Cobb will be key for Perdue. - An important read for those in the metro.
Since 1980, when Cobb's 71 percent for Republican Mack Mattingly propelled him to an upset victory over four-term veteran Democratic Sen. Herman Talmadge, Republicans have depended on Cobb to produce large margins for GOP statewide candidates.
Now with Cobb's Democratic census rising - already blacks total 20 percent of registered voters - and Republican leadership waning, some GOP leaders fear a return to the days when Democrats reigned. As Cobb Republicans hope for a low Democratic turnout next year, will controversial Cobb GOP chair Anthony-Scott Hobbs again field Republican candidates in unwinnable Democrat-dominated districts like he did last summer against state Sen. Steve Thompson and state Reps. Alicia Thomas, Doug Stoner and Don Wix?
In the 1980s, both Ronald Reagan and the first President Bush took more than 70 percent in Cobb, while Mattingly won 63 percent in Cobb in his unsuccessful 1986 re-election bid. Paul Coverdell took 62 percent in the county in his 1992 upset of then-Democratic Sen. Wyche Fowler.
However, the presence of Democrat Barnes on the ballot in 1998 and 2002 depressed GOP showings in Cobb. Perdue won just 52 percent in Cobb in 2002, only a point better than the percentage Republican Guy Millner won in his second bid for governor in 1998.
Given that Perdue won handily, with 58 percent, in rural Georgia in 2002, while just narrowly losing metro Atlanta to Barnes, why then is Cobb more critical to Perdue this time?
Perdue cannot count on replicating his strong 58 percent in rural Georgia, given the strength that either prospective Democratic nominee, Cathy Cox or Mark Taylor, is likely to have in their home base of rural southwest Georgia.
The vast proportion of the state's population growth is in north Georgia, mainly north of Interstate 20, so the percentage of votes cast next year in rural Georgia is likely to diminish in 2006. Therefore, Perdue is seeking to boost his numbers in traditionally GOP suburban counties like Cobb and Gwinnett.
While it is unlikely that Perdue will match Sen. Johnny Isakson's 63 percent showing or President Bush's 62 percent performance in Cobb from last November, Cobb Republicans may seek to increase Perdue's 2002 showing in Cobb by five or six points, perhaps to 57 or 58 percent. Either showing would be a challenge for the Cobb GOP.
The county's black voting strength continues to grow. Cobb's 20 percent black in voter registration, compares with 17 percent black when Perdue was elected governor.
By Democratic standards, both Cox and Taylor ran well in Cobb. In 2002, Cox actually won Cobb by a 10-point margin for secretary of state over Cobb Republican Charlie Bailey, while Taylor lost here to the GOP's Steve Stancil of neighboring Cherokee County by an 8-point margin. Incidentally, perennial candidate Bailey intends to run again for secretary of state.
Cobb voters generally have given Democratic gubernatorial nominees respectable showings when one considers the county's strong GOP leanings. Going back to 1982, of the last six gubernatorial elections, only once has Cobb given a Republican gubernatorial nominee more than 57 percent, in 1990 when Isakson took 62 percent in his home county against Democrat Zell Miller.
Usually you hear of a "gender gap" where Republicans do better among white male voters than white female voters. That seemed true in the Perdue/Barnes contest in 2002. Now the Republican hierarchy is worried that if Cathy Cox wins the Democratic gubernatorial nomination she will get a lot of GOP women to vote for her to "make history."
Fulton County Commission chair Karen Handel is planning to run for secretary of state even though there are already three candidates in that race - Bill Stephens, Perry McGuire and Bailey of Marietta. Knowing this, GOP politicos say Perdue's supporters are delighted to have a Republican woman running statewide next year to boost Perdue's numbers among women.
With Handel leaving to run for secretary of state, Fulton has two at-large county commission seats up in 2006 that will increase the Democratic vote. Basically, why would Handel want to remain on the commission, fighting for 51 percent, when Democrats always have controlled the Fulton County Commission?
The last time Fulton voted Republican for president was the 1972 Nixon/McGovern race. Even Walter Mondale and Michael Dukakis won in Fulton in the 1980s. So Fulton is a tough county for the GOP to win, just as Cobb overall is difficult for the Dems to carry.
Overall since the 1960s, Fulton has been the most reliably Democratic county among Georgia's largest counties, although in recent years Clayton and DeKalb have gotten so Democratic that they usually give the Dems a higher percentage than does Fulton.
And the times, they are a-changin', especially south of Macland Road. It's gotten to be in South Cobb that if the Lord ran as a Republican, he would lose. Some politicos believe by 2010, Cobb Dems will be able to win Cobb County on a countywide basis - assuming by then that the county is more than 25 percent black in voter registration.
(Bill McKinney's column from The Marietta Daily Journal, 6-05-05.)