I heard Chuck Todd on MSNBC today saying that Obama will likely not campaign for Jim Martin in his Senate runoff campaign. I can understand that he’s focused on the transition right now, and also that Martin faces an uphill climb. Still, I think it’s a mistake. For one thing, with the Alaska race moving our way and Minnesota still a good possibility, Georgia could end up being the Dems’ shot at 60 seats. Now, given the fluidity of cloture votes, I don’t believe that 60 is the magic number some have made it out to be, but it does represent a psychological hurdle, and besides, a Sen. Martin is a heck of a lot less likely to join a filibuster than Sen. Chambliss.
I also don’t really see what Obama has to lose by getting involved. If Martin loses, that will be what was expected, so Obama will hardly be associated with that loss. On the other hand, if he helps Martin pull off the upset, it will have Republicans shaking in their boots and will serve to validate not only his coattails but also his 50-state strategy. Besides, it’s not like this race is in Mississippi; Obama came within a few points of McCain in Georgia. Nor is Martin running away from Obama; in fact, he seems eager to have him visit.
The Republicans are going all out to crank up their base. Obama is the one guy who can truly help the Democrats turn out theirs. He should go to Georgia.
Partisan considerations aside, it strikes me that two of the remaining contested Senate races seem to have their processes exactly backwards. In Georgia, Saxby Chambliss and Jim Martin are heading for a runoff, despite the fact that voters expressed a fairly clear preference for the incumbent. I suppose it’s possible that Chambliss will fail to add 0.1% of the remaining third-party voters in the runoff — and as a Democrat, I hope that happens — but the more likely outcome is that it will prove to be a waste of time and resources that merely confirms the results of the initial round. And in the event that Obama’s victory shakes up the race and allows Martin to win over voters who had supported Chambliss in the first round, suddenly we’re not talking about a runoff so much as a new election.
In Minnesota, meanwhile, you could make a good case that a runoff would be clarifying. Coleman and Franken have effectively tied with 42 percent each, which means that a runoff would allow the 16% of the electorate who voted for someone else the chance to express their second choice. Instead, as happened in Florida in 2000, the election will be decided by a vote margin that will almost certainly be less than the margin of error of even the most accurate counting method.
In the unlikely event that I were ever given the opportunity to write a state constitution, I would probably go with a modified version of the Georgia model. That is, require a runoff if no candidate reaches a certain level of support, but set that threshold below 50 percent, perhaps at 45. That way, runoffs would be reserved for elections in which a third-party candidate garnered significant support, not one in which a few gadflies chipped away enough of the frontrunner’s vote total to keep him or her below a majority.
A lot has been said about McCain’s recent declaration about the Russian invasion of Georgia:
My friends, we have reached a crisis, the first probably serious crisis internationally since the end of the Cold War. This is an act of aggression. And historians in time will tell how provoked it was, what actions the Georgian government took, etc., but the fact is that this aggression is is far exceeded any any provocation that might have been inflicted on South Ossetia or Abkhazia
Much has been said about this being either a moment of forgetfulness or, as Yglesias says, a “confusion in terms of high-level concepts.”
But there is one possibility that nobody has really addressed. What if McCain was being neither forgetful nor confused (let alone the fact that we’d have to ask that question raises serious questions about his suitability as CInC)? What if McCain was serious?
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In the aftermath of the biggest news story of the week (sorry, JRE, but your dilly-dallying takes back seat to an actual war), we can sit back and judge how Presidential John McCain and Barack Obama really are when it comes to a moment of crisis. And it’s not even close:
While Obama offered a response largely in line with statements issued by democratically elected world leaders…first calling on both sides to negotiate, John McCain took a remarkably—and uniquely—more aggressive stance, siding clearly with Georgia’s pro-Western leaders and placing the blame for the conflict entirely on Russia…
Obama’s statement put him in line with the White House, the European Union, NATO, and a series of European powers, while McCain’s initial statement—which he delivered in Iowa and ran on a blog on his Web site under the title “McCain Statement on Russian Invasion of Georgia,” —put him more closely in line with the moral clarity and American exceptionalism projected by President Bush’s first term.