History against the Big Guy in possible runoff
With Gov. Sonny Perdue hovering around 50 percent in most recent polls and Mark Taylor in the low 30s, it appears the lieutenant governor’s best chance for an upset would be in a runoff.
Under Georgia law, candidates must receive at least 50 percent of the vote plus one to win. If the first-place candidate fails to reach that majority, the top two vote getters meet again in a runoff four weeks after Election Day.
At first glance, the possibility of a runoff has to be encouraging to a challenger who has been running about 20 points down since winning the Democratic nomination in the July 18 primary.
But a deeper look shows that a runoff campaign would be a steep uphill fight for Taylor or, for that matter, any Democrat in a similar position.
In 1992, the late Paul Coverdell, a Republican, defeated Democratic U.S. Sen. Wyche Fowler in a runoff after coming in second on Election Day. Fowler edged Coverdell in the general election 49 percent to 48 percent but was held below a majority because of the presence of a Libertarian candidate. But when they met again in a runoff, as the top two vote getters, Coverdell came out the winner with 51 percent of the vote to 49 percent for Fowler.
The key to Coverdell’s victory was that Republicans did a better job than Democrats of getting their voters back to the polls for the runoff.
The turnout fell in both cases, a natural consequence of holding an election at an odd time of the year with only one race on the ballot.
But the Republican dropoff was less. While Coverdell received 438,168 fewer votes in the runoff than the general election, Fowler lost 489,539, enough to give Coverdell the win.
If the people most likely to vote are those who are the most informed on the issues, a logical axiom, it would follow that the most informed tend to be the most highly educated.
And that’s where the demographic research consistently favors the GOP, particularly in a low-turnout election like a runoff.
“Republicans tend to be better educated and have higher incomes,’’ said Charles Bullock, a political science professor at the University of Georgia. “Those are two correlations for whether you vote under any circumstance.’’
Another factor that could affect the results of a Perdue-Taylor runoff is this year’s congressional elections.
Ironically, a takeover of the House or Senate by Democrats on Nov. 7 — which is being forecast in numerous polls — could help Georgia’s Republican governor a month later by energizing angry GOP loyalists.
In 1992, the Coverdell-Fowler runoff was the first chance for Republicans to extract a measure of revenge after Democrat Bill Clinton captured the White House. With only one race to focus on, Republican donors across the country poured money into the Coverdell campaign.
“Republicans had an extreme incentive to vote because they had just lost the presidency,’’ Bullock said. “We may see the same thing in 2006 if the Republicans lose Congress.’’
Readers will recall what InsiderAdvantage Georgia had to say about the matter of a gubernatorial runoff as reported in the following 9-16-06 post partially entitled "Taylor Campaign Employing Most Interesting General Election Strategy In Georgia History":
That would force the race into an unprecedented gubernatorial race runoff right in the middle of the chaos surrounding Thanksgiving and give the Taylor campaign a chance to see more affluent and mobile voters (many of whom vote Republican) caught up in holiday activities--thus providing Taylor a better chance at turning out his vote. As the source put it: "Just think, all of those local races with Republicans on the ballot would be gone...it would be nothing but an incumbent Governor who couldn't win it straight up..."
I think a runoff would favor Taylor more than Perdue, regardless of the fact that on November 7 the GOP will lose the U.S. House of Representatives. Rather than this latter factor boosting Republican morale, it will further dampen it. But would this put Taylor over the top in a runoff election? Probably not.
In his article Dave Williams notes that in 1992 the key to Coverdell’s victory over Fowler was that Republicans did a better job than Democrats of getting their voters back to the polls for the runoff.
He also notes that in 1992 the Coverdell-Fowler runoff was the first chance for Republicans to extract a measure of revenge after Democrat Bill Clinton captured the White House. With only one race to focus on, Republican donors across the country poured money into the Coverdell campaign.
What he does not note is that it was not only the country that voted for Clinton. Clinton also carried Georgia. Although I was among those who pulled the lever for Clinton, I also know that his carrying our State was something that truly burned up many who could not imagine this man being elected, much less carrying Georgia.
It was for this reason, something I sensed especially in South Georgia, that I thought it was a mistake for Clinton to come to Georgia for Fowler during the runoff election. For many, it was salt in the wound, and many of these went and voted in the runoff for Coverdale when but for Clinton's trip to Georgia, they either would not have voted or would have voted for Fowler.