James.qxp Jan Feb 2019 web - Page 9

efore Republicans had chosen
their nominee for governor, I
wrote a James column suggesting
that the “favorite” in past gubernatorial races in Georgia rarely
emerges as the winner. I suggested that it was way off base to think that Stacey Abrams,
as an African-American female Democratic nominee,
would be easily defeated in November.
So as I prepare to turn in my
“Georgia Political Pundit’s
License” (clearly no written test
was ever required), let’s reflect on
how Brian Kemp won the GOP
gubernatorial nomination and
why the election was so close.
Kemp won the primary
because he was willing to roll the
dice with out-of-the-box ads that
caught the attention of conservative Republicans, including
President Donald Trump. It is trite
to suggest he only won because of
Trump. Polling showed his primary
opponent Casey Cagle losing
steam and Kemp surging ahead
two weeks before Trump endorsed
Kemp. Those who persuaded
Trump to make that endorsement
could never have done so had
Kemp not put his campaign in a
competitive position. Trump is not
inclined to endorse, in Trump language, “losers.”
The Trump endorsement did help Kemp. Some pundits
claimed that same endorsement almost sealed his fate in
the race against Abrams. Bit that view is simply incorrect.
Based on demographic changes in the Georgia electorate, I suggested that the likely final Republican nominee could anticipate winning around 50.8 percent of
the vote in November. Okay, I was off by a little more
than .5 percent.
What I missed was the extra 2 percent of the vote
Abrams would garner. While that is less than the margin
of error in most polls, that 2 percent represented a monumental achievement by Abrams. Her impressive campaign team hit virtually every note in performing the
perfect Democratic turnout symphony. AfricanAmerican turnout rose to presidential year levels. And
more white suburban voters were willing to consider
Abrams as a new and clear alternative to the prototypical white male politicians they
have been offered as a gubernatorial choice for decades.
But those who believe
Abrams would have never conquered the suburbs of Atlanta
without the “millstone” of Donald
Trump tied around Kemp’s neck
sell Abrams and Kemp short. They
completely fail to understand the
mystery of our president.
Yes, Trump turned off some
suburban voters who often vote
their self-image more than their
self-interest. But for every GOP
suburban voter who viewed
Trump as Rodney Dangerfield and
Brian Kemp as hillbilly Jed
Clampett who were certainly not
welcome at the Bushwood
Country Club (if you are not a
“Caddyshack” movie fan you are
hopelessly lost with these references), there were larger numbers who were bound and
determined to vote as a way of proving their devotion to
Kemp and the president.
Those who believe “fraud and suppression” robbed
Abrams of a victory likely don’t understand that antics
such as precincts being selectively left open until late in
the evening in certain Democratic-leaning areas. That


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