What Does the Chambliss Victory Really Mean? Posted by: MichaelW
on Wednesday, December 03, 2008
After narrowly missing an outright electoral victory on Nov. 4th (garnering only 49.8%), Chambliss managed to win a runoff by a wide margin on Tuesday. Predictably, pundits around the web are now trying to decipher just what that win means.
Last time I checked, 41% was a failing grade. Not so in the Senate it would appear. No, now that Chambliss has won, apparently having just 41 votes in the Senate is REALLY great news for Republicans and bad news for Democrats, especially President-elect Barack Obama.
On AC360 earlier David Gergen declared:
I think this actually puts a lot more pressure on Barack Obama to govern much more from the center and not from the left. He is going to need Republicans now, he is going to need a bipartisan approach...
Right, a 41 vote minority should by all means have Barack Obama shaking in his boots.
I didn't hear Gergen's interview, but he's right that Obama won't be able to get every piece of legislation he wants passed since the Republicans have (barely) maintained a cloture-proof (i.e. filibuster-protecting) margin of votes in the Senate. Of course, that doesn't mean that the Republicans will be able to close ranks on every vote, as it's almost assured that Senators such as Susan Collins of Maine will cross over on some bills. But Chambliss' victory does force Obama (really the Democrats) to govern more from the center than otherwise.
What yesterday's election definitely taught us is something we already knew — that Democrats generally perform better the higher the turnout. Too many of our core constituencies are low performing ones — racial and ethnic minorities and young voters. Obama got them out, and made Georgia close. Martin did not, and he got blown away in what is still a Red state.
Throw in the fact that Democrats acted like the mission had been accomplished (Obama couldn't be bothered to lend too much of a hand), and there was little reason for his supporters to put in a similar effort. It may have been smart politics for Obama, since it's hard to see how he could've helped close that much of a gap anyhow, but the example is set at the top. If Obama acts like a race isn't worth his time, then neither will his supporters.
The fact that Obama didn't lend much of hand to Martin is curious. Conservatives will tend to think it was because he didn't want to go mano-y-mano with Sarah Palin, especially when his candidate was coming from behind. I'm not so sure as it seems much more plausible that he was simply too busy running his transition team to be bothered with politicking for a marginal pick-up that wouldn't appear to change anything in the Senate. Winning the seat was always a longshot, and throwing your hat into the losing ring after two years of steady campaigning couldn't have looked too appetizing. And that's not to mention the fact that he just beat her in the Presidential Election pretty soundly, with many analysts claiming that Palin actually drove swing voters to Obama. Chances are then that he wasn't terribly worried about going up against her in Georgia.
On the other side of the spectrum, Erick Erickson sees the Chambliss win as another feather in the cap of Palin Power:
Both Sarah Palin and Barack Obama campaigned in Georgia. Palin flew all over the state rallying Republicans. Obama flew under the radar heavily targeting black voters, demanding support for Martin, and running heavy radio advertising on urban stations.
Ladies and Gentlemen, black voters turned out for Obama, but not for Obama's candidates. Remember that for 2010.
But folks, remember this too: Sarah Palin asked Republicans to turn out and they did. Of all the Republicans who campaigned for Chambliss, she was the only one that went all over the state for him. And it paid off.
Other than retaining the power to filibuster, Palin's influence on the outcome may be the most important aspect of the runoff. Judging from the numbers a week ago, Palin's presence appears to have turned a narrow four-point margin into a 16-point blowout. Some conservatives, and most Democrats, are discounting her impact on the race, although Chambliss himself says she's owed a lot of thanks. Having seen the passion she inspires in the GOP base, I tend to think that Palin is more important to the party's future electoral success than she's given credit for (a stance that apparently makes me "smitten" with her according to the NYT).
Meanwhile, Capt. Ed tends to think that the lack of Obama's presence in Georgia was a bigger factor in the blowout.
Momentum? That’s an overstatement, but it does call into question the Democrats’ standing after the Obama phenomenon. At least in Georgia, Obama had a lot more coattails than anyone credited. I originally predicted that Chambliss would win by six or seven points without Barack Obama driving the turnout model, but his absence created a difference of 13 points between the two elections. If that same dynamic holds true across the country in 2010, Obama may have an extremely disappointing midterm election and could find himself with at least one chamber of Congress under opposition control for the second half of his term.
