With a little over two months remaining before the Presidential election, 2016 has already proven to be nothing short of an unpredictable political whirlwind. At least, that’s been the case for the Republican Party, which has seen Donald Trump emerge victorious from a field of sixteen other governors, senators and former candidates. He’s also run an exceptionally poor general election campaign for the first few months. While I’m hesitant to use this word to describe anything about 2016, the election has been fairly conventional, outside of the GOP Primary. We know that, while Trump has defied political gravity, it does still exist. Hillary Clinton was a huge favorite to win the Democratic nomination, and she did so — albeit with a stiffer challenge than many expected from Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont. So far in the general election, Clinton is outspending Trump, out-organizing him, beating him in the ground game, dwarfing him in advertising and is less unpopular than he is (though she is still strikingly unpopular in her own right). As would be expected considering all these factors, Clinton has consistently led Trump in almost every national and swing state poll taken since the Democratic National Convention in late July and is a pretty heavy favorite to win in November. The good news for Clinton is that she received a much larger “convention bounce” in the polls than Trump received after the GOP convention, and that bounce doesn’t seem to be fading much if at all. Clinton is polling well nationally and in a pretty strong position in most swing states, in addition to polling surprisingly well in some solid red states like Kansas and South Carolina. She currently has a decisive lead in the electoral college, and if the election were held today, would likely win by a margin approaching Barack Obama’s 2008 victory over John McCain. The bad news for Clinton is that she has to run out the clock for two more months. While Trump has not yet shown the capability or willingness to run a campaign seemingly capable of challenging her, the length of time between now and the election is an eternity in politics. There’s plenty of time for Trump to catch and surpass Clinton in the polls, and it’s entirely possible that this race could end up extremely close like the 2000 race between Al Gore and George W. Bush that was effectively decided by 500 voters in Florida. As September begins, Clinton has a clear lead. But to put it in football terms, this is only the start of the fourth quarter. It remains to be seen whether Trump’s next pass will be a touchdown or an interception, and how effectively Clinton can run out the clock.
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One of the more interesting story lines thus far in the 2016 election cycle has been the emergence of Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont as Hillary Clinton’s main challenger in the Democratic primary. Sanders, a 73-year-old self-described socialist who is technically not a Democrat (rather, an independent Senator who caucuses with the Democrats in the Senate) has surprised many analysts with his rapid rise in the polls and his ability to draw large crowds of highly-energized supporters. Sanders now consistently polls in second place, coming within striking distance of Clinton in more progressive primary states — such as New Hampshire, Oregon and Minnesota — and has even overtaken Clinton in one poll in New Hampshire. Sanders’ rapid rise has prompted some to wonder whether the Vermont Senator may follow the same path as then-Senator Obama in 2008 — running to Clinton’s ideological left and defeating her. Despite Sanders’ surge, there’s reason to be skeptical of his ability to sustain his campaign’s success long enough to overtake Clinton, who remains the prohibitive Democratic frontrunner. It’s true that Clinton’s margins over Sanders’ in most polls have declined considerably since he entered the Presidential contest. When Sanders announced his candidacy in May, he trailed Clinton by a daunting 57-point margin in the Real Clear Politics polling average. Two and a half months later, that margin has been cut to around 25 points. However, the Sanders’ campaign has a likely fatal weakness – thus far, Sanders’ support is almost exclusively limited to white, liberal voters. Despite polling well (or at least decently) in the Northeast, Midwest and Pacific Northwest, Sanders’ levels of support in the South, thus far, have been abysmal. In South Carolina, a crucial early primary state in which a large percentage of the Democratic electorate reside, Sanders trails Clinton by nearly 60 points. His support among black and Hispanic voters, on average, has been nearly nonexistent. If this trend continues, Sanders may manage to pick off a few states during the Democratic primary but will come nowhere close to winning the nomination with such limited demographic support. In addition to his demographic limitations, Sanders’ ideological purity on matters such as campaign finance reform may hinder his chances of becoming a serious threat to Clinton. Opposition to Super PAC funding, which has saturated recent national elections with billions of dollars of corporate spending, has been a matter of conviction for Sanders thus far, as he has stated his refusal to accept such funds. Unfortunately for Sanders, the Supreme Court’s decision in Citizens United enshrined Super PAC donations as an extremely influential element of national elections. Sanders’ refusal to accept Super PAC funds, while staunchly consistent with his beliefs, will likely lead to Clinton gaining an insurmountable cash advantage and prevent Sanders from becoming a serious threat. Sanders has risen further and faster in the polls than nearly anyone predicted, and the Clinton campaign’s recent troubles relating to Hillary Clinton’s email server create a remote possibility that Sanders could theoretically pull off a massive upset and defeat Clinton. What must be remembered, however, are three things. Clinton still leads Sanders by nearly 25 points nationally. Sanders has only ever led Clinton in one poll in one of the smallest states in the nation. Money doesn’t win elections, but it certainly helps. And Clinton is likely to have exponentially more than Sanders. As the race currently stands, while Sanders could keep the contest respectably close and perhaps win a few states, it appears very unlikely that he could climb high enough and sustain his momentum long enough to overcome the powerful Clinton political network and the fortune that will likely be spent on her behalf by Super PACs. Clinton is, by virtually any measure, the frontrunner for the Democratic presidential nomination, and, in terms of the Democratic primary, is arguably in the strongest position for any non-incumbent candidate in decades.
