Correction: The original post incorrectly stated that Georgia had not voted for a Democratic president since Jimmy Carter. In fact, Georgia voted for Bill Clinton in 1992.
In a Politico op-ed published today, RNC Chairman Mike Duncan tried to squeeze the maximum propaganda benefit from Tuesday’s reelection of Saxby Chambliss (R-GA). He claimed that the (very predictable) Republican victory “proved” that the 2008 election had not given progressives a mandate, and that the country remained fundamentally conservative:
Georgians refuted any notion that the ideology of the country has shifted to the left. They supported the candidate who believes that people should keep their hard-earned dollars; that every American resource should be leveraged to address our energy crisis; that the role of judges is to interpret the Constitution; and that America must be vigilant against the very real threats to our nation and its citizens.
Notably, Chambliss won in spite of strong support by President-elect Obama and Democrat organizations for Jim Martin. Georgian’s [sic] clearly sent a message that any rhetoric about a liberal mandate is nothing but hot air.
The reelection of a sitting Republican senator in a deeply red state came as surprise to no one; in fact, the competitiveness of Chambliss’s Democratic challenger was far more unexpected. Georgia has not voted for a Democratic president since Jimmy Carter ran, and polls consistently showed Chambliss with a lead both before and after Nov. 4.
However, Fox Business host Neil Cavuto suggested yesterday that Chambliss’s win was “a sign that voters are already reconsidering the Democratic victory they gave the country last month.” Yet when pressed by Phil Singer, the former head of communications for Hillary Clinton, even Cavuto had to admit the Republican victory was not “a rejection of anything bigger here.” Watch it:
As staunch conservative Charles Krauthammer noted yesterday on Fox News, “If the Republicans can’t win a straight up Senate race in Georgia, they ought to disband and join a country club.”
CAVUTO: Welcome back. Republican Saxby Chambliss preventing the Democrats from getting that filibuster-proof 60-seat supermajority. The senator not only won reelection in the runoff race, but he won by a lot. So could this be a sign that voters are already reconsidering the Democratic victory they gave the country last month? Phil Singer says, no way, not so fast. He, by the way, is Senator Hillary Clinton’s deputy communications director during the campaign. So you’re not buying that talk that people are stepping back and saying, go slow?
SINGER: Well, I think the premise is totally false. Number one, you look at the Gallup poll today, 78 percent of the public approves of the transition, approves of the positions, of the appointments that Senator Obama — or President-elect Obama has made since he got elected. And, you know, putting that aside for a second, I just think, you know, Georgia was not on anyone’s radar screen until really October. Nobody in their right mind thought that we were going to win a red state like Georgia. Saxby Chambliss was not on the list of Democratic targets.
CAVUTO: Well, you’re right about that, Phil. But I don’t think it’s indictment or a rejection of anything bigger here. I agree with that. I will say there is a clear distinction between the pragmatic approach the president-elect has been taking, which is reasonable, assured, confident —
CAVUTO: — very focused, and some of the lunacy we’re getting out of the House and Senate where it is bailouts upon bailouts. And by the way, on both parties’ part. But since they’re in the majority, the Democrats are the ones that people are focusing on saying, you know, I didn’t vote for this, and I sure hope that Barack Obama doesn’t continue this?
SINGER: Well, I think, first, you have to look at the actual fundamentals of the Senate race that took place in Georgia. Clearly, in November, having Obama at the top of the ticket drove turnout up significantly in that Senate race. It ended up being a huge benefit to Jim Martin and helping his candidacy. Obama wasn’t on the ticket this time around and it is a red state. I mean, that is the basic reality. So I think — you know, I would argue that you’ve got to separate the result in Georgia from whatever people are saying.
CAVUTO: Well, I know, but then you would — then you would — Indiana was a red state that went blue. North Carolina, a red state that went blue. Virginia, red state that went blue. So my point is, it’s not out of the range of argument to say.
SINGER: But not all of those states are.
CAVUTO: I know, I know, I know, but you — my point is, it’s not that Georgia.
SINGER: There are various shades of red.
CAVUTO: . hasn’t had a couple of famous Democrats, right? I mean, Jimmy Carter comes to mind.
SINGER: Not in recent memory.
Steve Benen mocks Duncan for touting Republicans’ new-found “momentum”: “Republicans have the smallest House minority in nearly two decades, and the smallest Senate minority in nearly three decades,” Benen writes. “They got trounced in the presidential race, and are now easily outnumbered in the nation’s governorships. But they managed, with surprising difficulty, to hold on to a Senate seat in Georgia. Can’t you just feel the momentum?”