Without a Republican Screwup, Does Michelle Nunn Stand a Chance?

The Democrats’ plan to win Georgia’s Senate seat might have died with Tuesday night’s GOP primary result.

National Journal
Alex Roarty
May 20, 2014, 7:22 p.m.

Michelle Nunn’s best chance at vic­tory al­ways lay in Geor­gia’s Re­pub­lic­an primary. If con­tro­versy-court­ing Reps. Paul Broun or Phil Gin­grey won the GOP’s nom­in­a­tion for Sen­ate, of­fi­cials in both parties thought Nunn would have be­gun the gen­er­al elec­tion as a sure­fire front-run­ner.

The Peach State Demo­crat now knows it’s not go­ing to be that easy.

On Tues­day, both men un­ce­re­mo­ni­ously crashed out of the GOP primary, fall­ing well short of busi­ness­man Dav­id Per­due and Rep. Jack King­ston. The top two fin­ish­ers now face a one-on-one battle in a Ju­ly 22 run­off for the right to move on to the gen­er­al elec­tion.

But no mat­ter which Re­pub­lic­an wins, the most im­port­ant part for the gen­er­al elec­tion is over: The GOP isn’t go­ing to nom­in­ate an­oth­er Todd Akin or Christine O’Don­nell — the type of can­did­ate likely to com­mit an elec­tion-los­ing gaffe that would hand a Sen­ate seat to the Demo­crats. And that leaves Nunn, who won her own largely un­con­tested primary Tues­day, to prove that the vi­ab­il­ity of her cam­paign was nev­er de­pend­ent on Re­pub­lic­ans screw­ing up an­oth­er race.

Nunn will need to prove that the vi­ab­il­ity of her cam­paign was nev­er de­pend­ent on Re­pub­lic­ans screw­ing up an­oth­er race.

It’s pos­sible she will suc­ceed: Demo­crats con­sider her one of the party’s best re­cruits of 2014, and even Re­pub­lic­ans openly ac­know­ledge that Nunn has run an ex­cel­lent cam­paign so far. The ques­tion now is wheth­er her cent­rist vis­age and fam­ous last name — she’s the daugh­ter of pop­u­lar former Demo­crat­ic Sen. Sam Nunn — are enough to win over a largely red-state elect­or­ate in an un­deni­ably tough year for Demo­crats.

“I just think the demo­graph­ics of this state fa­vor the Re­pub­lic­an nom­in­ee and make it an up­hill battle, but I wouldn’t say it’s a for­gone con­clu­sion,” said Eric Tan­en­blatt, an At­lanta-based Re­pub­lic­an power broker.

Few Demo­crats would ar­gue that Gin­grey and Broun wer­en’t Nunn’s ideal op­pon­ents, but they’re adam­ant she still has a shot at vic­tory in Novem­ber. She’ll be­ne­fit from a two-month peri­od when Per­due and King­ston will fight each oth­er, rather than her, un­til the run­off elec­tion. That battle, Demo­crats hope, will force the even­tu­al GOP nom­in­ee to ad­opt an even more con­ser­vat­ive agenda un­pal­at­able to a gen­er­al-elec­tion elect­or­ate.

“The real­ity is, no mat­ter who makes it past today, you’re go­ing to have a his­tor­ic two-month run­off where the top two vote-get­ters are go­ing to be run­ning fur­ther and fur­ther to the right in a very low-turnout race,” said Tim Al­borg, a Geor­gia-based Demo­crat­ic strategist.

While the run­off risk has some Re­pub­lic­ans openly en­cour­aging GOP-aligned out­side groups — like Amer­ic­an Cross­roads or the U.S. Cham­ber of Com­merce — to step in and start tee­ing off on Nunn now, that looks un­likely. “We’re more fo­cused on the gen­er­al elec­tion,” said a source in­side one of the out­side groups.

And for some Re­pub­lic­ans, that de­cision to stay out the race re­flects a con­fid­ence that Nunn’s chances died with Broun’s and Gin­grey’s can­did­a­cies. Why waste valu­able re­sources on a race already tilt­ing heav­ily in the GOP’s dir­ec­tion?

Demo­crats in Wash­ing­ton have con­sidered Geor­gia, along with Ken­tucky, their best op­por­tun­ity to pick up a Re­pub­lic­an-held seat in this year’s midterm elec­tion (the seat is held by re­tir­ing Sen. Saxby Cham­b­liss). That’s partly a func­tion of the party’s dearth of op­tions to play of­fense this cycle.

