Former Gov. Roy Barnes might be the favorite to win the Dem nomination over former Labor Commissioner David Poythress and House Minority Leader Dubose Porter of Dublin in Laurens County if his campaign is presented wisely.
But how does he get the rural votes back? He can't win statewide just with strong showings in Clayton, DeKalb and Fulton. And black votes probably won't turn out at the same rate next year as it did in 2008 when blacks accounted for a record 30 percent of the state's total turnout, allowing Dem challenger Obama to win a respectable 47 percent, the highest percentage a Dem presidential candidate has won in Georgia over the last 45 years, except for native son Jimmy Carter in 1976 and 1980. The previous record for a non-Georgian Dem since 1964 was: Lyndon Johnson that year and Bill Clinton in 1996.
If Barmes came back and won, he'd be the first governor since Gene Talmadge to win non-consecutive terms for governor. Georgia governors were not allowed to seek two consecutive four-years terms until George Busbee (1975-1983).
When ol' Gene was first elected governor in 1932, governors could serve only two two-year terms, then had to step down before running again. Starting with the 1942 election, Georgia governors were elected to four-year terms, but could only serve one term at a time, then had to step down before running again, four years later.
Busbee won a second four year term in 1978. Joe Frank Harris in 1986, Zell Miller in 1994 and Gov. Sonny Perdue in 2006. Barnes is the only one in the modern era not to win a second term
Politicos say Barnes first needs to win back the state's school teachers he made mad about education reform. Barnes apparently assumed teachers would always vote Democratic. But they didn't. However, a lot of teachers are not wild about Gov. Perdue either these days because of education cuts.
As for the polls, there is always some margin of error, but I think Columnist Bill Shipp stated something to the effect they were the worst/most wrong polls he had ever seen. One thing to keep in mind , polls never had Barnes much above 50 percent - 49-42.
Usually the undecideds votes for the challenger. In this case, Perdue. Often it is said that if someone is undecided, they won't vote for the incumbent. The presumption is that the undecideds are not wanting to vote for the incumbent, and wanting to know more first about the challenger.
Barnes problem was not that his vote total dropped a lot. It stayed roughly the same, 941,000 votes in 1998, 937,000 votes in 2002. The problem was that Perdue got a lot more votes - about 250,000 more than GOP candidate Guy Millner got in 1998 against Barnes. So, Perdue's base grew and Barnes' stagnated.
Another factor in Barnes' loss was the relatively low black turnout, which was about 10 points less than the white turnout rate, which was about 48 percent, whites 57 percent.
Chuck Bullock, professor of political science at the University of Georgia, wrote this about Barnes' loss in 2002:
"No one foresaw Barnes' defeat - not his tracking polls, not Perdue's polls, and not surveys conducted by the media hinted at the incumbent's vulnerability. Late polling showed Barnes gradually widening a lead and edging above 50 percent. From late September (2002) to late October, polls sponsored by the Atlanta newspapers showed Barnes widening his lead from 49-42 percent to 51-40 percent just a week before the election. The shift in the newspaper poll paralleled what Barnes's tracking polls were tapping.
The governor's change of the state flag alienated an active set of white voters, especially in rural Georgia. Without promising a return of the flag that the state had used since the mid-1950s, Perdue indicated that he "shared their pain" and repeatedly criticized his opponent for denying the public any direct input on the decision to change the flag or its design, a design judged to be the ugliest flag by a group of flag specialist.
If black turnout rate had matched white turnout rate, it would have been a cliffhanger, not a 105,000-vote win for Perdue, maybe just 10,000-20,000.
Barnes had the same problem former state Rep. Steve Tumlin of Marietta had - Tumlin's vote totals stagnated between 2004 and 2008. Tumlin got 7,915 votes when he beat Pat Dooley in 2004 and 7,964 votes in 2008 when he lost to Dooley, while Dooley got 6,893 votes in 2004 and 8,448 votes last fall. Tumlin gained just 49 votes between 2004-2008 while Dooley gained 1,555 votes, thanks to increased black voter turnout.