Five months before the 2016 presidential primaries officially begin with the first votes in the Iowa caucus, the Republican Party has an unorthodox and unexpected front-runner. New York businessman Donald Trump, a billionaire real-estate mogul who has stamped his name on everything from neckties to skyscrapers, has surged to the top of the GOP field and taken a com- manding lead over the previous front-run- ner, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, Re- publican. Trump’s rise occurred quickly. From the announcement of his candidacy on June 16, it took merely a few weeks for his support to swell enough to propel him into first place in a crowded field of 17 candidates. By the time of the first nationally tele- vised GOP debate, Trump held a 12 point lead over Bush — a lead which defied all conventional wisdom and continued to not only hold, but grow, while Trump made very controversial remarks and drew fire from several fellow candidates. During his announcement speech, Trump claimed that the majority of undocument- ed immigrants entering the United States are murderers and rapists, conceding that “some” are probably good people. These comments drew sharp criticism from oth- er GOP candidates, but neither the com- ments nor criticism hurt Trump’s standing in the polls. And Trump found himself polling in the top tier of candidates soon after the comments. Likewise, many predicted that his cam- paign’s demise was imminent after he criticized Sen. John McCain’s, R-AZ, war record by saying that McCain is seen as a war hero because he was captured in Vietnam, and that he (Trump) “likes people who weren’t captured.” Again, the comment drew sharp criticism, and again, Trump’s position in the race improved — after his comments about Sen. McCain, Trump’s lead grew larger. The fascinating aspect of Donald Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign is that, through the first two months of the primary news cycles, controversy has not weakened it. All the controversy has made Trump’s polling numbers increase. The resiliency of Donald Trump thus far highlights a very difficult problem that the Republican Party must resolve and do so quickly. The party establishment’s desire to nominate a more moderated, centrist candidate to challenge likely Democrat nominee Hillary Clinton is not shared by many of the GOP primary voters, who see Trump as a no-nonsense tough guy with a contempt for the elitist political class. Trump’s rise in the GOP primary doesn’t seem to be about ideology. Just a decade ago, Trump supported partial-birth abor- tion, single-payer healthcare and consid- ered himself a Democrat. Two years ago, he supported a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants, yet now he proposes mass deportation. Curiously, Trump has faced none of the difficulties relating to flip-flopping that plagued 2012 GOP nominee, former Gov. Mitt Romney, R-MA. Also, his rise does not appear to be about substance — of which Trump has offered little. For exam- ple, his solution for reforming health care is to repeal Obamacare and replace it with “something terrific.” Instead, it looks like Donald Trump’s current success is due to his lack of concern for political correct- ness. His willingness to speak his mind bluntly and without a filter has, thus far, persuaded a plurality of Republican voters to overlook his lack of ideological purity, consistency and policy substance. Eventually, Donald Trump’s rise in the polls will slow and stop. Sooner or later, he will reach his ceiling of support — be it 25 percent, 30 percent or 40 percent. When that happens, Trump will either have enough support to defeat the few remaining GOP candidates, or he will be overtaken in the polls and lose the GOP nomination. Trump appeals to a very particular type of voting bloc, and it seems unlikely that he could expand his support beyond that by building a coalition. if he loses, the outcome of the 2016 race may rest in Trump’s hands. He has refused to rule out the possibility of an independent campaign in the general election. It’s unclear exactly what impact a Trump independent candidacy would have, but many Republicans fear that it would divide the Republican vote and assure a Democratic victory. This would give Trump quite a bit of leverage with the Republican Party, and something to keep in mind as the 201
In an election-night shocker, both David Perdue and Gov. Nathan Deal have significantly outperformed their polls and won their races outright, avoiding what many saw as probable runoffs in both races. Perdue's win helps the GOP take control of the Senate, and Deal's win is one of many surprisingly robust showing for Republican governors and gubernatorial candidates across the nation. To describe tonight as a GOP wave, at this point, would be an understatement.
