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Cracker Squire


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Location: Douglas, Coffee Co., The Other Georgia, United States

Sid in his law office where he sits when meeting with clients. Observant eyes will notice the statuette of one of Sid's favorite Democrats.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Where They Stand Pre-July 4th

From the ajc's Political Insider:

Strategic Vision, David Johnson’s Atlanta-based agency, put out a statewide poll Wednesday aimed at the July 18 primary. Johnson’s is a Republican-oriented public relations firm.

If the Democratic primary for Governor were held today, for whom would you vote for, Secretary of State Cathy Cox or Lieutenant Governor Mark Taylor? (Democrats only)

Mark Taylor 46%
Cathy Cox 42%
Undecided 12%

From InsiderAdvantage Georgia:

(6/28/06) This is a critical week for major candidates seeking their party's nomination, particularly if they are at the top of the ballot. Here's where the races stand from a strategic point of view:

Democrat Governor Battle: Momentum has shifted, if not in a big way, back to Cathy Cox who has managed to keep her best ad concerning alleged use of state resources by Taylor for private enterprises and basically saying Taylor is lying about Cox's position on the HOPE scholarship. By sticking with the ad that penetrates versus endless versions which seem to not leave a lasting impression, Cox has regained some momentum or, at the very least, halted the free fall she was in just weeks ago. Taylor's strategy of avoiding big non-televised debates such as at the Municipal Associations Annual Convention held this week in Savannah, is likely a good strategic move. However, the "debate ducking" is becoming a news story and. moreover, leaving politically connected attendees changing their support. When word spread that Taylor attended the GABEO meeting of the state's black elected officials in the city, but failed to cross the bridge to the Savannah Convention Center, attendees became irritated, to say the least.

All of this may mean little if Taylor continues to hold his lead among African Americans in the polls. While Cox has made the race competitive again, she has yet to offer black voters a tangible reason to abandon their support for Taylor.

Sunday, June 25, 2006

In Election Year, GOP Lawmakers Loosen Link to President

The Washington Post reports:

With elections barely four months away and their majorities at risk, Republicans on Capitol Hill say they are making calculations based on survival, not loyalty. President Bush has convinced them that sticking with him on Iraq and casting critics as soft on terrorism is a winning strategy despite public unease. But he has failed to convince them that his approach to immigration is good politics.

The result may be a third election campaign in a row focused on national security . . . .

The president's failure to win over conservative allies to his position on immigration tracks his continued weakness in opinion polls. Despite a modest rebound in approval ratings in recent weeks, many in his party see Bush as a drag in their districts, particularly on the border issue. At the same time, they agree with White House strategists that distancing themselves from Bush on the war would throw away a proven trump card -- the argument that the GOP is strong on security and Democrats are not -- just as U.S. forces have killed al-Qaeda's leader in Iraq.

"Republicans feel politically that we have a window of opportunity to reestablish support for the war, or at least reduce the opposition," said Rep. Peter T. King (R-N.Y.). "Democrats are going to throw it at us anyway, so at least now we can fight it on our terms." As for immigration, "our polling shows that it's definitely to our advantage to oppose" the bill favored by Bush.

Monday, June 19, 2006

Two New Ads Mark Crucial Week In Dem Race For Governor

From InsiderAdvantage Georgia:

Cathy Cox finally launched an ad with a message--one that seemed subtle but which, with time, using the word "guy" enough, could pull females back into her corner. Our polling shows she was losing female voters rapidly last week.

At the same time, Rick Dent, the James Carville of our era, struck with a brilliant ad striking the old sweet spot which almost always kills off an opponent: an alleged vote against the lottery and, hence, the sacred cow of Georgia politics--the HOPE scholarship.

And so we reach the critical week of the campaign. Should Cox abandon her perhaps slightly too subtle but effective ad to attract female voters in favor of answering Taylor's megaton attack?

The answer may be a little of both. Cox has the advantage of having the individual responsible for the damaging story used to "document" the Taylor ad already on record as saying that the Taylor ad basically misrepresents her statement. The problem is, Taylor has plenty of money to use to pound the ad into the brains of soon-to-be voters.

