Michelle Nunn’s campaign has a lot going for it. She raises a lot of money, shares a last name with her ex-senator father, and benefits from an ugly and especially long primary fight among Republicans. But, ultimately, whether she can win Georgia’s open-seat Senate race will depend on whether a Democrat—during a midterm election where the party is expected to suffer across-the-board losses—can break through in a Southern state where Republicans have enjoyed almost uninterrupted success for more than a decade.
The GOP expects a competitive race, a stumble from their nominee could easily change the contest’s trajectory, and—for now—some polls show Nunn holding an early lead. But the dual headwinds of the Republican-lean and an unfavorable midterm political climate explains why for all the optimism about Nunn’s ability as a candidate, she enters the general-election race to replace the retiring Sen. Saxby Chambliss as a firm underdog.
Nunn learned Tuesday that she’ll face David Perdue, the wealthy former CEO of Reebok, after he won the GOP’s two-month-long runoff race over Rep. Jack Kingston.
If she goes on to lose in November, most will trace her defeat to the first phase of the GOP primary, held in late May. The campaigns for both Reps. Paul Broun and Phil Gingrey ended that day, and both were considered by far Nunn’s best possible matchup because of each’s penchant for controversy. While Perdue is far from perfect, he won’t easily be tagged as an extremist.
Most GOP strategists regarded Perdue and Kingston as roughly equal in strength as general-election candidates, and it was evident during the runoff that they weren’t concerned about the upcoming election. Despite spending millions across the Senate map, no marquee GOP outside group like American Crossroads or the U.S. Chamber of Commerce launched a major television-ad campaign against Nunn. (One group, Ending Spending Action Fund, started running ads against her Sunday.)
Nunn’s strengths as a candidate are many. Only two other Democratic Senate contenders, Kay Hagan in North Carolina and Alison Lundergan Grimes in Kentucky, raised more than the $3.45 million Nunn collected in the second fundraising quarter. Her father, Sam Nunn, served in the Senate for 24 years as a moderate Democrat—a reputation she is eagerly embracing for herself as a former leader of the charity organization Points of Light. And while maybe not a natural on the campaign trail, she’s had nearly a year of practice honing her skills.
In effect, the drawn-out squabble among Republican candidates for their party’s nomination built a long runway for Nunn’s campaign to take off, allowing her to raise money and sharpen her rhetoric while mostly avoiding attacks and the spotlight.
“As the Republicans have wasted time and resources battling it out, Michelle Nunn has built significant financial and organizational advantages that put her in the driver’s seat heading into the general,” said Justin Barasky, press secretary for the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, in a memo published before Tuesday’s runoff.
And in the context of the broader battle for the Senate, a victory in Georgia would simply count as an unexpected bonus for Democrats. Win there, and Republicans would suddenly have to win seven seats to capture the majority, a potentially crucial difference when most analysts consider a GOP takeover something close to an even bet for now. Georgia is one of two states Democrats have targeted this year as possible pickup opportunities. (Mitch McConnell’s Kentucky seat is the other.)
But a Georgia Democrat hasn’t won a Senate or gubernatorial race since former Sen. Zell Miller in 2000. And while President Obama’s campaign once contemplated competing for the state in 2012 on the back of its changing demographics, he lost there in both of his presidential efforts. While the state has a sizable proportion of minority voters, it’s white electorate leans heavily toward the GOP.
And now the president himself figures to be a major drag on Nunn’s campaign. A poll commissioned by Democracy Corps/Women’s Voices Women Vote Action Fund—conducted by a Democratic polling firm—found Obama’s approval rating in 12 Senate battlegrounds (including Georgia) standing at just 37 percent.
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Foreign Policy takes a look at the future of mining the estimated "100,000 near-Earth objects—including asteroids and comets—in the neighborhood of our planet. Some of these NEOs, as they’re called, are small. Others are substantial and potentially packed full of water and various important minerals, such as nickel, cobalt, and iron. One day, advocates believe, those objects will be tapped by variations on the equipment used in the coal mines of Kentucky or in the diamond mines of Africa. And for immense gain: According to industry experts, the contents of a single asteroid could be worth trillions of dollars." But the technology to get us there is only the first step. Experts say "a multinational body might emerge" to manage rights to NEOs, as well as a body of law, including an international court.
Not to be outdone by Jeffrey Goldberg's recent piece in The Atlantic about President Obama's foreign policy, the New York Times Magazine checks in with a longread on the president's economic legacy. In it, Obama is cognizant that the economic reality--73 straight months of growth--isn't matched by public perceptions. Some of that, he says, is due to a constant drumbeat from the right that "that denies any progress." But he also accepts some blame himself. “I mean, the truth of the matter is that if we had been able to more effectively communicate all the steps we had taken to the swing voter,” he said, “then we might have maintained a majority in the House or the Senate.”
Ronald Reagan's children and political allies took to the media and Twitter this week to chide funnyman Will Ferrell for his plans to play a dementia-addled Reagan in his second term in a new comedy entitled Reagan. In an open letter, Reagan's daughter Patti Davis tells Ferrell, who's also a producer on the movie, “Perhaps for your comedy you would like to visit some dementia facilities. I have—I didn’t find anything comedic there, and my hope would be that if you’re a decent human being, you wouldn’t either.” Michael Reagan, the president's son, tweeted, "What an Outrag....Alzheimers is not joke...It kills..You should be ashamed all of you." And former Rep. Joe Walsh called it an example of "Hollywood taking a shot at conservatives again."
In a sign that she’s ready to put a longer-than-expected primary battle behind her, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton (D) is no longer going on the air in upcoming primary states. “Team Clinton hasn’t spent a single cent in … California, Indiana, Kentucky, Oregon and West Virginia, while” Sen. Bernie Sanders’ (I-VT) “campaign has spent a little more than $1 million in those same states.” Meanwhile, Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Sanders’ "lone backer in the Senate, said the candidate should end his presidential campaign if he’s losing to Hillary Clinton after the primary season concludes in June, breaking sharply with the candidate who is vowing to take his insurgent bid to the party convention in Philadelphia.”
The team behind the bestselling "Clinton Cash"—author Peter Schweizer and Breitbart's Stephen Bannon—is turning the book into a movie that will have its U.S. premiere just before the Democratic National Convention this summer. The film will get its global debut "next month in Cannes, France, during the Cannes Film Festival. (The movie is not a part of the festival, but will be shown at a screening arranged for distributors)." Bloomberg has a trailer up, pointing out that it's "less Ken Burns than Jerry Bruckheimer, featuring blood-drenched money, radical madrassas, and ominous footage of the Clintons."