Aaron Blake writing for The Hill echoes Capt. Ed's analysis, although he also notes that the Palin effect may have been significant:
Chambliss’s margin of victory looks to exceed almost all runoff polling on the race, suggesting that the turnout models used in the polling overshot Democratic turnout without President-elect Obama on the ballot.
Martin appeared to suffer mightily from a lack of African-American turnout, which dropped from 30 percent of early votes four weeks ago to around 20 percent in the runoff.
The result could also speak to Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin’s (R) continuing appeal to her party’s base, which is the focus of runoff turnout operations. Palin made several stops for Chambliss on Monday, just a month after she concluded a disappointing Election Day as McCain’s running mate.
So was it an Obama fade or Palin Power that gave Chambliss such a boost? Most likely a combination of both. Preventing a filibuster-proof majority in Congress may have played some role as well according to Rasmussen:
Interestingly, nine percent (9%) of those who plan to vote for Martin say the prospect of a 60-Democrat Senate makes them less likely to vote for him. Only 2% of Chambliss voters who say it makes them more likely to vote for Martin.
Regardless of which factor had the most influence on the outcome, the Chambliss win pretty clearly shows that both Obama and Palin are important to winning elections for their respective parties. However, while Obama's impact is more obvious and accepted, Palin's is often derided or downright ignored, something I find inexplicable in the case of the GOP which is rather devoid of star power right now. Like or not, she's the only small-government conservative with any national presence, and possesses a political attitude for which the party base has been starved.
Getting away from the horse race aspects of Chambliss' victory, Chris Bowers offers some intelligent analysis about what it means in the big picture. Referring to Nate Silver's look at the numbers, Bowers highlights some concerns for Democrats:
Nate brings up a more disturbing possibility: Democrats are already in the hot seat in the mind of the electorate, and will lose seats in both 2010 and 2012 unless they make real progress turning the country around. In other words, if Democrats can't fix the nation's problems, the country will actually turn back toward Republicans, and there will be no two to four year grace period as I have previously surmised. The reason Nate's thesis is so disturbing is that a new Democracy Corps poll shows he is probably correct.
Prior to Nov. 4th, we made much the prediction that whomever won would be facing a daunting task over the next four years. Voters' memories are notoriously short. If the economy hasn't changed much, or gotten worse, in the next couple of years, then 2010 and 2012 will be an interesting year for Democrats. The Democracy Corps poll cited by Bowers suggests as much:
Q.32 Now I'm going to read you some pairs of statements. After I read each pair, please tell me whether the FIRST statement or the SECOND statement comes closer to your own view, even if neither is exactly right.
32 (SPLIT A) I'm more concerned that Congress will prevent Barack Obama from making the kinds of changes he thinks are needed, by playing politics and catering too much to the special interests OR I'm more concerned that the Democratic Congress will be too much of a rubber stamp for Barack Obama, and will push through Obama's programs whether they are good or bad
Agree first statement: 42% Agree second statement: 49%
33 (SPLIT B) I'm more concerned that Republicans in Congress will obstruct Barack Obama's agenda and prevent him from making the kinds of changes he thinks are needed. OR I'm more concerned that Democrats in Congress will be too much of a rubber stamp for Barack Obama, and will push through Obama's programs whether they are good or bad.
Agree first statement: 43% Agree second statement: 48%
Bower's take on the above:
So, last night's results and the Democracy Corps poll showed that the country isn't going to dump on Republicans forever. There is no grace period when the country will still vote for Democrats just because they hate Republicans. Democratic hopes in 2010 and 2012 rest entirely on our governing record during the next two to four years.
Of course, Republican filibusters are going to played up as obstructionism to the "change we need", which talking point will be exploited with abandon if the economy is still in the tank in 2010.
In two years time, simply being a Democrat will no longer good enough to be elected. We have been hired in huge numbers to solve problems without Republican interference. If we can't do that, then the country will sour on us, too. As such, the way back for Republicans is straightforward: hope that Democratic governance does not turn the country around.
Ouch. If Republicans do take such a tack — i.e. openly rooting for the failure of Democratic policies, and wishing economic ill upon the electorate — then I expect Democrats will effectively drive the "obstructionist" wedge home, much like Republicans did to Democrats in relation to the War in Iraq.
