Senator Saxby Chambliss: The Senate in the Balance

Forget the history.  Forget that Georgia hasn’t re-elected a U. S. Senator since Sam Nunn.  Forget that in a runoff, the guy that led in the general election rarely wins the runoff.  Forget that every 527 and almost every big name from both parties is stumping for their candidate.  Forget all of that and understand that this is a ground game.  The December 2 runoff between Sen. Saxby Chambliss and Jim Martin is about getting the vote out.

Early voting was in integral part of the GOTV process of the Obama Campaign in Georgia and the turnout of African Americans in the runoff early voting is lagging substantially behind the general election turnout. Since Georgia is under the direction of the Justice Department pursuant to court proceedings and the Voting Rights Act, racial data is collected for all voting.  The early numbers are encouraging for the Chambliss campaign, but from a campaign that didn’t expect to be in a runoff they are not taking anything for granted.

The two biggest names, President-Elect Obama and Gov. Sarah Palin, have not come to Georgia, yet.  Currently, Obama is voicing a radio ad for Jim Martin but it is not expected to campaign for Martin in person unless Martin has a chance to win.  Obama does not want his first political foray as President-elect to be a loss. In 1992, President-Elect Bill Clinton came down to aid in a runoff between Senator Wyche Fowler and Paul Coverdell.  Clinton did not carry Georgia in the general election and he was no help in the runoff.  Obama does not want to repeat Clinton’s mistake.

Governor Sarah Palin will be campaigning with Chambliss on Monday, December 1 and Giuliani is in Georgia Tuesday and the headline was “Jim Martin has the GLBT Support and Saxby has the Cross Dressing Mayor.” At least we haven’t lost our sense of humor.

Karl Rove joined me on “The Martha Zoller Show” on Monday and we talked about the runoff between Chambliss and Martin in Georgia. Rove put it simply when he said, “Well, I think the choice is whether you have somebody representing conservative Georgia values or do you have a guy far out of the left wing of the Democrat party who will be a reliable vote for Harry Reid and the Democrats in the Senate and remove the last obstacle to their desire to pass every piece of legislation in the world — namely the ability of a Republican minority to filibuster really bad bills.”

He compared this balance of power to the 1960s, when Republicans were in worse shape in actual numbers but noted there was a strong faction of conservative Democrats that had to be dealt with to get things passed.  Rove points out that since the 1960s the parties have sorted each other out with the conservatives going into the Republican Party and the liberals going into the Democrat Party.

As a result, within the current 58 Democrat Senators, “there are not a lot of moderate votes.” Rove says, “There are a handful (of moderates) but they have to make very tough decisions on things like Card Check or raising taxes or reinstating the ban on offshore drilling. They have to make a decision as to whether they are going to stand for principle or go along with their caucus.”

Rove points out that Chambliss — in this environment — would logically be re-elected. Just last week we saw that the Democrats can be tough on guys that have been around a long time, like Joe Lieberman. If a guy who was their VP candidate in 2000 and has caucused with them and is a long standing member gets threatened with losing his chairmanship, then imagine what the Democrats will do with a hypothetical junior senator from Georgia — Jim Martin — without standing.

Saxby Chambliss’ re-election is just as important even with a Coleman win in Minnesota.  Rove believes that Norm Coleman will win the recount, but points out that even with 41 Republican US Senators, Democrats only have to peal off one or two to break the filibuster.  With the northeastern liberal Republicans like Specter or Snow around, then it’s still a fight every day in the Senate. But it’s the only chance Republicans have to stand between principle and the precipice of liberalism.

So as we go into Thanksgiving and the shopping day called “Black Friday,” we have another day looming.  December 2 is “Black Tuesday” in Georgia.  Will Saxby Chambliss keep his seat or will Jim Martin upset the balance in the Senate? I’m betting on Chambliss, but it’s an even-money bet.