Saxby Chambliss beat the odds yesterday, winning re-election by the huge margin of almost 15 points. Chambliss had 57.5 percent of the vote while his runoff challenger Jim Martin had only 42.5 percent.
Chambliss’s margin expanded by twelve points since the November 4 election, when he was forced into a runoff by not exceeding 50 percent. At that time, he’d exceeded Martin’s vote by only three points. Georgians haven’t reelected a U. S. Senator since Sam Nunn. It seems he stemmed the tide of the runoff nobody votes in — almost 40 percent of the electorate turned out — and he put a doorstop, at least, in Obamamania.
Barack Obama kept all of his campaign offices open and staffed through the runoff for Democrat Jim Martin, but Martin couldn’t close the deal. He never really had a chance once the Libertarian candidate, Allen Buckley was out of the picture. And — pretending he had some power over the outcome — Buckley withheld his endorsement from both candidates.
Every political eye was on Georgia because Chambliss was vulnerable and, had he lost, Democrats would still have had a shot at the 60-member filibuster-proof Senate they wanted. With the recount droning on in Minnesota, the pace and excitement of the Chambliss/Martin race in Georgia seemed to attract too many political stars and too much media.
The final day of campaigning was interesting. On the right, you had Gov. Sarah Palin bringing thousands of traditional Republicans as well as working class and young conservatives to the table. While Palin eclipsed Chambliss in popularity, these throngs were willing to say, “If he’s good enough for you, Governor Palin, then he’s good enough for us.”
On the left, Jim Martin was flanked by rappers such as Ludacris. Black voters apparently found the pandering offensive and showed it with tepid support and turning out in a much smaller percentage of the vote than in the general election.
The win of Chambliss over Martin and the probable win of Norm Coleman over “unfunnyman” Al Franken will put the balance in the Senate at 42 Republicans.
It appears that the first test of this minority in the Senate will be the so-called Employee Free Choice Act, or “Card Check,” which would take the right to a secret ballot in unionizing elections away from workers. According to Chambliss, there are already “a couple of Republican Senators siding with the Democrats on this one,” so the 42 quickly becomes 40 to block this measure with a filibuster. Chambliss and Coleman becomes the cushion that conservatives need to keep the train from running down the tracks unfettered. Many of the same people who advocate for Card Check voted last week by secret ballot for leadership positions in the House and Senate. This is another case of Democrats wanting to impose on the American people a level of freedom that is less than what they have.
If you are in the majority, you don’t like filibusters, but as we rebuild the conservative movement, the filibuster is the strongest tool we have in our arsenal in the Congress. And Republicans will need it to stop the flood of liberal legislation that Reid, Pelosi and Obama will try to jam through next year.
Chambliss’ win is an important one, with a lesson to be learned. He had angered enough of his base (most recently by voting for the bank bailout bill) and so they tried to teach him a lesson. But he rose to the occasion in the runoff. He worked hard for every vote, even if the robo-calls were driving every red-clayed Georgian crazy. (If I have to come home to a recording of Mitt Romney telling me to get out and vote on my answering machine, I am going to shoot something.)
Let’s hope that Chambliss and — later in the week — Norm Coleman get back to Washington and preserve the pieces of a conservative agenda. And then, as Sen. Chambliss said last night, “let’s get working on 2010.”