Marshall: “If it turns out one of them is an ax murderer or something like that I’ll make a choice. Otherwise, I don’t think I need to get involved."
By campaigning in Georgia and driving up turnout among African-American voters, Obama could also help other Democratic candidates on the ballot even if he does not win the state himself. There are two down-ballot races that could be affected by this: the congressional battles involving Democrats Jim Marshall of Macon and John Barrow of Savannah (assuming that Barrow is able to fend off Democratic primary challenger Regina Thomas).
Marshall and Barrow are trying to hang onto congressional seats in conservative districts with substantial numbers of Republican voters. A strong effort by the Obama campaign could help them enormously in defending those seats.
I am curious how my friend Jim Marshall would react to this observation. Unlike Barrow who was on the Obama bandwagon early and was rewarded by an an unusual endorsement from Obama in a contested primary election (see story), Marshall, you recall, has said he does not need to get involved in the Obama-McCain contest (see this story and this story).
Marshall is playing it safe, worrying about his own re-election, and saying things like he admires both Obama and McCain.
And as noted in the above first linked story on this matter, Marshall’s lack of involvement in presidential politics could go even deeper than just saying he feels no obligaton to state a preference. Recently Marshall's spokesman said it was yet to be determined whether Marshall would go to Denver for the Democratic National Convention. (If this occurs, it will be history repeating itself. Former Georgia governor and U.S. senator Herman Talmadge habitually scheduled alleged fishing trips that conflicted with Democratic conventions in order to avoid public association with people the folks at home deemed questionable (think, for example, George McGovern in 1972).)
In Barrow's district blacks make up more than 40 percent of registered voters, mainly in urban areas around Savannah and Augusta. Without question this statistic contributed to Barrow's early endorsement of Obama in February.
But Marshall's district is less than one-third black, and he needs the support of white Republicans to win, including votes from the military community around Robins Air Force Base.
So, back to Tom Crawford's comment that a "strong effort by the Obama campaign could help" Marshall. Would it, or might Marshall be concerned about how his working-class white constituents will react to a black presidential candidate.
One thing is for sure. Marshall being a fence-sitter boils down to political necessity. As evidenced by his last election where he won by about 1,800 votes, he could once again be a vulnerable Democrat in a conservative-leaning district who must justifiably take pains to avoid aligning himself closely with the national party and being linked to Howard Dean, Nancy Pelosi and Jeremiah Wright.
As in his prior campaigns, I for one wish him well.