We have reached Day Two of U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson’s effort to say as little as possible about Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump.
He has stuck to the plan. Mostly.
The Republican incumbent, looking to escape a runoff despite a three-way contest with Democrat Jim Barksdale and Libertarian Allen Buckley, on Friday morning consented to a brief scrum with reporters after a speaking engagement at Westin Atlanta Perimeter North in Dunwoody.
Isakson was facing down Doug Richards with 11Alive, who pressed him to utter the words “Donald Trump.” Said Isakson:
“The only thing I can control in my political race is myself. Giving editorial comments about another race doesn’t [do] my race any good, nor is it something I need to spend time worrying about. I’m focused on my re-election. I’m focused on the needs of the people of Georgia.”
Richards tried again. He focused on the “Second Amendment” remarks that Trump made in Wilmington, N.C., earlier this week, which many interpreted as inviting violence should Democrat Hillary Clinton be elected. Finally, we got to this exchange:
Isakson: I would never have made that statement.
Richards: Could you elaborate on that?
Isakson: No. I think that’s a pretty definitive answer.
Richards then alluded to Isakson’s chairmanship of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee, and Trump’s argument with the Muslim parents of a U.S. soldier killed in Iraq.
“Is it reasonable to ask you whether Mr. Trump was disrespectful to the Khan family?” the reporter asked. Said Isakson:
“Gold Star moms and dads of this country are citizens who deserve the highest respect. There’s no justification for them being an issue, period — except thanking them for their service.”
There was a dog that didn’t bark here, which bears pointing out. Most reporters are focusing on Isakson’s attempt not to get involved in the harrumphing – much of it well deserved – over Trump.
But it’s not just Trump. Isakson is clearly trying to sequester himself from the presidential contest as a whole. He’s not talking about Trump, but he’s also not using Democrat Hillary Clinton as foil, either.
The math doesn’t work. Given the likelihood that Trump’s demeanor will remain changed between now and November, even if he wins Georgia, the GOP presidential candidate is unlikely to pierce the 50 percent mark here.
That’s something Isakson must do, if he’s to avoid a nine-week, Jan. 10 runoff. Which will require him to court more than a few Georgia voters who will be casting their votes for Clinton in the presidential contest.