I tend to think that we should not be too dismissive of Saxby Chambliss's win in Georgia tonight. Although the outcome was expected, and although runoffs and special elections sometimes behave in idiosyncratic ways, moving from a 3-point margin of victory on November 4 to a 15-point margin of victory a month later is a significant accomplishment..........
While proportionately lower black turnout tells part of the story, Chambliss also appeared to gain with white voters. In certain ways, this is an awkward time for a Democrat to be running for office. On the one hand, with the imminent end of George W. Bush's term in office, and the fact that Barack Obama has effectively been serving as shadow present -- Obama is generating between two and three times as much news coverage as Bush according to Google traffic metrics -- it has already become harder for Democrats to pin our country's problems on the Republicans. Yes, Bush did damage to the Republican brand that will last for years to come, but it's the Obama brand that's strong more so than the generic Democratic one. On the other hand, because Obama hasn't actually been in office, the Democrats do not yet have any accomplishments to point to. The Democratic message in 2010 will essentially be one of two things...
1. Obama's accomplished X, Y and Z and showed the country the way forward, let's give him leaders in Congress who can continue to deliver for the middle class, or,
2. Obama accomplished X, but he couldn't accomplish Y and Z because the Republicans obstructed those measures to protect the special interests ... let's put partisanship behind us and elect leaders in Congress who can represent the common good.
And a contrarian view from D-Day:
It's a little funny to see Republicans claiming momentum in the country after an incumbent Senator wins a low-turnout runoff election in Georgia. Lots of us were hopeful that Jim Martin could steal the race, but let's face it, he was running uphill the whole time. Especially because Chambliss ran almost entirely on the concept of "divided government" and obstructing Barack Obama's agenda, which works among Republicans in a red state. They had to have this race and they spent millions to keep it. In Georgia.
I'm supposed to be upset? What's notable is that the race was close enough to go to a runoff at all.
Yes. Democratic prospects in 2010 will rise on fall on them delivering for the American people or calling out the obstruction. Martin had no access to these messages, and was making them, again, in GEORGIA. While Chambliss' "I'll obstruct everything" message is operative. This is what you can take out of this race - the plain fact that Republicans aren't ready to make nice, that they will block whatever they can block, and that Democrats had better start strategizing ways to get things done.