As predicted on this site weeks ago, there would come a time at which attacks might turn into "bullying" by a male against a female. Cox's only hope is to cut a corollary ad which basically says "Big Guys Lie." Does she have the guts to do it? Well, certainly the Cox we saw in this new ad seemed more resolute and determined. But calling someone a "liar, liar" doesn't get the job in politics these days done on its own.

Instead, Cox must somehow weave into her paid message the term "hypocrite" in order to turn a questionable ad by Taylor into a slam dunk turnaround for Cox. But where's the hypocrisy? If Cox's team can't find it and use it, then the next week or two will be the beginning of the end for the Secretary of State.

On the other hand, a bold "in your face" response painting Taylor as a hypocrite and liar (we're not saying he is because, after all, he's already labeled Cox as the hypocritical liar in the race) could turn the tide for Ms. Cox and, at the very least, make the Democratic battle competitive again.

But Cox should remember that in 1994 the Dent-associated team took some rather vague Guy Millner language and made him the enemy of the HOPE program. Millner never responded as appropriately as he could have. And he was beaten by a slim margin. The Cox campaign has much to consider in short time. But so, too, does the Taylor campaign. They must protect their man from going from "Big Guy" to "Big Bully." And they must pray that the Cox campaign has never heard of cutting response ads "on the fly." If they haven't--they are dead. If they have, this race might just tighten up.

Saturday, June 17, 2006

Atlanta Mayor Shirley Franklin won't give the nod to Cox or Taylor

Jim Tharpe of the ajc reports:

The woman who could play a pivotal role in Georgia's Democratic gubernatorial primary has decided to quietly watch the high-profile race from the sidelines.

Cox and Taylor have sought Franklin's backing, and some political pundits had speculated that she would side with Cox, who wants to become the state's first female governor. Cox and Franklin are both high-profile women in the Democratic Party, both are backed by many of the same constituencies and both move easily among the Democratic factions in metro Atlanta, where Cox needs a strong showing to defeat Taylor.

[Michael] Binford [, a Georgia State University political scientist] said that even if Franklin had planned to endorse Cox, the recent flap she caused in metro Atlanta's politically active gay community probably nixed the idea. Gay voters were a key Demographic in Franklin's mayoral wins, and she has aggressively courted the gay community during her campaigns.

"It makes it less likely that she [Franklin] would come out for Cathy Cox in the primary," Binford said. "The gay constituency is pretty substantial for an Atlanta election. When Cathy stumbled over that issue, it became a reason not to step in."

Friday, June 16, 2006

The president's strategist is politicizing the Iraq war for partisan political gain. Will the Dems figure out how to fight back?

Eleanor Clift of Newsweek writes:

Our towel-snapping president is feeling better. He joked and jostled with the press for almost an hour, high on adrenalin after his secret trip to Baghdad. Thanks to skilled lawyering, his adviser Karl Rove is back in business framing the November election as a referendum on cut-and-run Democrats.

Rove is following a time-honored tactic: hang a lantern on your problem. Iraq is George Bush’s biggest problem, ergo Rove’s strategy: showcase the war, frame the choice between victory and defeatism, put the Democrats on the defensive. Moments after learning he had escaped indictment in the CIA leak investigation case, Rove told New Hampshire Republicans that Democratic critics of the war like John Kerry and John Murtha “give the green light to go to war, but when it gets tough, they fall back on that party’s old platform of cutting and running. They may be with you for the first few bullets, but they won’t be there for the last tough battles.”

It’s appalling that an administration led by chicken hawks dares to build an election strategy based on lecturing combat veterans, but it is devilishly clever, and it might work. The Swift Boat veterans destroyed Kerry in 2004; and in 2002, losing three limbs in Vietnam didn’t save Georgia Sen. Max Cleland from attacks on his patriotism. Rove told the GOP faithful that if the Democrats were in charge, Iraq would fall to the terrorists and Zarqawi would not be dead. As offensive as those words are, Rove is doing his job, which is sliming the Democrats so Republicans can cling to power on Capitol Hill. He is politicizing the war for partisan political gain, a strategy that could backfire if events on the ground in Iraq deteriorate.