My reading of the tea leaves says that the Chambliss election is little more than an exclamation point on the influence of Obama and Palin on their respective voter bases, and that the economy drives the next elections. If people aren't generally better off in two (or four) years, then the Democrats will be severely challenged in the mid-term elections, and possibly the next Presidential Election. Since it's exceedingly unlikely that the Democrats won't get at least some of their policies implemented, despite the filibuster threat, they won't have Republicans to blame anymore. Judging by some of the polls, people are wary of one-party rule in Washington, so they may be looking for any excuse to toss one house or the other to the Republicans if the Democrats can't deliver. Unless spending trillions of dollars more than the government has actually works, then come November two years from now the voters may do just that.
I’m not so sure as it seems much more plausible that he was simply too busy running his transition team to be bothered with politicking for a marginal pick-up that wouldn’t appear to change anything in the Senate.
But...a president has to be able to do more than one thing at a time.
Obama came off an "historic" victory four short weeks ago, with a 7 seat pickup in the Senate, and yet, when he could get that 59th seat, what did he do? He stayed in Chicago and exercised. He couldn’t go down to Georgia for one day to campaign for Martin? One rotten day?
What this election tells me is that the Dems with Obama are at 53% right now, when the economy and Bush was dragging down the Republicans. In 2009 and 2010, when Obama is not on the ballot, what will the Democrats be at? Will it be like Martin’s 41%?
It appears that with Obama, the Democrats can win. Without him on the ballot, blacks and Hispanics stay away. Union money dries up. And independents drift back to the GOP, at least in Georgia.
Translation: if Obama does not part the seas and make things real good by this time in October of next year, Democrats will lose races across the country. And if 2010 comes with things as bad or worse, count on Nancy Pelosi handing over that gavel to the Republicans in the House in January 2011.
Someone: please keep this for me, so we can look back and see if I am right.
This is a massive post, so I can’t even contemplate addessing all of it, and really there is not a lot I disagree with, except for this...
The fact that Obama didn’t lend much of hand to Martin is curious.
This is important, and a lot of people didn’t notice it.
Obama specifically, tactically, and strategically, avoided running against "Republicans". Obama ran against George W. Bush, he ran against John McCain, but he made a point of not running against Republicans.
Whether it can be done or not remains to be seen, but Obama intends to work with a bipartisan majority. He doesn’t believe that even if he had the votes, that it’s good policy to ram his policies down the throats of a helpless majority.
He did not campaign for Martin because there was no way to make the case for Martin without running directly against Republicans, as well as adding to the case that Democrats must have unopposed power in order to make good policy. That is the antithesis of the case he has been making on the trail. He doesn’t care if he has a filibuster proof majority, because he never intended to pass important legislation on strict party line votes.
Seriously, Obama intends to have Republican support for his policies, and his efforts to avoid direct partisan rancor, are in support of this goal.
We’ll see how effective he is, but expect Obama to woo wooable Republicans much harder than he really needs to in order to win passage of any bills.
Biden will be the good cop going after Republicans in the Senate on some key issues, and remember, they already have McCain.
should have been "down the throats of a helpless minority."
There is no Tom Delay to threaten Republicans with their next elections, and Obama will personally pick off the Republicans he needs to pass his agenda. Not just a few, but a significant number, I’d guess 15 or more.
Right wing redneck wins right wing redneck state election.
And dog bites man.
That’s what it means.
Those of us who do not live in the South and who have spent time in Georgia know the state for what it is: A haven for right-wing redneckism. Plain and simple. The South sucks. Period.
Let’s face it, a major factor holding this country back is the poverty, ignorance and obesity of the South, especially the deep South. Not to mention that these states get more in federal money than they contribute. These are the welfare states. They suck on the government teat. (Obviously, Palin, whose state is the most socialist and the biggest teat-sucker, is especially popular there.)
These are the poorest states. The least educated states. Highest divorce and out-of-wedlock birth states.
That Georgia elected Chambliss means that the Sun rises in the East.
And here is an important excerpt from the article:
Many Southern states were clustered near the bottom of the rankings. The region has some of the highest rates of obesity, which contributes to heart disease, stroke, diabetes and some types of cancer, as well as high rates of smoking, which causes cancer, lung disease, heart disease and other problems.
The best part about Southerners is how they like to lecture the rest of the country. Especially when it comes to values and choices.
Chambliss won because he appealed to the people identified in the excerpt.
The time has come to be honest about the South, and how it is a drag on the national economy. We cannot afford not to be.
The South needs an intervention. Chmabliss is the best evidence for the need for an intervention.
