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Greg BluesteinDaniel Malloy
Jim Galloway

Pulling out the stops: Nathan Deal brings first lady into the picture

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From an email sent by the Office of the Governor, to recipients across the state.

From an email sent by the Office of the Governor, to recipients across the state.

Early this week, Gov. Nathan Deal got on the phone with more than a few nervous Republican state lawmakers and promised to pull out all the stops in the upcoming election.

Proof arrived Wednesday morning in the inboxes of laptops and smartphones across Georgia: A re-introduction to Sandra Deal, the First Lady of Georgia.

Your daily jolt on politics from the AJC's Political insider blogIt wasn’t a campaign piece, but an official communication from the Office of the Governor in its weekly newsletter. (If you didn’t get one, see it here.)

And contentwise, the most controversial part of the message was a recipe for gluten-free almond cookies.

But the post-Election Day timing was an unmistakable indication that the first lady will be deployed to boost her husband’s sagging statewide approval ratings – which parallel those of President Barack Obama.

Sandra has never been far from the spotlight – she is one of the most active first ladies in state history. She’s traveled the state reading to schoolchildren in all 159 counties, headlined college commencement addresses and promoted literacy campaigns.

There’s no question that Deal’s campaign hopes she can help with women voters. One reason why: Crosstabs from last week’s Landmark Communications/WSB poll, which showed Democratic rival Jason Carter ahead of the GOP incumbent, also indicate women support Carter by a nearly 2-1 ratio.

Not coincidentally, Carter’s campaign is exploring ways to use his wife, Kate, a former journalist-turned-teacher who just stepped down at Atlanta’s Grady High School to focus on the campaign. His backers promoted a lengthy tribute filmed by her students. She’s also fronting his “Teachers for Carter” appeal to educators.

***

We don’t expect a messaging shift from state Sen. Jason Carter’s gubernatorial campaign anytime soon, but if he pivots to an anti-incumbent strategy, Gov. Nathan Deal previewed his response. And, as is becoming the norm, he takes a shot at the Democrat’s pedigree — this time, his Midtown law firm.

“I have been in elected political life for a very long time. But I think people forget, though, for 23 years I was a small-time lawyer and my practice was what I call street-level law. I didn’t practice in a multi-story building in downtown Atlanta.

“I was where the people were, people that had real problems. And I understood those. And I took that understanding with me as a state senator, and I took that understanding to Washington. That’s the kind of practical knowledge about real people and real problems that David Perdue and I share.”

***

You do not think of candidates for U.S. Senate as having running mates. But don’t be surprised if generous Democrats decide to give one to Republican David Perdue anyway. His name is Jody Hice.

On Tuesday, the pastor and radio talk show host became U.S. Rep. Paul Broun’s likely successor – winning the Republican nomination in the 10th District congressional runoff against Mike Collins. Democratic attorney Ken Dious is in the race, but the district has been hand-carved for a Republican.

The Washington Post this morning introduced Hice to its readers:

Hice, a Baptist minister and conservative radio show host, has also said the First Amendment should not cover Islam, once likened being born gay with being born violent and said it is okay for women to hold positions of power in politics, so long they are within their husband’s authority.

It’s that last one that may appeal most to the Michelle Nunn crowd, who will be looking to collar as many female voters as possible.

***

David Perdue’s runoff victory in the GOP Senate runoff surprised much of the Republican establishment. Not Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed.

The mayor, who has long said Democrats should focus first and foremost on the open Senate race, said he’s learned to never underestimate a Perdue. Speaking at an event heralding the Cyclorama’s move to Buckhead, Reed said Perdue stole a page from the playbook of his cousin, former Gov. Sonny Perdue.

“I wasn’t surprised at all,” he told reporters. “If you read the book ‘Grassroots,’ which is a book about how Gov. Perdue won – nobody that read the book “Grassroots” should have been surprised by last night’s outcome. I was not.”

***

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce was perhaps a little more surprised, but it adjusted quickly.

Remember the Kingston-backing group’s attack ad calling Perdue “a little baby?” It had been taken down from YouTube by Wednesday afternoon.

Chamber political director Rob Engstrom reported that the group was “proud to endorse and stand with Jack,” and has made no decisions about the general elections.

***

Who knew that, when Perdue beat Kingston in the U.S. Senate runoff, Georgia would be bucking a trend. Again, from the Washington Post:

Despite the record levels of unpopularity of Congress, both parties are fielding members of the House as candidates in races that will probably determine control of the Senate.

Five of the most critical races feature a House member as the nominee: House Republicans are challenging Democratic Senate incumbents in Arkansas, Colorado and Louisiana, and House Democrats are trying to defend seats vacated by retiring Democratic senators in Iowa and Michigan.

***

Just in case you missed it, from our colleague Aaron Gould Sheinin:

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution on Wednesday filed a complaint with Attorney General Sam Olens to “take all necessary measures” to ensure the ethics commission and its director, Holly La-Berge, comply with the state’s Open Records Act.

Attorneys for the paper say specifically that LaBerge failed to comply with the act when she did not turn over a now-controversial memo to the AJC in response to a records request filed in July 2012.

***

We’re hearing concerns from Athens residents worried about the University of Georgia’s ties to Congress now that Jack Kingston is on his way out. UGA administrators, they say, often went to Kingston – and around their own representative, the arch-conservative Paul Broun – if they needed favors done.

Now, both are lame ducks and businessman Mike Collins, another potential ally, was defeated by pastor Jody Hice. Who will UGA officials turn to now? Some suspect U.S.  Rep. John Barrow, D-Augusta, despite his perennial survival mode. Barrow grew up in Athens — his father was a local judge, his mom a well-known politico  — and first represented the 12th District from there.

***

Speaking of Athens: A large portion of those frat parties will have to stay underground – at least for the foreseeable future, according to the Gallup Organization:

Americans continue to oppose lowering the drinking age to 18 in all states, with 25% in favor and 74% opposed. Political liberals and those with a postgraduate education are less likely to oppose a lower drinking age….

In 1984, President Ronald Reagan signed into law a bill that withheld a portion of federal highway funds from states that did not have a minimum drinking age of 21. A Gallup Poll conducted weeks before Reagan signed the law found Americans widely favored raising the drinking age to 21, by 79% to 18%.

***

A pro-Israel rally at the Midtown home of the Jewish Federation of Greater Atlanta attracted a range of politicians.

Democrat Jason Carter, beefing up his pro-Israel bona fides, was there. So was newly-minted GOP Senate nominee David Perdue, Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed and Fulton County Commission Chair John Eaves. Attorney General Sam Olens, the highest ranking Jewish politician in Georgia, was a speaker.

 

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