Josh Goodman is a former staff writer for GOVERNING..E-mail: email@example.com
This year, Roy Barnes ought to lose. For most of Barnes' one term as governor of Georgia, most Georgians liked him reasonably well. In fact, there's a case that on election day 2002 most Georgians liked him reasonably well. But, in a year in which Democratic turnout was depressed in Georgia, a majority of voters who showed up didn't like him. He lost to Sonny Perdue in the shocker of the night.
Today, Georgia is even more divorced from its Democratic roots than it was in 2002. Democratic enthusiasm is even more depressed. Barnes was an interesting and ambitious governor, but was also controversial enough one that, simply on his merits, he seems unlikely to overcome a fiercely Republican climate.
Nor will Barnes have an easy time running against the Republicans in charge of Georgia state government. Perdue hasn't evoked particularly strong emotions from Georgians. This year actually was his most productive one in the legislature, with major victories on transportation funding and water policy.
Barnes' best hope, then, is his opponent, Nathan Deal.
I've been arguing for a few election cycles now that member of Congress have a hard time winning gubernatorial elections at a time when Washington isn't popular. Yet there certainly have been some exceptions -- Sam Brownback seems to be breezing to victory in Kansas -- which make me wonder whether there's anything to this theory.
The Georgia race is a great test case of that theory. Deal was a long-time congressman until he resigned earlier this year. Befitting the stereotype of long-time congressman, he's faced ethical questions, including an investigation by the House ethics committee. Barnes is a strong enough candidate that, if being a congressman truly is a big liability, he should be able to take advantage. But, Barnes faces a difficult enough political climate that highlighting Deal's congressional service is pretty much his only chance.
That's the context of Barnes' new ad, with its stinging tag line: "Nathan Deal, too corrupt even for Congress." Note also what it calls the Republican on first reference: "Congressman Deal." Here's the ad:
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