Sabatos Crystal Ball

Georgia Races

Senate Outlook for 2008

Can Democrats Take Advantage of the Turf?

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Georgia

Outlook: Leans Republican


October 20, 2008 Update:

It’s hard for us here at the Crystal Ball to believe that such a Republican purging is possible so as to extend all the way to the dethroning of incumbent Sen. Saxby Chambliss. The “November blowout” we last reported for Chambliss is merely a distant memory now, as Democratic nominee Jim Martin, despite being underfunded, has pulled to within the statistical margin of error in some polls. Martin’s blowout victory in the August 5th Primary over Vernon Jones gave him some momentum that the Democrats have been able to build upon. Georgia Democrats do not forget Chambliss’ infamous ads run against Max Cleland six years ago, basically tearing apart the Vietnam veteran’s national security reputation, and they are attempting to get even. The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, raising just oodles of money and channeling it to places never thought to be competitive, has been running sharp ads criticizing the “Saxby Economics” of a National Sales Tax and his ties to Big Oil, while Chambliss has not matched the campaign vigor of the Democrats or of his own campaign in 2002. The economic crisis which has altered the electoral landscape throughout has helped make this race closer than anybody thought.

Let’s be clear on this one: a defeat for Chambliss would be a major upset and most likely be indicative of a massive and widespread rejection of Republican candidates across the country. We see Chambliss holding on to win in one of the reddest of red states. But with Barack Obama’s registration efforts swelling the Democratic ranks and making the state competitive further up the ballot, even our switch into the “Leans Republican” column is a timid statement at best. A Martin win would now simply look surprising, as opposed to the shock it would have been a few months ago.

July 16, 2008 Update:

In the words of legendary Chicago Cub Ernie Banks, “Let’s play two.” After no candidate garnered a 50 percent majority yesterday, Georgia Democrats are headed to a runoff rematch between Vernon Jones and Jim Martin on August 5th. Depending on your take, the primary results can either be seen as good news, bad news, or no news for Democratic chances of unseating Saxby Chambliss.

The good news: the frontrunner Jones didn’t win outright, and supporters of the eliminated candidates are likely to gravitate toward the establishment-favored Martin, the more electable candidate. The bad news: Democrats must go another month without a nominee, meaning Chambliss can relax while Jones and Martin continue their internecine fight. The non news? In the end it likely won’t matter who is the nominee as Chambliss is gearing up for a November blowout. All the vitals—money, polling, and demographics—are in the incumbent’s favor, and the only thing going for Democrats, Barack Obama’s ability to compete statewide, is highly speculative at best.

June 9, 2008 Update:

In the Democratic primary, set for July 15, the lead belongs to former state representative and 2006 Lieutenant Governor candidate Jim Martin. According to a poll released by his campaign on June 4, Martin leads his nearest rival, Vernon Jones, by a margin of 21% to 16% and all other competitors trail in single digits. Still, no matter who emerges from this primary, don’t expect the Democrat to unseat Republican Sen. Saxby Chambliss in November.

May 28, 2008 Update:

In a state as politically red as the clay underfoot, Republican incumbents usually have a pretty easy go of it. 2008 doesn’t look to be any different for Senator Saxby Chambliss. The Democrats have yet to choose their candidate, but polling seems to indicate it won’t particularly matter who they choose. Numbers from earlier this month show Chambliss holding sturdy double-digit leads over all three major Democratic contenders, from 51-37 in a race against reporter Dale Cardwell, to as high as 58-30 against DeKalb County CEO Vernon Jones. Chambliss has also lapped the Democrats in fundraising and campaign expenditures, spending over $5 million so far this cycle while the Democratic candidates have raised just over $1 million combined. This is definitely one seat where the Republicans will fend off any chance of a Democratic pick-up.

March 3, 2008 Update:

Here’s the skinny on Georgia: Republican incumbent Saxby Chambliss is going to win, and he’s going to win big. Chambliss has a strong right flank, with heavy support from Georgia’s large evangelical Christian populace. His incumbency and conservative appeal combine to make this an uphill battle for even the strongest Democratic candidates. Unfortunately for the Democrats, they don’t have the strongest candidates. Both Vernon Jones and Dale Caldwell trail Chambliss by gargantuan margins (Jones by 25 points, Caldwell by a slightly more respectable 16). Don’t look for those gaps to close much between now and November.


Background

Peach State Republican Saxby Chambliss is yet another Southern GOP incumbent looking forward to a fairly smooth reelection campaign. His approval rating has hovered at or above 50% in recent polls, and is running in a state that went 58% for Bush in 2004.

Chambliss was first elected to the Senate in 2002, defeating Democratic incumbent and triple-amputee Vietnam Vet Max Cleland by a 7-point margin. Chambliss’ campaign drew sharp criticism, including from fellow GOPers John McCain and Chuck Hagel, for airing ads that questioned Cleland’s patriotism and paired images of him with ones of Osama bin Laden and Saddam Hussein. In his first term, Chambliss’ voting record has gotten high marks from the Christian Coalition and the NRA.

The Democratic opposition to Chambliss will struggle in 2008, as both challengers are more than 20 points behind the incumbent: former investigative reporter Dale Cardwell trails by 28 points, and DeKalb County CEO Vernon Jones trails by 24. Facing an incumbent with the conservative credentials of Chambliss, the Dems will be lucky to even keep this one close.

Candidates

Dale Cardwell – Democrat – former investigative reporter
Website

Vernon Jones – Democrat – DeKalb County CEO
Website

Saxby Chambliss (I) – Republican – current Senator
Website

Jim Martin – Democrat – former state representative and attorney
Website