Obama Tries To Take Georgia

“I’m surprised at how finely calibrated every single word was measured. I wasn’t saying anything I hadn’t said before, that I didn’t say a year ago or when I was a United States senator.”  Barack Obama, still a senator, commenting on his change in views on Iraq

Atlanta is amazing city.  It was never badly scarred during the civil rights movement until Dr. King was assassinated. There has always been a full spectrum of minorities there, too.  And since the Civil Rights movement, it’s been a city where well-heeled people of color come to live, work, play and be successful. Some of the wealthiest black people in America choose Atlanta for their home. So it is not unexpected that the predominantly Democratic black community has rallied around Barack Obama for president.  It’s not just a “black thing,” and Obama is making progress in Georgia. But is it enough for him to take the state in November?

Gene Duffy was the first person from Georgia to give to Barack Obama’s senate campaign and has been a strong supporter ever since. On Monday night when the candidate appeared at the $2300 a plate fundraiser in Atlanta, Gene Duffy was the guy who entered the room with him.  There were two other fundraisers with the final one at the home of Michael Coles for a 5-digit contribution to the Obama Victory Campaign.  

When you talk to Mr. Duffy about the qualities that drew him to Barack Obama, words like judgment and temperament come up.  He sees Senator Obama as a guy who will give to reach an agreement.  He also believes that it’s the experienced politicians of the Bush Era that served under Ford, Reagan and the elder Bush got us into an economy that is in “as much trouble as when Roosevelt was sworn in.”  While his history is wrong, as well as his politics, the commitment cannot be doubted.

They are hoping.  To modify Obama’s phrase (which he got from Rev. Jeremiah Wright) people such as Duffy are engaged in “The Audacity of Hoping” in a state that was the only one to enlarge their Republican majority in 2006.  They hope Obama will win and bring some other state Democrats with him. Right now the polls are within the margin of error with Libertarian Bob Barr factored in.  

Some Democrats think former Senator Sam Nunn as a running mate for Obama would seal the deal in Georgia and would begin to collapse the dominoes in the solidly Red south.  There are a couple of problems with this theory.  First, because he’s been out of politics for so long, many people don’t know Sam Nunn. Second, he was the architect of the Department of Defense “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy on homosexuals in the military and the homosexual community will not give him a pass on that.  

Republicans did not site idly by, but it was hard to get the spotlight away from the Obama campaign last Monday.  Around the state there were press conferences with state Republican leaders on the roll out of John McCain’s economic plan and a conference call with Georgia’s two senators and appearances on radio but the story of the day was Obama’s emergency landing and his arrival in Atlanta.

After the fundraisers on Monday night, Obama held a family-friendly event at a Cobb County high school.  Cobb County is one of the largest counties in Georgia with some of the largest Republican turnouts in the South.  The demographics have changed in the south end of the county and the appearance in Cobb County was a “thumbing of the nose” at the Republican stronghold.

If Obama carries Georgia, there will be much to pay back here.  In a state with a decimated Democrat bench, a popular Democrat President could breathe some life into a confused race for governor in 2010.  Thanks to the endless presidential campaign, the 2010 governor’s race has kicked off with a couple of Republicans already in the race.  Right now, there are no good names being tossed around on the Democratic side and a strong turnout for Senator Obama may shine some light on a Democrat or two down ballot.

Late last week, Georgia Democrats were crowing over the new voter registration numbers and they were good.  Just under 200,000 new voters have registered in Georgia since the first of the year.  Even in a medium sized county like the one where I reside, paid campaign staff for Obama were dispatched to help register voters. In the same amount of time in 2004 leading up to the presidential election 170,000 new voters were registered. If you factor in growth in the state, the numbers are even.  What’s even more surprising is the demographics are the same as the current voter pool with the exception of an up tick in white women registering to vote.

So the question is will Georgia be in play?  Long time Democrat financier, Gene Duffy, thinks it is. He still believes in the Barack Obama before he was bloodied up by a Democrat opponent who wouldn’t give up.  He still believes that Barack will govern in a different way than a traditional politician.  I don’t know if Mr. Duffy is just too close to the light or if he’s dead on but from my perspective in the cheap seats on the upper deck, it’s a long way to the White House from here.