Michael Barone, rambling in US News:
Chambliss’s Win in Georgia Shows Obama’s Diminishing Coattails
Saxby Chambliss has won the Georgia runoff by a 57.4 percent-to-42.6 percent margin with 97 percent of precincts reporting. That’s a margin of 14.8 percentage points, far greater than the 49.8 percent-to-46.8 percent margin that Chambliss led by in the November 4 voting, and it’s well above the 53 percent to 46 percent that was projected for the runoff on pollster.com.
Chambliss’s victory over Jim Martin means that the Democrats will not get 60 seats in the Senate, even if Al Franken somehow manages to overcome Norm Coleman’s circa 300-vote lead in the Minnesota recount. Franken’s only apparent recourse is to the courts or to the full Senate; I doubt he’ll get anywhere in the courts, and I doubt that Barack Obama will want the Democrats to take on a bruising partisan fight to get a 59th seat in the Senate (though labor leaders, eager to pass the card check bill and knowing that Arlen Specter voted to cut off the filibuster against it in the outgoing Congress, may press for that).***
The bottom line: The Obama campaign did a magnificent job of turning out black voters in rural and small-town counties in Virginia, North Carolina, and Georgia for the November 4 election. But it was not able to replicate those results in the Georgia runoff. Black turnout pretty much matched white turnout in the inner Atlanta area, where black political organizations have been active for many years, but it failed to do so in the outer suburbs with increasing black majorities and in North Georgia counties with few blacks. Black turnout did match statewide levels in black-majority cities in southern Georgia, but not enough to outweigh similar white turnout in adjacent suburban counties. As the analysts at NBC News suggest, Obama coattails that were helpful to many newly elected Democrats in the South in November 2008 may not be so helpful to them in 2010 and any special elections that occur between now and then.
That suggests another hypothesis: that the Obama turnout effort among blacks may not be replicable. You can only vote to elect the first black president once.
Unless you agree completely to the hypothesis, wouldn’t the Chambliss GE and then the run-off suggest the STRENGTH of Obama’s coattails? Obama was on the ticket for one, and not the other. Which one did Martin do better in? Additionally, doesn’t the President’s party generally lose seats in the mid-term, anyway?
Seems mighty strange to assert something about the voting patterns of a block of people in an election to be held four years from now, based on, well, speculation. I guess the pundits are as bored as we are right now.