Election 2014 has been an odd paradox: chaotic and exciting yet consistent and static. Some races (like Kansas & Georgia for Democrats as well as Colorado & Iowa for Republicans) have become or remained unexpectedly competitive. However, the overall picture of the 2014 midterms has been remarkably stable; Republicans have continually been slightly favored to win control of the Senate. But how will we know, before all the results are in, whether the GOP does or does not translate that advantage into an actual majority? That’s the purpose of this article; this is your “What To Watch For On Election Night” guide. 7:00 P.M. CLOSINGS: Keep an eye on Kentucky and Virginia. Georgia is probably the most competitive 7 p.m. state but counts slowly. Whether it goes to a runoff or not, we probably will not get a projection in Georgia for a few hours. Kentucky will likely be close, too, and may take a couple of hours to project. Virginia is NOT competitive this year, but watch Sen. Mark Warner (D)’s margin; if he wins in a blowout (20 percent or more), it might indicate that Democrats are set to over perform expectations in other races. If his race is close, Democrats are probably in for a very bad – and very long – night. 7:30 P.M. CLOSINGS: West Virginia will be quickly called as the first GOP pickup of the night, but North Carolina is the state to watch. It is going to be close and will probably take a long time to project a winner, but if Sen. Kay Hagan (D) winds up losing, it becomes much harder for the Democrats to hold a Senate majority. 8:00 P.M. CLOSINGS: Most states in this hour are not competitive, but keep a close watch on New Hampshire. The GOP does not need to pick up the Granite State seat to win a majority, but if Scott Brown (R) is running stronger than expected, it will be another sign that Election Night may run late into Wednesday morning. 8:30 P.M. CLOSINGS: Arkansas will close at 8:30, where Sen. Mark Pryor (D) is consistently behind in the polls and is fighting for his political life. Arkansas will be close, but if Sen. Pryor manages to pull out an upset and hold on to his seat, the GOP path to 51 seats becomes more complicated. 9:00 P.M. CLOSINGS: The most important states to watch here are Colorado, Kansas, Louisiana and South Dakota. Louisiana will almost certainly go to a runoff, but Colorado and Kansas are extremely close and could easily decide which party wins control of the Senate. South Dakota is a somewhat hectic three-way race; the GOP is favored, but if Mike Rounds (R) has not been called the winner within an hour, the GOP should probably be worried. Michigan and Minnesota appeared competitive for a while but should be called relatively quickly for the Democrats. 10:00 P.M. CLOSINGS: One word: Iowa. The Hawkeye State’s Senate contest this year is one of the closest in the nation and looks to be a bellwether of the national political environment this year. Iowa might not be called for several hours after the polls close. If Democrats win Iowa, they can breathe a sigh of relief for keeping their path to a majority alive. If Republicans win Iowa on top of the other states in which they have surged recently (especially Colorado), the Democrat path will go from “very difficult” to “nearly impossible.” 1:00 A.M. CLOSINGS: There are no competitive races closing at 11 p.m., so the last big race to close will be Alaska at 1:00 a.m. The polling in Alaska shows a modest Republican lead, but Alaska polls are notoriously unreliable. We probably will not know the winner in Alaska until late Wednesday morning. One final note: Unless the GOP wins nearly every competitive state on the board or the Democrats pull some upsets in a number of states, we may not know who controls the Senate for months. Louisiana’s near-certain runoff will be in December while a Georgia runoff would take place in January. Add the possibility of recounts in super-close states, and Election Night itself may just be the beginning.
