looks increasingly like a GOP pickup, with U.S. Rep. Shelley Moore Capito opening up a significant lead over Democratic Secretary of State Natalie Tennant. A CBS News/New York Times/YouGov poll in early October had Capito ahead by 23 points.
Kentucky: The Senate’s top Republican, Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, is in a pitched battle with Democratic Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes. Recent polls have shown the race as either too close to call or with McConnell slightly in the lead.
Georgia: This race, to pick a successor to retiring Republican U.S. Senator Saxby Chambliss, is a contest between two political newcomers, Republican David Perdue and Democrat Michelle Nunn. Despite Georgia’ GOP tilt, Nunn has run a strong race, and the latest polling shows the contest within the margin of error. An interesting twist in Georgia is that if neither Perdue nor Nunn wins a majority, they would meet in a runoff December 10 — a possibility if the race is close and votes are syphoned off by third-party candidates.
Perdue defeats U.S. Rep. Jack Kingston and faces Democrat Michelle Nunn in November
♦By Rich Shumate, Chickenfriedpolitics.com editor
ATLANTA (CFP) — First-time candidate David Perdue has taken a major step toward securing a seat in the U.S. Senate by narrowly winning the Republican runoff for Georgia’s open seat.
Perdue, a businessman from St. Simons Island, defeated U.S. Rep. Jack Kingston, 59, an 11-term congressman from from Savannah, with 51 percent of the vote to 49 percent for Kingston.
Perdue led after the first round of primary voting on May 20. Although Kingston secured endorsements from the third and fourth place finishers in the crowded primary, Perdue carried the vote-rich Atlanta suburbs in the runoff to claim victory.
Perdue will now face Democrat Michelle Nunn, the daughter of former Georgia U.S. Senator Sam Nunn. Despite the Peach State’s Republican tilt, recent polling has shown a potentially competitive race this fall.
Perdue made clear in his victory speech that he plans to tie Nunn, who is running for office for the first time, to President Barack Obama and Democratic leaders in Washington.
“We’ve got a mission in front of us. Our opponent should not be taken lightly,” he said. “This fall, we’re going to have a clear choice. And that is a choice we’re going to have to win for our kids and grandkids. We’ve had enough of this the last six years.”
Nunn, 47, was the CEO of the Points of Light Foundation, affiliated with former Presdent George H.W. Bush.
During the heated runoff campaign, Kingston ran ads attacking Perdue’s conservative bona fides on issues including the Common Core education standards and immigration.
Perdue criticized the veteran congressman for being part of the high-spending Washington establishment.
The seat opened up when U.S. Senator Saxby Chambliss decided to retire.