Chambliss Wins Runoff, Denies Democrats 60 Seats
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.