Before looking at the races, it is important to note the well-publicized efforts of the Democratic Party to turn Texas blue. I have argued in the past that this is a less likely scenario than them turning Georgia blue. The changing demographics of Georgia is the key factor. This will not be an overnight happening, but more likely to occur by 2024. All that being said, the GOP has a 9-5 advantage in the House delegation currently. They also have two Republican Senators and a Republican Governor.
In those Senate races, neither the GOP nor the Democrats are running candidates in certain districts. There are four races of interest- two held by Democrats and two open Republican seats. In the 1st District, [mc_name name=’Rep. Jack Kingston (R-GA)’ chamber=’house’ mcid=’K000220′ ] opted for a Senate run, but failed to defeat David Perdue in the runoff thus creating an open race here. That race will feature Buddy Carter on the GOP side, who also had to survive a runoff, against Brian Reese. Cook rates this +9 for the Republican Party; I rate it +12. In other words, it is a relatively safe district for the GOP, but one that bears watching if not this year, then in the future. I am fairly confident that Buddy Carter will win this race.
The other open Republican district is the 10th where John Broun also opted for a run at the Senate, but failed. On the GOP side will be Jody Hice and Ken Dious on the Democratic side. Dious has been waging a fairly good campaign thus far although it is highly likely Hice will keep the seat in GOP hands. Cook rates it +14 GOP; I rate it +10 GOP which places it in fairly safe territory.
There are two targets of opportunity among the Democratic seats- Sanford Bishop in the Second District (Cook +4 Democratic; me +10 for the Democrats) and [mc_name name=’Rep. John Barrow (D-GA)’ chamber=’house’ mcid=’B001252′ ] in the 12th, a Republican rated district. As for the 2nd, Republican Greg Duke has basically failed to gain much traction and Sanford Bishop should keep this seat in Democratic control. That leaves [mc_name name=’Rep. John Barrow (D-GA)’ chamber=’house’ mcid=’B001252′ ] in the 12th who seems to be a perennial target of the GOP, but who wins nevertheless. Barrow’s margins of victory have not been exceptional, but in the context of the Cook rated +9 GOP designation they appear much better. He was recently asked why he doesn’t switch parties and answered that it wouldn’t make a difference which party he belonged to as concerns his votes. His opponent, Rick Allen, lost the 2012 GOP primary for this seat and is seen as a formidable opponent given the current political climate. Still in all, I am predicting a Barrow victory here. Thus, the Georgia delegation should remain 9-5 in favor of the GOP.
In the gubernatorial race, GOP incumbent Nathan Deal will face Jason Carter, the grandson of former Governor and ex-President, Jimmy Carter. This has been a tight race since late September. Deal entered this race amid some ethics allegations and some controversial legislation. He is considered the 4th most conservative Governor in the Nation. A tough race to call at this point, Carter is trending in the right direction at the right time. Still, one has to consider whether this is attributable to Carter himself, or is he a beneficiary of the tightening Senatorial race?
This is an expensive race. Complicating the issue is that Georgia requires the winner to get 50% of the vote or face a runoff. The presence of Libertarian candidate Andrew Hunt on the ballot makes this more likely in a close race. Of the many polls conducted in October so far, several are dead even and several more are three points or less, although Deal is improving of late. If the current trend holds, there will be a runoff. If Hunt’s numbers should drop to under 3%, then Nathan Deal should win by about 2 points.
In the Senate race to replace the retiring Republican incumbent [mc_name name=’Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R-GA)’ chamber=’senate’ mcid=’C000286′ ], GOP candidate David Perdue had to survive a runoff against [mc_name name=’Rep. Jack Kingston (R-GA)’ chamber=’house’ mcid=’K000220′ ] who this writer believed would have been a better choice than Perdue. On the Democratic side will be Michelle Nunn, the daughter of the highly popular ex-Senator, Sam Nunn. There is no mistaking the fact that the Democrats are pulling out all the stops here since it represents a firewall against losses elsewhere. If they could take Georgia and Orman wins in Kansas, GOP plans of a Senate take over are still possible, but precarious. Like the gubernatorial race, this may result in a runoff.
The tricky thing is that the runoff would be held on January 6th, 2015- after the 114th Congress convenes and the Senate would open with 99 members. Since 1992, Libertarian candidates for the Senate in Georgia have averaged 2.61% of the vote. In the three instances where they exceeded 3%, the “winner” failed to hit 50%. Earlier in the campaign, Libertarian Amanda Swafford was polling as high at 7%. She has since dropped off to about 3%, with an average of 4.7% since Labor Day which would be more than enough to force a runoff.
If such is the case, this would perhaps be the biggest Republican disappointment this year. This was Perdue’s race to lose as Nunn was fading until Perdue ran a commercial suggesting ties between the non-profit she chaired and Islamic terrorists. That commercial tried to take advantage of the ISIL situation, except that the organizations supported by the non-profit are well-respected and not related to terrorists at all. Considering the fact that the non-profit was one founded by ex-Republican President George H.W. Bush only made it that much worse. If he had left well enough alone, the Democrats would have gone away silently in the Georgia night.
Prediction: A race likely to head to a runoff; if not, Perdue by no more than 2 points.
Next: The final stop- Iowa.