“They’re risk-takers,” says Matt Bennett of Third Way, a Democratic centrist group. “Did they risk politicizing 9/11 by holding their convention in New York? Yes, and the risk paid off. It’s very Rovean; they’re trying to turn a weakness into a strength.” Another Democratic strategist noted the irony that after four years of no accountability on the mistakes made in prosecuting the Iraq war, the administration was hanging Democrats out to dry. This strategist called it “reverse accountability—shift the blame to those not in charge.”

Bush’s quick trip to Iraq was a symbolic handing over of power. In both message and visuals, he was saying to the new government, it’s your problem. He wrapped it in rhetoric about the U.S. commitment, but it’s clear that this is a last-chance government. If they can’t do it with American help, it’s over. Democrats fighting among themselves play into the GOP’s strategy, highlighting the opposition party’s inability to offer a credible alternative—or as Bush said in his Rose Garden press conference, “There’s an interesting debate in the Democratic Party about how quick to pull out of Iraq.” House Republicans staged a debate for the cameras on a meaningless resolution declaring the “United States will prevail in the Global War on Terror and the struggle to protect freedom from the terrorist adversary.” The idea is to corner the Democrats into taking a stand that could hurt them in November. A yes vote angers the Democratic base, which is increasingly antiwar; a no vote invites charges of cut and run.

Kerry is two years late in declaring he was wrong to vote for the war, and now he’s playing to the party’s antiwar base in the hope of resurrecting his presidential campaign. The GOP is gleefully framing Kerry’s amendment to bring the troops home by the end of this year as a choice between victory and a treasonous running away. None of the other big-name Democrats want to get behind Kerry’s plan because they’re also running for president, and they’ve got their own half-baked ideas. An honest reckoning on Iraq means choosing among bad and less-bad options, which don’t stir voter enthusiasm. There are no good options. People of good will can disagree about what to do next, but no one, except for the most blinkered Bush partisans, think Iraq is anything but a disaster.

There will be an antiwar candidate in ’08, probably Wisconsin Sen. Russell Feingold, and he’ll get a lot of support and cause real problems for the front runner, whoever it is. Feingold won’t be put on the ticket, but he could well throw the election to the Republicans if the Democrats don’t figure out how to deal with the antiwar sentiment in the party. Ignoring the antiwar left is the equivalent of a Republican disregarding the religious right in the primaries. Maybe we won’t have the Iraq war to kick around by ’08, but the more likely scenario is that Bush will leave enough troops there to keep it from dissolving into an uncontrolled civil war. Rove is setting the same trap for Democrats that worked so well in ’04 and ’02. There’s no surprise here; the only surprise will be if the Democrats figure out how to fight back.

The Savannah Morning News says Taylor runs and cuts

From the Savannah Morning News:

MARK TAYLOR should pay more attention to the public and less attention to the pollsters if he wants to be Georgia's next governor.

The lieutenant governor was a prominent no-show at Thursday morning's scheduled debate with Secretary of State Cathy Cox at the Georgia Press Association's annual convention, held this year at the Westin Hotel in Savannah.

But his high-profile vanishing act - the second in two months, counting last month's no-show at the Georgia Chamber of Commerce gathering on the coast - is more than tedious or irritating. It raises questions about his abilities and confidence.

His campaign issued no official explanation for ditching the GPA, whose members include 144 newspapers that reach millions of readers across Georgia. The conventional wisdom is that Mr. Taylor is ahead in the polls in the four-way race for the Democratic nomination, and that he has more to lose than gain by appearing in debates with Ms. Cox, the other leading contender, before the July 18 primary.

But here's the rub: By seemingly playing it safe, the Big Guy cuts himself down.

He appears he's not interested in sharing his thoughts and ideas with the public - a perception that's poisonous.

Someone who's running for the state's top job must engage the public and stand his ground in any forum, not run and cut when he feels like it.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

The Teacher Vote Matters; Will Perdue Get It Again?

Dick Pettys, editor of InsiderAdvantage Georgia, writes:

It’s a crisp, football Friday night in south Georgia in 2002, and former state Sen. Sonny Perdue has been on the go since dawn. He’s now working a stadium for votes as the Coffee County Trojans prepare to take on the Lowndes County Vikings [I was at this game and thought as Sonny walked by: "I wonder if Roy is out politicking tonight."]

