Monday, June 25, 2007

10th District Wrap Up

Some final thoughts on the recent 10 district special election.

Three yards and a cloud of dust is not the most exciting offense, but it did allow the Sooner teams of the 80s to regularly beat opponents by 70 points.

Much was made of the Democrats not mustering 30% and Paul Broun's "surprise" second place finish. Meta issues such as immigration and Iraq were thrown around like garments at a swingers convention. All the while, the bobbleheads mostly ignored the historical trend that voters are hard-wired to vote for those they know.

It's how you win a county commission race. It's how you win a mayor's race. Heck, it's how you get elected dog catcher if that mythical position still exist in some Thorton Wilder bubble of reality. In other words, it was always about the ground game.

On reflection, it's pretty easy to understand how Whitehead beat his closest opponent by 25 points. Of course, he was always the prohibitive favorite but while the bobbleheads talked about the impact of of Charlie Norwood's widow's endorsement, most ignored the fact that she also gave him the keys to the machine. A machine which Rep. Norwood solidified and added to through six congressional terms. In 2006, despite the ugly electoral mood of "throw all the bastards out", Norwood won the 10th by 36 points.

Broun on the other hand seemed to have everything against him. He's not the best speaker in the world. He has a history of losing elections and nobody likes a loser. Most importantly, he faced oppposition from a well financed Democrat (Marlow) and an Iraq war veteran with an endorsement from the Athens Banner-Herald (Pulliam). So how did he do it?

His daddy. But not how you probably think. Many in the pundit class like to snicker and insinuate the voters confused Broun, Jr. with his daddy Broun, Sr., one of the most powerful Democratic State Senators of all time. But that's the easy way out and not at all fair to the voters of such Broun strongholds as Oconee County. Sure, they knew his daddy and that means a lot. But it also means that Paul Broun, Jr. already had home field advantage in an important swing area. Why would people walk the hot streets of Watkinsville for a stranger when a familiar face stood right before them?

So all is right in the world. Republicans pulled 70% in a 70% Republican district. Old school politics and old school names still matter. Most of us, yours truly included, tended to focus on issues too large while ignoring the fact voters tend to not care what we think. And Dan Marino never did find a ground game and the Dolphins never won a Super Bowl in the 80s.

A post script. It would be easy to attack Jane Kidd and the new regime in the DPG for another disastrous loss, but it's too early for that. The new team is still getting its feet wet and lord knows the poor things were hampered by their own bylaws which prevented supporting a single candidate over other Democrats. Bless their hearts, those Dems truly do believe in loving all.

So, when the Republican bobbleheads start gloating about Democrats still being out of touch and Democrat bobbleheads start demanding change (again), take time to pause and remember only time will tell if Jane Kidd is Moses leading the children out of the desert or Pizarro leading would be conquerers deeper into the fetid swamps of the Amazon seeking mythical cities of gold.