Monday, May 19, 2008

The Set Up

Why is District 80 so compelling?

To those outside the perimeter and outside the inner circles. the answer probably is, "it ain't".

But for those in the know, the upcoming battle for the 80th is not so much Hatfield/McCoys as it is the DiMeras and the Bradys.

Take a sitting aisle jumper, a scorned party seething from betrayal, a stranger riding into town with thoughts of righteous revenge, put them in a district which is a demographer's wet dream and you boil a cauldron of trouble to the frothing point.

Only four years ago Rep. Mike Jacobs was the darling of the Democratic Party. Fresh out of law school and with strong backing from the state party, he won the 80th with 51% of the vote. In a district trending Democrat, two years later he won re-election by an astounding 66%.

Then, in 2007, Jacobs began doing strange things. He voted for Democratic scourge Glenn Richardson for Speaker of the House. He voted for payday lending and against the children of Peachcare.

The cinch was finally firmly clasped to the barrel in June of that year when he officially announced his switch to the Republican party. A mere three years after his first victory, he left his party, his youtful supporters and arguably a piece of his reputation in a choking cloud of dust.

The battle cry of vengeance sprang from the lips of practically every person who previously pounded the pavement from Toco Hills to Dunwoody.

Despite this passion and a full year to prepare, still no experienced Democrat living in the 80th stepped forward to challenge the betrayer.

Enter Keith Gross.

Georgia law requires those qualifying for the House of Representatives to be 21 years of age, have lived in Georgia for two years and in the district for one year. First glance at Gross' picture might call into question his ability to pass the first threshold, but it is the second and third which have caused consternation in the Democratic camp.

Residency challenges are not rare but also rarely worth a mention. They are hardly ever successful and usually only a subtle poke at the inexperienced and the unknown. However, in the case of Gross there exists enough flotsam and jetsam (a restaurant in Maryland, a car registered in Florida) in the water to spark curiousity.

Gross responded in detail to the criticism but will it matter?

As with all things politic the most important question is sometimes the most overlooked. Why? Why would a two-term incumbent, even one who recently switched parties, even on who is in a "competitive" district, even acknowledge the existence of a challenger who conventional wisdom purports doesn't have a hoot in hell chance of victory?

Two possibilities.

Jacobs' camp thinks the charge can stick. Gross' recent travels are certainly odd and though you would think the most basic vetting of where a candidate actually lays his head at night would be a fait accompli, we are talking Democrats.

More likely however is a carpetbagger strategy - make the charge now so you can stick him later. Even if Gross fights off the residency protests, this fall he will face attacks of being a mercenary, a Democratic party shill who rode into town not for the 80th but for revenge and pure political expediency.

Although rarely observed in the wild, the already wooly 80th may witness the gestation of a political meme.

How these horses finish is not known but the degenerate gamblers are placing the smart money on the second scenario.

In these weird early machinations one kernal of truth is discovered - at times the strangest move is actually the most clever. It is a maxim best not forgotten.


Rusty said...

You might recall that Jill Chambers tried (and failed) to paint Bob Roche as a carpetbagger.

The most curious thing about this to me is what Jacobs is afraid of. All due respect to my Democratic friends, I think the guy would be luck to pull 30 percent of the vote even with supposed Obama coattails.

griftdrift said...

I agree Rusty. Which is why my initial reaction was WTF? But now I think it's going to be the mercenary angle. Which by the way I think is a more up to date image than carpetbagger. Cooler too.

Anonymous said...

This early campaign against Gross reminds me a lot of the ones I've seen against Democratic challengers in the 81st. It does not just make him look like an outsider, but points out various oddities about his story, making people question who this guy really is. Great strategy, actually.

Anonymous said...

ummm.. I just read that link you put in here. Jill Chambers did not try to paint Bob Roche as a carpetbagger.

All she did was point out at what point he became a homeowner in that district. I had to look again , because I know Jill has been up to all kinds of stuff, but that is just not accurate. I think we are all going to have to start fact checking Rusty's posts. Come on man!

Rusty said...

Take it up with Joseph, the author of the post, if you don't believe it. His track record is a little more credible than someone who lacks the gumption to attach their name to their accusations.

Anonymous said...

For what it's worth, I was a "condo owner" during the 10 years I lived in District 81 prior to becoming a homeowner. Leaving out this fact implied I was a carpetbagger.

The strategy is to imply something sinister or questionable without actually making a false accusation so it can be denied later (as anonymous did above).

The good news is that voters are beginning to recognize these tactics.

Bob Roche

decaturguy said...

Richard Nixon was a shoe in when the Watergate burglary occured, right?

Politicians always think they can lose and in this presidential year, anyone with a D by there name might make it close with Jacobs.

Plus, I think Joseph is right. This makes it seem like something is really strange about Gross. If nothing else it confirms that he is a 24 year old, little known, newcomer to the district who drive a Porsche.