Teacher Linda Nugent from Camden County catches Perdue’s attention and tells him: “I don’t like anything Roy Barnes has done about education reform. I've taught 21 years and I want to say that all the teachers in Camden County are for you.”

Perdue smiles broadly and says, "Hang on. Help's on the way."

That was then. Perdue went on to defeat Barnes by 100,000-plus votes with the help of teachers and other groups angry with the Democratic governor. What about now, after Perdue has governed for four years?

He won’t get any help from flaggers – the hard core group still angry over the flag change Barnes engineered and which they expected Perdue to help them reverse. They’re still picketing him when they have the opportunity, but that’s probably a less significant bloc of votes now than four years ago.

Teachers are another matter. There are something like 125,000 of them, and you can more or less double that to include spouses, and that figure doesn’t even begin to count those others who might look to them for thoughts on how to vote.

Teachers generally are thought to vote Democratic and so it was a blow to Barnes four years ago when the Georgia Association of Educators decided to make no endorsement in the governor’s race.

This year, the GAE has re-engaged. It announced last week it is endorsing Lt. Gov. Mark Taylor for the Democratic gubernatorial nomination. It will wait until things sort themselves out to make an endorsement in the general election, but it doesn’t sound as if Perdue is in the running. Incoming GAE President Jeff Hubbard said, “The teachers of Georgia have learned the hard way. It really does matter who sits in the governor’s office.”

“The Marines have landed,” Taylor said of the endorsement, saying it could amount to the defining moment of the campaign.

That may be a little strong, but how teachers vote does matter - not only in the primary election but also in the general, where Perdue will face either Taylor or Secretary of State Cathy Cox.

If teachers in November aren’t with Perdue – the candidate who promised four years ago that “help is on the way” and the governor who described his priorities this year as “education, education, education” – that could be a problem.

Democratic strategists think the signal sent last week by the GAE's endorsement adds fuel to the fire they’ve been trying to kindle for four years with the argument that Perdue, in battling stagnant revenue for the first half of his term, cut over $1 billion from education funding.

“In terms of perception and momentum, this is big,” one said.

But it really remains to be seen. Almost everyone agrees that there is a fundamental difference between the way teachers now look at Perdue and the way they looked at Barnes four years ago. It’s not a matter of anger or resentment now.

“With Roy Barnes, it was about respect,” said GAE’s incoming president. “When people tried to offer advice, we were blown off.”

“It’s never been like or dislike with Gov. Perdue. It’s been about disappointment,” he said.

But does the GAE speak for all or event most teachers? The rival Professional Association of Georgia Educators is larger and doesn’t endorse, and PAGE spokesman Tim Callahan said he thinks the race is wide open among teachers.

“My sense is, there’s nothing like the anger there was during Barnes. Nothing even close. There’s some disappointment over low pay increases, high health premium jumps. Some view his support of reduced class sizes as an election-year conversion. But I don’t get a sense of anger or strong feeling against Gov. Perdue. I don’t feel a strong sense of support. So I think the race is pretty open.”

Perdue, meanwhile, said he thinks he’s doing okay with teachers. “I’m getting a very warm response from classroom teachers pro-actively and spontaneously as I travel around the state. I think they feel respect has been restored to the classrooms ... I think they feel empowered as professionals to do the tough job of education.”

We may not know until November how it all shakes out.

Taylor camp makes first slipup, and an intentional one at that

According to the ajc's Political Insider:

The Georgia Press Association is assembling here this Wednesday evening, and word is spreading that Mark Taylor, the Democratic candidate for governor, has nixed his scheduled debate with primary rival Cathy Cox.

They shouldn’t feel singled out. Taylor was a no-show at last month’s gathering of the Georgia Chamber of Commerce, also on the coast.

We haven’t talked to the Taylor’s camp. But allow us to hazard a few guesses on why they passed:

— Taylor feels like he’s got a comfortable lead in the polls. No need to give Cox a forum to attack him.

— Cox is a journalism school graduate of the University of Georgia. This group already has an affinity for her. Why waste time?

— Here’s the cruelest interpretation: Like the Chamber, the press association is part of Georgia’s establishment. And the Georgia’s Democratic party is no longer an establishment party. The GPA, which is dominated by the state’s smaller weekly and dailies, most in rural areas, no longer reaches the voters who decide the Democratic primary.