Nov. 4, 2014, is more than just a day to vote; it is a day to express your voice, to make your opinions heard and to exercise your right to have a say in who represents your interests in both state and national government. There is an undeniable feeling of patriotism involved in walking into the polling place, checking names on a list of candidates and casting your ballot—knowing that your vote literally could make a difference. Fair and free voting is one of the blessings of living in a democratic society, and the Founding Fathers recognized civic engagement as essential to maintaining a free and prosperous society. If that is the case, why is it that so many people do not get around to voting? Usually the reasons given are pretty common—things like, “I have class/work,” “I don’t have a ride to the polling place,” “I never got around to registering to vote.” While these are all understandable—especially in college, when you have 1,001 assignments and obligations—they should not be roadblocks to exercising your rights and voicing your political opinions. With that in mind, SGA has partnered with the College Hill Alliance to promote civic involvement by making voter registration much easier through TurboVote. TurboVote is an online service that allows users to register to vote in a matter of minutes. All that it takes to register is logging on, answering a few questions about yourself and your residence and submitting your registration. In addition to registering to vote, TurboVote acts as an information service that will send you reminders about upcoming elections. If you live away from your permanent residence (such as on campus away from home), you can request an absentee ballot from your home county/state through TurboVote; you do not have to forego voting just because you live a long way from home. You can even vote through an absentee ballot if you live on/near campus and cannot get to the polling place. Just request one, fill it out and mail it in! Mercer SGA and College Hill believe strongly in the power and importance of civic involvement and are working to make that easier and more accessible to everyone. Looking at Georgia, for example—control of the United States Senate could conceivably be decided by a few thousand votes in Georgia. The importance of each vote cannot be understated and is only amplified in local elections. This firm belief in the benefit of voter registration/engagement is why SGA and College Hill have been collaborating on a number of ideas to promote voting, such as partnering with several other local colleges to bring you the Turn Out to Vote concert featuring Ben Rector. If you never want to worry about when voting again, visit collegehill.turbovote.org.
The Republican Party’s chances of winning control of the US Senate appear quite robust. Races which were tossups a few months ago (such as Arkansas, Louisiana, and Alaska) now favor Republicans while races which were previously considered safe territory for Democrats (such as Colorado and Iowa) have become very plausible pickup opportunities for Republicans. The overall contest for Senate control remains competitive, but barring some significant improvements in Democrat fortunes, the GOP will likely start 2015 with control of both houses of Congress. This short-term analysis misses a very troubling long-term problem for Republicans, however; their voter base is shrinking. Since 2004, the Republican Party has relied increasingly upon the support of older, wealthier white voters to win elections – a problematic strategy when one considers that the American electorate is, as a whole, becoming younger and less-white each election cycle. This trend has already turned a number of purple states blue, and a number of red states have become purple. The Republican Party must find a way to expand its appeal to young voters and minority voters or face an increasingly small electoral playing field and an increasingly narrow pathway to victory. The mere fact that Democrats retain a conceivable chance of holding control of the Senate is a bad sign for Republicans. Midterm electorates tend to be lower-turnout elections, which usually translates into an older, wealthier and whiter electorate. Sixth-year midterms tend to yield significant losses for the incumbent President’s party. Additionally, President Obama’s approval rating has been stuck in the low-40 percent range for over a year. These factors combined should indicate massive gains for Republicans – yet the GOP is still spending millions of dollars to win very close races in very red states (such as Arkansas, Louisiana, and Alaska) that Mitt Romney won by landslide margins. Additionally, polls throughout the summer and into the fall have shown Democrat Sen. Kay Hagan of North Carolina maintaining a lead in the Tarheel State. The recent shift in North Carolina’s political DNA has been remarkable; George W. Bush carried the state by 14 percent in 2000 and 2004, yet it went for Barack Obama in 2008 and Mitt Romney nearly lost it in 2012. These races were high-turnout presidential races; the fact that Republicans have thus far been unable to pull ahead in North Carolina in a midterm year – with a more GOP-friendly midterm