GOP pollster: To survive a Donald Trump backlash, learn from Sam Nunn

Former U.S. senator Sam Nunn, speaking at the UGA Charter Lecture earlier this year. AJC/Special

Former U.S. senator Sam Nunn, speaking at the UGA Charter Lecture earlier this year. AJC/Special

In today’s Washington Post, pollster Whit Ayres, a Republican advisor with Atlanta roots, has some advice for Republican senators trying to survive the Donald Trump backlash in their states: Follow the lead of Sam Nunn and other Southern Democrats of the past. A taste:

Localize, localize, localize. Successful Southern Democrats gave no more than lip service to their party’s liberal presidential nominees, while using the advantages of incumbency to highlight specific ways their service in Washington benefited their constituents.logo-all

In 1972, Democratic nominee George McGovern’s support in the 11 states of the former Confederacy ranged from a low of 20 percent in Mississippi to a high of 33 percent in Texas. Yet in the same year five Democratic candidates won election to the Senate with remarkable majorities: 54 percent for Sam Nunn in Georgia, 55 percent for J. Bennett Johnston in Louisiana, 58 percent for James Eastland in Mississippi, 61 percent for John McClellan in Arkansas and 62 percent for John Sparkman in Alabama…

[W]hen his Republican opponent covered Georgia with posters linking him to McGovern. Nunn flew to Montgomery, Ala., to receive the endorsement of then-presidential candidate George Wallace, saying “George Wallace represents the real views of Georgians.” Nunn later said, “I frankly admired Wallace, not because of his racial views, but because of his willingness to stand up and shake a fist at Washington occasionally. There’s something therapeutic about that in the South.”

It should be noted that Republican incumbent Johnny Isakson, in a tough three-way slog with Democrat Jim Barksdale and Libertarian Allen Buckley, has Nunn’s support for his re-election bid. Isakson, too, has “localized, localized, localized,” and is now campaigning as if the race for the White House doesn’t exist.

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The New York Times had a lengthy piece on weak candidates that Democrats are leaning on to take control of the U.S. Senate in November. The article did not mention Jim Barksdale, running against Republican incumbent Johnny Isakson, but it did end with this quote from a Georgia Democrat who many partisans hoped would have run:

Stacey Abrams, the minority leader of the Georgia General Assembly, called that the “fear that is inherent in transitions.” She is considered one of the party’s brightest young stars, in no small part because she has unseated five Republicans in the Georgia legislature.

“This is a party that is comprised of what is being referred to as the new American majority,” she said. “Those are progressive whites, people of color and millennials. We have to focus our politics on turning out those voters.”

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The Washington Post reports this morning that Dr. Drew Pinsky’s six-year-old HLN show, has been cancelled by CNN:

[T]he decision came eight days after Pinsky’s comments on a radio show on Aug. 17 questioning the health and medical care of former secretary of state Hillary Clinton, the Democratic nominee for president. After looking at bits and pieces of Clinton’s health-care records she made public in 2015, he said he was “gravely concerned not just about her health, but her health care.”

Raising questions about an aging candidate’s health isn’t just happening on the presidential level. Next Tuesday, Republican incumbent John McCain of Arizona faces his U.S. Senate primary challenger, Kelli Ward, a physician. Check out the last two minutes of this clip of a Wednesday exchange between Ward and MSNBC’s Chuck Todd:

Said Ward:

“John McCain is falling down on the job.  He’s gotten weak.  He has gotten old.  I do want to wish him a happy birthday.  He is going to be 80 on Monday and I want to give him the best birthday present ever, the gift of retirement.”

Todd asked Ward if she thought McCain too old to serve another term. Said she:

“I think anybody who has been in Washington for almost 40 years has been there too long…

“I’m a physician.  I see the physiological changes that happen in normal aging, in patients again and again and again over the last 20, 25 years.  So I do know what happens to the body and the mind at the end of life.”

Todd asked if she felt comfortable offering an on-air diagnosis:

 “Diagnosing him as an 80-year-old man? Yes, I do.”

***

Don’t look now, but former state senator Jason Carter is back on the campaign trail. The Milledgeville Union-Recorder carried a story on Wednesday that included this:

Former Georgia Democratic gubernatorial candidate Jason Carter will be the guest speaker at an upcoming political rally for Floyd L. Griffin Jr., who is seeking to become the new Georgia House representative for the 145th District.

“I’m hoping for a big turnout of supporters, and I’m thrilled to have Jason Carter’s support,” said Griffin, noting that he and members of the Carter family had been friends for many years.

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Seth Cansler Clark, one of the Democratic hands who welcomed Bill Clinton to Manuel’s Tavern, has a piece in GeorgiaPol.com on the rebirth of the iconic bar. Here’s a glimpse:

Just as the renovations did for the Tavern, Clinton’s romp through the Highlands ripped the name Clinton out of context of the past, and oh so carefully put it squarely into modernity in a way that is comfortably familiar.

So take note, y’all. James Agee’s kin Bobby is back behind a newly restored bar. Secretary Clinton is polling even or better than a Yankee businessman turned Wallace impersonator in Georgia. And Bill is back kissing babies in Manuel’s Tavern.

This ain’t a drill.


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