In the digital era, putting good journalism behind a firewall is about as useful as a closet full of hoop skirts, so I’m just going to copy and paste Dick Pettys’ of InsiderAdvantage’s piece from yesterday about the Saxby Chambliss campaign, or lack thereof, here in full. It deserves to be set free. Sniff the glove!
What Went Wrong For Chambliss That Race Now Is So Close?
By Dick Pettys
(10/30/08) What went wrong with Saxby Chambliss’ campaign that his lead in a race he was expected to win handily now is within the margin of error in polling? Some Republicans already are blaming strategist Tom Perdue for an effort they claim lacked luster, organization and vision. Perdue, who acknowledged Wednesday that a runoff is “a possibility,” said the forces at play in this election were beyond anyone’s control.
“It has nothing to do with (Democrat) Jim Martin,” said Perdue. “Anybody who was on the ballot would be where he is right now.”
When the year began, no one took Chambliss’ re-election task very seriously, and, indeed, Democrats had a hard time coming up with a “name” candidate to put forward against him. One of them had such a tough time gaining traction that he hauled himself up a tower in the dead of winter to attract attention.
But this has been anything but a conventional year in national politics, and the battle for Chambliss’ seat has been exactly the same.
Unexpectedly, Martin emerged as the Democratic nominee, overpowering in a runoff the black CEO of DeKalb County, Vernon Jones, who had expected that an electorate energized over the candidacy of Barack Obama would help propel him into the berth against Chambliss.
And then, after a rather uneventful summer, the course of the campaign changed this fall with the nation’s economic meltdown and Chambliss’ vote, along with Senate colleague Johnny Isakson, in support of the “bailout” or “rescue” bill. The state’s seven Republican congressman steadfastly voted against the measure twice.
“Up until the recovery bill, I think Martin’s name ID was at 24 percent, and he had done literally nothing in the campaign,” Perdue contends. “To say the recovery bill was controversial is an understatement. I have never seen the numbers and forcefulness of the calls, even to the campaign office.
“Nobody knew that within 36 hours banks were going to start failing around the world, and that’s what happened. And for roughly 10 days, not only our country, but most of the countries in the world, were in free fall. And our campaign momentum came to almost a stop. And that’s when the national Democrats capitalized on it, and that’s when they took control of the Martin campaign,” the strategist said.
But other Republicans look at the picture quite differently.
“He (Perdue) has just run a really bad campaign,” said one GOP insider. “Chambliss gets told all the time, ‘Where are your ads” and, ‘Your ads suck.’”
That source said the National Republican Senatorial Committee offered to send a full crew of workers to help the campaign but was told by Perdue the help wasn’t needed.
Said the source: “There’s a lot of vitriol spewing from a lot of places on how the campaign has been run.. Jim Martin hands them gifts every day. They don’t take advantage.”
But Chambliss, himself, also gets a share of the criticism.
“Saxby’s reputation is that he’s spent six years in Washington playing golf. He’s gone on lots of trips. He hasn’t done the down-and-dirty constituent work. He hasn’t built up the goodwill that Isakson has built up. Isakson makes a mistake and people say, ‘Yeah, but we love Johnny.’ Saxby doesn’t endear himself to voters in the same way.”
Another source said questions about the campaign aren’t new. “Three or four months ago they started saying, ‘What in the … (expletive deleted) is going on with Saxby. It looks like he’s running a bad state House race. The ads are deplorable, there’s no real strategy. Everybody from his donors in the state to the leadership in Washington was just appalled.”
The source added: “The real story is, Tom controls everything. He’s got his hands in every pot of cash – for direct mail, creative, television. The end product has been an embarrassing campaign. They’ve messed around so long they’ve let Martin sneak up on them.”
But this source, too, pointed a finger at Chambliss.
“At the end of the day, it ain’t Tom’s fault. The buck stops with the guy’s name on the ballot. It can’t be pawned off on Tom Perdue. Has he run a bad campaign? Sure. But had Saxby Chambliss done his job and demanded more, he wouldn’t be in this shape.”
The source agreed that Chambliss’ reputation also was part of the problem. “Saxby bragged about it his first four years – how much golf he was getting in. It was a real problem and it irked a lot of people.”
Ultimately, the source said, he expects Chambliss to win in a runoff. “But it’s embarrassing it’s gotten this close. It’s Jim Martin, for heaven’s sake!”
If the race goes to a runoff, as the latest Insider poll suggests is likely, and if the race would decide whether Democrats win a 60th seat in the Senate, Georgia would become the center of the political world for the ensuing four weeks.
Republicans are counting on black voters not returning to the polls for a runoff, even if Obama wins the presidency and comes to Georgia to campaign for Martin. On the other hand, they think their own base would be hugely energized to turn out to block a veto-proof Senate if the White House were headed for Democratic hands. But who can say for sure in a year that has been packed with so many surprises?
Perdue said he’s not anticipating a runoff; “we’re still working toward winning without one. But a runoff is a possibility.”
“Our internal tracking polls have had us bouncing from 45 to 48. We were at 48 last night, 47 the night before, 46 on Friday. We don’t poll Friday night, Saturday night, Sunday night or Wednesday night. And Martin’s been consistently at 36, 37, 38, 37. We’re at 48 and he’s at 38 right now. We don’t push the undecideds.”
He added, “Up until two weeks ago there were friends who laughed at us and said, ‘Y’all don’t have a problem.’ But this Obama wave – there are no rules you can look at and say, ‘This is how it’s going to be.”
He says his ads “were very effective until that 10 day spell.” And he said the negative ads he’s aired “have stopped Jim’s roll.”
As for Chambliss’ affinity for the links, he said, “Saxby’s not played golf in this campaign – at least to my knowledge, he hasn’t. He’s worked as hard this race as in 2002. Where he’s catching the criticism from is from some who don’t feel he really should work with the Democrats – remember the “Gang of 10” and then the “Gang of 20” – to lower the price of oil.”