Thank you for pointing out that the South, which has its share of problems, groaned under the thumb of democrats (spit) for well over a century. With Republicans now in control of many Southern state houses and governor’s mansions, the South is starting to recover from democrat (spit) rule. However, if we look at the north, where democrats (spit) still control most state governments, what do we see? Rust. Crime. Blight. Corruption. Decay.
But I have to say that, buried in the hateful remarks made about God’s Country, there was an element of truth: Georgia is a red state and voted for a Republican. The country is still pretty much 1/3 conservative, 1/3 undecided, and 1/3 grasshopper*; the ascension of The Annointed One didn’t fundamentally change that. Now, if he and the filthy dems (spit) who presently control the Congress do a good job over the next couple of years and prove that they care about the security and prosperity of the country, that could create a long-term shift in their favor. If, however, they do what I confidently expect, they will create a more-or-less short term shift in the opposite direction. If they REALLY screw up (and I don’t think that there’s a limit to how destructive to the country SanFran Nan can be), they will create the short of long-term shift to the right that the disastrous Jimmuh Cahtuh caused.
Oddly enough, I hope that TAO, the thugs he’s appointing, and the scum on Capitol Hill do a good job. In fact, I hope that they do so well that people seriously talk about repealing the 22nd Amendment so TAO can be president for life.
If the dems do a good job, that means the country will be safe and prosperous. That’s all I want. I simply have no faith that democrats (spit) can do the job; indeed, I don’t think that peace and prosperity are at all desirable to them because people who are safe and prosperous don’t feel so inclined to hand their checks over to a benevolent ruling class "for their own good". Remember: if it’s bad for America, it’s good for democrats (spit).
(*) Grasshopper - From the fable of the ant and the grasshopper. Grasshoppers are those who think that the world owes people a living and will steal from those who work for what they have in the name of "fairness".
If Republicans do take such a tack — i.e. openly rooting for the failure of Democratic policies, and wishing economic ill upon the electorate — then I expect Democrats will effectively drive the "obstructionist" wedge home,
I would like to see the Republicans try and use their opposition to laws Democrats try and pass as a teaching experience for the country. Just don’t stand back and hurl stones, but get in there and debate! Inspire the country with REASONS why a proposed law is bad. Show people they do not need the federal government in every facet of their lives. Go on the record, so when the consequences of stupid laws manifests itself the Repubs can highlight it. Stand for something for once and defend it! Educate, educate, educate. It will be a long process, but it is possible.
dude08 - I was born and raised in NY. Moved to "the South" 20 years ago. Had the same perception you do now back then. I was dead wrong. Southerners are just about the nicest people in the entire USA and I am proud to live here.
Hey Dude08, guess what jerk, the feeling is mutual,
why don’t you just let us secede this time? BTW while you bemoan the number of rednecks in places like Georgia did you ever think that the high obesity, illiteracy, and welfare rates are because of the extremely high level of Blacks living in Georgia? In other words, the democrats are holding the state back.
You have me sold. I’m seriously contemplating takin’ my fat, stupid family and my guns and what little cash I have and leaving these supremely smart folks in NE Ohio (check out OUR screaming good economy) to buy a li’l patch of heaven in Georgia to grow yams and beats me Bible!
Other than providing a theoretical protection by stopping Democrats from achieving a 60-vote fillubuster-proof majority, the election of Chambliss means nothing other than that he will be a senator from Georgia. Chambliss won because he resembles a sensible and likable person with and his opponent does not. That apparently still matters to Georgians.
There are plenty of Republicans — two from Maine, for example — who are ready, willing, and able to roll over for the Democratic majority on any number of issues.
The only thing that Republicans have going for them right now is that the public relations disaster Harry Reid is the majority leader.
And Obama will have to expend political capital to dig that rotten m**********r out of the hole when push comes to shove.
Thank God the endless advertisements are finally off my TV. Since at least the end of August, it’s been "Martin voted for the largest tax increase on Georgia" and "Saxby doesn’t even know what a recession is and will destroy the middle class."
Since bigotry against blacks is now socially reprehensible those that feel the hate have moved on to other targets. I’ve been a yankee all my life-Wisconsin, Alaska, Washington state-and 20 years in the military. Dude08, you’re the face of modern bigotry. Shooting the same gun-it’s just a different target. And for you Johnny Rebs out there, "I like y’all."