electorate – should be a cause for serious concern for Republicans planning 2016 campaign strategies. In addition to seriously restricting the GOP’s pathway to controlling the White House, America’s changing electoral demographics threaten the GOP’s chances of holding the Senate. Even if Republicans vastly over-perform most predictions and pick up eight or nine seats this November – gaining a majority with a two- or three-seat safety net – it’s possible that Democrats could reclaim the Senate in 2016. The 2016 Senate map will be a reverse of 2014. Instead of Democrats defending a host of red-state seats, Republicans will be defending a host of blue-state seats. Republican incumbents in Illinois, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin who narrowly won in 2010 – a midterm year which was extremely favorable to the GOP – will likely face very difficult re-election races in a higher-turnout, presidential-year electorate. If Democrats manage to win these three races in reliably blue states, Republicans would probably need to have picked up eight seats in 2014 to be insulated. It’s also possible – depending on the national environment – that Republican-held seats in Florida, Arizona, Georgia, New Hampshire, North Carolina and Missouri could become competitive. The bottom line is that Republicans should not allow a Senate takeover – even a gain of eight or nine seats – to go to their heads. The party has a serious and growing problem with young and minority voters and should be poised for larger gains than it currently is. Most viable GOP pickup opportunities this year are extremely close races in solidly Republican states. The 2016 electorate will likely be less GOP-friendly than this November’s midterm one, and Republicans will likely go from playing offense to defense. Because of this, a gain of fewer than seven seats this November should probably be a sign of concern for the GOP.
In 2008, the war-weary American public elected Democrat Barack Obama by a sweeping 7 percent margin that saw the Illinois senator winning a landslide 365 electoral votes to Republican John McCain’s 173. Obama ran up huge margins in states that Democrat John Kerry had barely managed to hold four years earlier (such as Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and Michigan), while expanding the map into traditionally solid-red states (such as North Carolina, Indiana and Virginia). While it was the Sept. 2008 financial crisis that propelled then-Senator Obama to his substantial win, one cannot ignore that the 2008 election was, in no small part, a referendum on the GOP’s perceived mishandling of the Iraq War and the War on Terror. Even before the financial calamity manifested itself, Senator McCain’s path to the White House was exceptionally difficult, due in part to the Republican Party’s extremely low approval ratings on foreign policy. Senator Obama’s promises of hope, change and withdrawal from the Iraq War and his pledge to better combat terrorism in Afghanistan resulted in Obama’s winning by the biggest margin in nearly 20 years. Six years later, the United States is once again confronted with the possibility of military engagement in Iraq, this time to combat the radical Islamic group ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq and Syria). The situation leaves President Obama in an extraordinarily difficult position. The president elected to remove the United States from the sanguinary conflict in Iraq is now faced with the prospect of re-inserting America into the heart of a violent civil war. Setting aside the issue of whether the United States should intervene, the question of whether the United States can intervene must be addressed. The president has the authority under the War Powers Act to take temporary military action against ISIS without Congressional approval, yet this does not provide a blank check for an indefinite amount of time. Eventually, Congress will have to approve additional action. Despite maintaining that there will be no US combat troops deployed, the Obama administration has explicitly stated that the United States is at war with ISIS and that the situation will likely require a long-term commitment. The debate about exact requirements for when Congress must authorize action and what action requires authorization is likely to become a legal quagmire. However, if the United States is going to become further involved in the Middle East to combat the threat of ISIS – which is imbedded in both Iraq and Syria – seeking Congressional approval is the right course of action. Political considerations must necessarily take a back seat to national security interests. The political stakes are certainly high; executive action against ISIS could have a strong influence on the upcoming US Senate elections. Many vulnerable incumbents would certainly prefer not to have a recorded war vote just a few weeks before the elections. This is a time for political bravery, not playing politics. The country deserves a spirited debate about what action should be taken in regards to ISIS, and a clearly worded yes-or-no vote in Congress is the only appropriate avenue through which President Obama should seek long-term action against ISIS.
