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Chambliss Wins Runoff, Denies Democrats 60 Seats

Georgia Senator Saxby Chambliss easily won his runoff against Democrat Jim Martin, 57.4 to 42.6 according to the current uncertified totals. NYT notes,

Senator Saxby Chambliss and his wife, Julianne, celebrating his victory on Tuesday in Atlanta. (Erik S. Lesser for The New York Times)

Senator Saxby Chambliss and his wife, Julianne, celebrating his victory on Tuesday in Atlanta. (Erik S. Lesser for The New York Times)

The margin was far greater than the three percentage points that separated the two men in the Nov. 4 election, when neither won the required 50 percent. Many of the Democrats who turned out last month in enthusiastic support of Barack Obama apparently did not show up at the polls on Tuesday. “For a lot of African-American voters, the real election was last month,” said Merle Black, an expert in Southern politics at Emory University. “The importance of electing the first African-American president in history generated enormous enthusiasm. Everything else was anticlimactic.”

A little more than two million people voted in the runoff, compared with 3.7 million on Nov. 4. In heavily black Clayton County, just south of Atlanta, Mr. Martin’s vote was less than half what it was in the earlier election. Only 9.2 percent of registered Georgians cast early votes in the runoff, compared with 36 percent in the general election.

Mr. Chambliss, 65, a pro-business conservative, campaigned in the runoff on a platform of limiting Mr. Obama’s ability to pass legislation in a Democratic-controlled Congress. Calling himself the “41st senator,” he told a cheering crowd of supporters in his victory speech that the runoff was the first race of 2010, signaling a new wind for Republicans. “You have delivered tonight a strong message to the world that conservative Georgia values matter,” he said. “You have delivered a message that a balance of government in Washington is necessary, and that’s not only what the people of Georgia want but what the people of America want.”

Well, that’s a stretch. After all, Americans voted for a Democratic president and to extend the Democratic majority in the House and the Senate. I’m dubious that even swing voters in tight Senate races were generally swayed by the need to prevent Democrats from invoking cloture.

Electing Saxby Chambliss, though, is very much what Georgians wanted. They only failed to do so last month because a third party candidate took away enough votes to keep him under a majority. The fact that Georgians had to spend a substantial amount of money to re-run an election that most of them weren’t interested in participating in, though, is a pretty good case for instant runoff voting. The outcome would have been the same in this case but the numbers would have more accurately reflected the will of the state’s voters. And they’d have saved a lot of money.

Nate Silver adds, “Obama is looking fairly smart for staying away from the state.” True enough, given the margins. This, after all, is a state he lost.  If, however, it had been razor close, he’d have come under sharp criticism for staying away and failing to rally African American turnout.

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About James Joyner
James Joyner is the publisher of Outside the Beltway, an associate professor of security studies at the Marine Corps Command and Staff College, and a nonresident senior fellow at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. He earned a PhD in political science from The University of Alabama. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter.

Comments

  1. DC Loser says:

    From a Machiavellian perspective, Obama is probably breathing a sigh of relief that he doesn’t have a filibuster proof majority in the Senate. This way he can still blame the Republicans for obstructionism in the 2010 elections.

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  2. caj says:

    Georgia are quite happy to stay in the dark ages…they don’t want to see change of any sort, most of the south will never come into the 21st century.

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  3. charles johnson says:

    I lived in Georgia for a while in the late 90’s. The ads that Chambliss ran against Max Cleland–there is no excuse for what he did. He is the scum of the universe. Joe McCarthy would have been embarrassed to say that stuff about Cleland.

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  4. charles johnson says:

    Georgia are quite happy to stay in the dark ages…they don’t want to see change of any sort, most of the south will never come into the 21st century.

    There is a very big difference now between the urban and the rural south. I’ve lived in Raleigh, Durham, and Chapel Hill, and I’ve also lived in middle-of-nowhere in the south. Huge differences. In the urban, educated places, people are intelligent and tolerant. In middle of nowhere is where you see people still complaining about ‘Darkies’ and afraid that Obama is a secret muslim terrorist and such.

    Of course, i’m being overly general, but I’m sure you get my basic point.

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  5. caj says:

    I do get your point…..but my point is that in this day and age you would think people and I don’t care if they live in the woods/country or wherever got a grip on reality and join the human race!!!
    I’ve also lived in different parts of the U.S….New York…Baltimore..,Indiana… N Texas, N Carolina..Virginia and now N Florida but the south takes some beating in being backward thinking….don’t want to loose what they see as their “Heritage”

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