Barack and Sarah's worldCommentary


Georgia had its runoff for the U.S. Senate last week to settle things between Republican incumbent Saxby Chambliss and Democratic challenger Jim Martin.

It was to answer whether the Democrats would edge closer to a filibuster-proof Senate or whether Republicans could stop the bleeding.

So there'll be no filibuster-proof Senate. Republicans aren't hemorrhaging at the moment, though Al Franken still wields a dull knife in Minnesota.

The temptation is great to draw overly sweeping conclusions from this insular exercise in a Southern state. In fact, the temptation is entirely too great to resist.

Let us jump to two conclusions:

-- So much for the permanent realignment supposedly occurring from Barack Obama's victory.

-- It's Sarah Palin's Republican Party now, no matter what publications she reads or doesn't, no matter how much got spent on her clothes, no matter how much policy information is unknown to her, no matter whether she shows up next on "Dancing with the Stars," which probably isn't out of the question.

What happened a month ago was that Chambliss, a heavily favored one-term Republican incumbent in a conservative Republican Dixie state, didn't quite get 50 percent in a three-person race. There was a Libertarian gumming up the works. Chambliss got 49.8 percent and Jim Martin 46.8 percent.

Meantime, John McCain won the state, but, at 52-47 over Obama, by less than people thought. This time they couldn't quite call Georgia as red at poll-closing time. Georgia bears certain characteristics akin to those of Obama-carrying Virginia and North Carolina. It has had a significant influx of suburbanites from other states who have changed the demographic to give moderate Democrats a fighting chance, or so some thought.

With black voters turning out at record levels, and with young people energized for Obama, and with greater percentages of white suburbanites finding Democrats palatable, Martin rode Obama's coat-tails to Chambliss' heels. But in a month's time, in a head-to-head battle against Martin with Obama off the ballot and otherwise busy cramming to take over a nation in crisis, Chambliss kicked Martin by what's generally called a landslide.

Chambliss' voters came back to the polls. Martin's, which were only Obama's, didn't. That left the same old Georgia.

We can quantify this: Absent Obama and the singular frenzy over him and the presidential race, the Republican in Georgia gained a little more than 7 percent, from 49.8 to 57, while the Democrats lost nearly 4 percent, from 46.8 to 43.

If wins in presidential races meant political realignment, then Jimmy Carter would have fashioned one and Clinton, too.

Obama's win had to do with a collapsed economy and an unpopular war. It had to do with McCain's poor performance. It had to do with Obama's discipline and with uncommon excitement about Obama.

But, alas, Georgia remains red. And I rather think Virginia, North Carolina and Indiana are still red, or reddish, day to day as well.

Now as to Palin: One need only refer to Chambliss' own explanation for his victory, or at least the 14-point margin. He said Palin did it by coming in at the end like a rock star to carry him to the finish line, sometimes barely able to deliver her remarks for the prolonged wild cheering of fanatics in the Republican base.

McCain, Mike Huckabee, Rudy Giuliani and Mitt Romney -- they came to Georgia for Chambliss, too. Chambliss thanked them. He credited Palin.

So with no real realignment for Obama and with Palin a rock star, well, let's not get way ahead of ourselves. Obama might actually succeed in the presidency. That's how realignment occurs, anyway. And it happens to be what the nation desperately needs.

John Brummett, an award-winning columnist for the Arkansas News Bureau in Little Rock, is author of "High Wire," a book about Bill Clinton's first year as president. His e-mail address is jbrummett@ arkansasnews.com.

 

Rules for posting comments

Comments posted below are from readers. In no way do they represent the view of Stephens Media LLC or this newspaper. This is a public forum. Read our guidelines for posting. If you believe that a commenter has not followed these guidelines, please click the FLAG icon next to the comment.