From June through April, Nunn raised a prodi­gious $6.3 mil­lion — more than any­thing her GOP coun­ter­parts com­piled dur­ing the primary. And she’s already put the money to­ward bran­dish­ing her im­age as a cent­rist. Her first ads have nary a men­tion of Pres­id­ent Obama but they do men­tion a Bush — George H.W. Bush, with whom she worked as CEO of the Points of Light Char­ity.

The ads have done some good: An NBC News/Mar­ist poll from earli­er this month found Nunn nar­rowly trail­ing Per­due by 4 points, 45 per­cent to 41 per­cent while in a dead heat with King­ston, at 43 per­cent each.

Even if Nunn is seen as hav­ing an equal chance against Per­due, King­ston, or Han­del, she’d run a very dif­fer­ent cam­paign against each one. The play against Per­due is straight­for­ward: His mock­ery of the idea that a high-school gradu­ate could be a U.S. sen­at­or, a ma­jor is­sue in the GOP primary, opens him to ac­cus­a­tions that he’s an elit­ist out of touch with the pub­lic. King­ston, an 11-term con­gress­man, is vul­ner­able against the charge that he’s a con­sum­mate Wash­ing­ton in­sider. 

Still, there are already signs, run­off or not, that Nunn’s free run is near­ing an end. In a bat­tery of in­ter­views, she’s de­clined to say wheth­er she would have voted for Obama­care, a po­s­i­tion that’s likely to be­come un­ten­able between now and Elec­tion Day.

What We're Following See More »
BIG CHANGE FROM WHEN HE SELF-FINANCED
Trump Enriching His Businesses with Donor Money
6 hours ago
WHY WE CARE

Donald Trump "nearly quintupled the monthly rent his presidential campaign pays for its headquarters at Trump Tower to $169,758 in July, when he was raising funds from donors, compared with March, when he was self-funding his campaign." A campaign spokesman "said the increased office space was needed to accommodate an anticipated increase in employees," but the campaign's paid staff has actually dipped by about 25 since March. The campaign has also paid his golf courses and restaurants about $260,000 since mid-May.

Source:
STAFF PICKS
Variety Looks at How Michelle Obama Has Leveraged Pop Culture
8 hours ago
WHY WE CARE

“My view is, first you get them to laugh, then you get them to listen," says Michelle Obama in a new profile in Variety. "So I’m always game for a good joke, and I’m not so formal in this role. There’s very little that we can’t do that people wouldn’t appreciate.” According to writer Ted Johnson, Mrs. Obama has leveraged the power of pop culture far beyond her predecessors. "Where are the people?" she asks. "Well, they’re not reading the op-ed pieces in the major newspapers. They’re not watching Sunday morning news talk shows. They’re doing what most people are doing: They are watching TV.”

Source:
RUSSIAN HACKERS LIKELY BEHIND THE ATTACKS
New York Times, Other News Organizations Hacked
9 hours ago
THE DETAILS

The FBI and other US security agencies are currently investigating a series of computer breaches found within The New York Times and other news organizations. It is expected that the hacks were carried out by individuals working for Russian intelligence. It is believed that these cyber attacks are part of a "broader series of hacks that also have focused on Democratic Party organizations, the officials said."

Source:
COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY STUDENTS PETITIONED
NLRB: Graduate Students Can Unionize
9 hours ago
THE DETAILS

In a 3-1 decision, the National Labor Relations Board ruled in favor of Columbia University graduate students, granting them the legal right to unionize. The petition was brought by a number of teaching assistants enrolled in graduate school. This decision could pave the way for thousands of new union members, depending on if students at other schools nationwide wish to join unions. A number of universities spoke out in opposition to this possibility, saying injecting collective bargaining into graduate school could create a host of difficulties.

Source:
DIFFERENT KIND OF CONVENTION BOUNCE
Cruz Approval Ratings Underwater
11 hours ago
THE DETAILS

Following Texas Senator Ted Cruz's controversial decision not to endorse Donald Trump at the Republican National Convention, instead telling voters to "vote (their) conscience," a new poll out today shows that his approval ratings have sunk. The poll from Public Policy Polling shows that 39 percent of Texans approve of the job Cruz is doing, compared to 48 percent who don't approve. Additionally, despite winning the GOP primary in the state, the poll found that if the primary was held today, Trump would garner 52 percent of support to just 38 percent for Cruz.

Source:
×