Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Nunn, Carter & The Coattail Effect

 There's this thing in Politics called Coattails or "The Coattail Effect" & in this year's midterm elections here in Georgia, one wonders what kind of coattails will Gubernatorial candidate for Governor Jason Carter (D-Decatur), son of former Governor and President James E. ""Jimmy" Carter & U.S. Senate & eventual candidate Michelle Nunn (D-Atlanta), daughter of former State Rep & U.S. Senator Sam Nunn will have in this year's elections.

If you don't know what coattails are, its the power of a popular candidate to gather support for other candidates running on the same party ticket. Strong or winning candidates are said to have coattails when they drag candidates for lower office along with them to victory.

The reality is, when you run for office, the only person you better count on to get the job done is yourself. But of course a candidate cannot win any election without help from many others. All politics are local and local is where any election needs to start.

The Democratic Party can have the best candidates, be on the right side of the issues and put out poll changing marketing, however, without a wide-ranging and extensive ground game, they will come up short time and time again. The proof is in the pudding, look at the 2008 Senate race between Jim Martin and Saxby Chambliss. Martin clearly rode the coattails of Barack Obama and as a result he forced Chambliss into a runoff, but when the General Election was over and with no Barack Obama on tip of the ballot, Martin was exposed with a very weak or non-existant ground game needed thus lost in the runoff.

There doesn't need to be some sort of dramatic Soul Searching for Democrats, they just need to be clear, acknowledge the facts and look in the mirror. Elections are different each year, but the fundamentals of a very successful election never ever change. Democrats here in Georgia CANNOT RELY ON HOPE OR SCANDAL OR SOMEONE RESIGNING from the GOP side to win. Although it never hurts.

In Jason Carter & Michelle Nunn, the Democratic Party have two candidates who, depending how their perspective campaigns go could have those valuable coattails needed to pull weaker candidates across the 50% threshold. Both are moderate-minded democrats who can appeal & can pull votes from Independents, suburbanites, rural moderates & disaffected Conservative Democrats. In the case of Michelle Nunn who's making her first run for office, if voters, especially those in Rural Georgia see her in the same mold of her very popular father and former Senator, her coattails could reach as far down to the local level (Commissioner, State Legislative Seats). Jason Carter youth, enthusiasm, passion and his ability to talk and appeal to the Bluecollar working man and woman and his ability to persuade could also have the same effect. His relationship to former President Carter will hinder him with some voters who'll never vote for him because he's a democrat and he's related to President Carter, who is a favorite whipping boy for hardline republicans.

What I know is that coattails aren't just the result of a popular candidate convincing voters to support his or her platform, the most powerful coattail effects are caused by actually changing the composition of the electorate. When the candidate at the top of the ticket catches fire, members of that candidate's party are energized, invigorated. They work harder for the whole ticket and come out to vote for it in higher numbers.

If you're a candidate for congress here in Georgia, it would help if you attach yourself to either one of these candidates or both.

Party labels in my view serve poorly as shortcuts and both National Parties are not popular at the moment. Attaching your campaign to a presidential candidate would do more harm than good. But since gubernatorial candidates are well known inside the state and have a strong network, congressional candidates such as Amy Tavio can win votes by allying with a Carter or Nunn.

But in the end, coattails alone will not be enough for any democrat running for office here in Georgia this year and beyond. He or she must have a decent ground game as well. Just the coattails alone may get them 3-4% more of the vote, but if they want 50%, a ground game is essential.

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