Democrats should be worried; their Senate control is standing on thin ice that is beginning to crack. Currently, the Democrats have 55 seats (including two independents), and the Republicans have 45. To gain control, Republicans will need to pick up six seats. This is to avoid a tie, which would be broken by Vice President Joseph Biden (D-Del.). Due to the retirement of three incumbent Democrats, Republicans are strongly favored to pick up seats in Montana,West Virginia and South Dakota. All three are extremely red states, and the Republicans are safely ahead in all three races. Although the South Dakota race has the potential to tighten some, the GOP is still strongly favored. An upset Democrat win in any of these states would signal a catastrophic failure for the Republicans. Democrat troubles are further deepened by the continued reddening of the South, where three incumbent Democrats (Mark Pryor in Arkansas, Mary Landrieu in Louisiana and Kay Hagan in North Carolina) are fighting for their political lives against very conservative opponents. Hagan is in the strongest shape of the three – her race is a tossup – while Pryor and Landrieu are currently considered underdogs. Additionally, time is running out for Democrat upsets in Kentucky and Georgia, where the polling averages show Republicans maintaining their leads. Additionally, the possibility that the Georgia and/or Louisiana races could go into over-time in the form of runoffs, which would most likely be very Republican-friendly results, exists as well. As if winning in the conservative South did not present a big enough problem, Democrats are also forced to defend three red/purple state seats in Iowa, Arkansas and Colorado. Republicans have surged recently in Iowa and Colorado, pulling both races into the tossup category. Democrat Mark Begich has thus far managed to hold onto a modest lead in ruby-red Alaska, but the state’s notorious difficulty to accurately poll means that, unless either Begich or Dan Sullivan (R) absolutely collapses, we will not know the result in this tossup race until the morning after election night. Despite having been dealt an incredibly difficult hand, Democrats have managed to keep the playing field manageable. Despite an incumbent Democrat retiring in Michigan, Republicans have thus far proven unable to capitalize on winning the seat. Oregon, once touted as a dark-horse GOP pickup opportunity, now polls solidly blue. Despite closer-than-expected recent polls in Illinois, New Jersey and Minnesota, GOP prospects in those states are virtually nonexistent. Scott Brown, the GOP’s moderate hero from 2010, has failed to make much traction yet in the New Hampshire senate race. While he could still win, a GOP upset in New Hampshire remains very unlikely. The most fascinating development in the 2014 Senate races, however, occurred just a few days ago. The race in Kansas, recently considered safely Republican, has been thrust into the national spotlight as an eleventh-hour Democrat pickup opportunity. Incumbent Sen. Pat Roberts (R) – badly damaged from a primary election and nursing very poor approval ratings – was maintaining roughly a five-point lead over Chad Taylor (D) and Independent candidate Greg Orman. On September third, Taylor dropped out of the race, setting the stage for a two-way race between Roberts and Orman. It is too early to tell how the race in Kansas will shape up; early polling suggests that Orman would start with a double-digit lead over Roberts but that Kansas seat has been in Republican hands since the 1940s. The fundamentals favor Roberts while the early polling favors Orman. There is no way to determine how Taylor’s exit will impact the race until some time passes. It is not even clear whether Orman would vote with Democrats or Republicans, should he be elected. Still, the early indicators are not good for Republicans. Reaching 51 seats was already a difficult enough task without having to defend Kansas, which would be the partisan equivalent of Democrats’ having to defend a solid-blue state like Massachusetts. If Pat Roberts is defeated and Orman sides with the Democrats, gaining a Senate majority will be extremely difficult for the GOP. Overall, the big picture is probably “advantage GOP” – but narrowly. A very small shift in a few states could deny the Republicans a majority or bury the Democrats in an electoral wipeout.