Prior to the week of qualifying, Cathy Cox's campaign had the momentum in the Democratic primary race. Since then, one misstep after another has left her campaign on the defensive and resulted in some of her initial support moving either to the undecided column or over to Taylor. But all of the pundits agree that there is plenty of time remaining for the race to tighten.

Meanwhile Taylor has stayed on message.

However, I think his campaign made its first slipup -- intentional or otherwise -- yesterday in deciding to cancel his scheduled debate with Cox at the Georgia Press Association in Savannah. I expect we shall be reading about it tomorrow in various dailies.

But an even more accurate indication of the current thinking of the Taylor camp in going face-to-face with Cox should be revealed at the upcoming Georgia Municipal Association meeting also in Savannah. I do not anticipate that Taylor will cancel as he has at the Georgia Chamber of Commerce and Georgia Press Association annual meetings.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Cox campaign needs a tune-up

On June 7 Bill Shipp wrote:

A single-engine plane had taxied nose first into the side of a hangar at DeKalb-Peachtree Airport. No one was hurt, but a photo of the crippled aircraft stretched across five columns of an inside page of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. The caption said the minor crash was attributed "to pilot error." The plane was licensed to Mark Dehler of Decatur, husband of and chief political strategist for gubernatorial candidate Cathy Cox.

On the page facing the picture, a banner headline touted a new poll showing Lt. Gov. Mark Taylor running ahead of Secretary of State Cox in the quest for the Democratic nomination for governor. The plane photo and the political headline formed a perfect metaphor for the Cox gubernatorial bid. Her campaign may have crashed into a wall before ever getting off the ground.

Whether Cox and her team can repair the damage and resume their journey before the July 18 primary is uncertain.

Cox ought to be the best candidate in the field, Democrat or Republican. She has fresh ideas, a good record of government service and a public presence that easily eclipses Taylor's and Gov. Sonny Perdue's.

Yet her campaign has gone awry. At times, she seems more intent on reacting to her rivals than striking out on her own course.

On June 6 Larry Peterson of The Savannah Morning News wrote:

A couple months back, Cathy Cox seemed a good bet to win the Democratic nomination for governor.

Earlier in the year, the secretary of state had a healthy lead in the polls over Lt. Gov. Mark Taylor. And, in previous months, she'd done a better job of campaign fund-raising.

Much was made - as it should be - of the fact that 60 percent of the July 18 primary election voters likely will be women.

There was also talk of Cox's ability to transcend party labels and reach out to moderate Republicans, especially women.

All that may be true.

Cox still may go on to thrash Taylor and send Republican incumbent Sonny Perdue packing.

But the more recent impression is that the wheels have been coming off her campaign. At the very least, it's hit some nasty speed bumps.

It's widely agreed that there is plenty of time to turn things around, especially since the Insider Advantage poll indicated that 39 percent of Democrats remain undecided.

But at the moment, her organization doesn't seem to be firing on all cylinders.

It needs a major tune-up.

Monday, June 12, 2006

Democrats Closing Fundraising Gap With Republicans - Increase in Grass-Roots Support Buoys Party as GOP Efforts Falter

The Washington Post reports:

A surge in small, individual contributions is lifting Democratic campaigns this year and is helping close a Republican fundraising advantage that has existed for years in national politics, according to Federal Election Commission data.

Democratic House and Senate candidates and their two major campaign committees are enjoying stronger grass-roots support than at any time since the GOP took over both chambers of Congress in the 1994 elections, according to strategists from both parties who have reviewed the most recent FEC data released this spring.

At the same time, Republican campaign committees are stumbling.

[T]he trends at the national level are diminishing what in past years has been a powerful GOP asset: the ability to overpower opponents with expensive television advertising and voter-mobilization campaigns in House and Senate races.

Republicans concede that Democrats are doing a better job than ever of raising money for House and Senate candidates. They have done so in part by borrowing longtime GOP tactics, such as pushing for small donations from activists -- on the principle that small gifts can add up -- and pressuring elected members from safe seats to give financial help to colleagues. Democrats say they are also tapping into widespread grievances among voters against President Bush and the Republican Congress.