On Saturday, March 8, the seven Republican candidates for U.S. Senate in Georgia met at the Anderson Conference Center on Eisenhower Parkway for a general policy debate. All seven candidates are vying for the Republican nomination for the Senate seat occupied by retiring Senator Saxby Chambliss (R). The winner of the Republican nomination will likely face Michelle Nunn (D) in the general election this fall. The seven candidates in the GOP primary are Paul Broun, congressman from Gerogia’s 10th Congressional District; Art Gardner, a patent attorney and political outsider; Phil Gingrey, congressman from the 11th Congressional District; Derrick Grayson, a conservative political outsider; Karen Handel, former Georgia secretary of state and 2010 candidate for governor; Jack Kingston, congressman from the 1st Congressional District; and David Perdue, former CEO of Dollar General and first cousin of former Georgia governor, Sonny Perdue (R). The debate covered a wide range of topics, such as reflecting diversity and expanding the Republican Party’s appeal to minority voters, prioritizing defense and military spending, generating economic growth and creating jobs, reducing youth violence, discussing the economic impact that not deepening the Savannah harbor would have on the state, and concluding with a discussion about faith and religious freedom. Listening to the candidates answer the questions, one could easily sense a theme of “the establishment vs. the outsiders.” Rhetorical jabs were repeatedly made at Broun, Gingrey and Kingston for their congressional voting records, which the three congressmen strongly defended as being consistent with Constitutional, conservative values. Perdue argued that we have a “full-blown financial crisis,” perpetuated by “our career politicians.” Gardner noted that his “grandfather wasn’t the president, [his] cousin wasn’t the governor and [his] father wasn’t a senator.” Grayson even remarked that he is “not sure if [he] is running against Republicans, Democrat-lites or plain old Democrats.” The division between the establishment and the outsiders was palpable. The predebate straw poll results were announced after the debate. Handel finished first (343 votes), followed by Perdue (270), Gingrey (128), Kingston (85), Broun (37), Gardner (8) and Grayson (3). After the debate, I briefly spoke with the candidates and asked them to summarize the central message of their campaigns.Broun told me that his campaign’s purpose is to “put this country back on a Constitutional course,” and to promote “limited government, low taxes, vibrant free-enterprise system, personal accountability and responsibility and a strong national defense.” Gardner stressed the importance of expanding the party’s appeal by building “a coalition within the conservative universe that includes all stripes of conservatives, not just … social conservatives.” Gingrey expressed the importance of choosing the “most conservative of the seven of us that’s electable in November,” citing this as “the key” to his campaign’s message. Grayson told me that “If voters are satisfied with their liberties and freedoms being violated… [he’ll] just go back home,” and that his message is about electing statesmen who “stand for the Constitution 100 percent of the time, and 100 percent of the Constitution.” Handel said that her message is, simply, “results matter,” and that electing fresh faces is the only way to get different results. Kingston summarized his message as one focusing on “jobs …education … having a job-ready workforce … balancing the budget and a strong national defense.” Perdue focused directly on two major issues: the economy and term limits. He told me that his crusade is to “get the economy going and interject it into the gridlock between tax increase arguments and spending cut arguments,” and to “fight like crazy for term limits.” Currently, the GOP primary race is extremely competitive, and the polls are constantly changing. If no candidate secures a majority of the vote on May 20, the top two vote-getters will advance to a runoff on July 22, the winner of which will advance to the fall general election.
2014 is sure to be an exciting year for many reasons and the upcoming midterm elections ensure that this year will be filled with many fascinating twists and turns! This coming November, all 435 members of the United States House of Representatives will be up for re-election, as well as 33 United States Senators (plus three “special” Senate seats) and 38 Governors. Six years into Barack Obama’s presidency, Democrats are hoping to maintain control of the United States Senate, despite the politically turbulent rollout of the Affordable Care Act (also known as Obamacare). Republicans hope that Obamacare will be an issue they can wield against the handful of Democrat incumbents up for re-election in red & purple states. As the 2014 midterm map currently stands, Republicans will need a net gain of 6 Senate seats in order to claim a majority in the upper house of Congress. There are, however, two red states - in the South - in which Democrats are playing offense – Kentucky and our own state of Georgia. In Kentucky, Democrats hope that secretary of state Alison Lundergan Grimes, D-Ky, will unseat five-term senator and incumbent senate minority leader Mitch McConnell, R, while in Georgia, Democrats hope to pick up the seat vacated by senator Saxby Chambliss, R, who is retiring in January 2015. Michelle Nunn, D, daughter of former senator Sam Nunn, D-Ga., is the clear frontrunner in the Democratic primary, while the GOP primary is currently a divided contest between eight candidates. In addition to the hotly contested Senate race, which has the potential to decide the balance of power in Washington, Georgia will also receive attention for the gubernatorial election. Incumbent governor Nathan Deal, R, is seeking re-election, and is opposed by state senator Jason Carter, D, grandson of former president Jimmy Carter. Governor Deal also faces opposition from within his own party, in the form of primary challenges from state schools superintendent John Barge, and from David Pennington, the mayor of Dalton. The Democrat side is much less competitive: currently, Jason Carter faces no opposition in the Democrat primary from within his own party. We’ll be keeping a close eye on both of these races.