The John McCain campaign is probably already sick of hearing “Yes, We Can.” They will no doubt be even more nauseous if those chants turn into “Yes, We Did.” A case in point: the state of Georgia, which is rated “Safely Republican” by Rasmussen and has not voted for a Democrat in a general election since 1992 when Bill Clinton narrowly defeated George H. W. Bush to carry the state, may actually be edging toward the bluer side of the political spectrum. A recent poll conducted by an Atlanta-based polling organization, Insider Advantage, has the presidential race in Georgia at a dead heat.
Conducted on June 18, the Insider Advantage poll shows Senator John McCain with a one point advantage over Senator Barack Obama, 44% to 43%. The significance of this poll rests in the remaining 13% of the poll numbers. In all other polls, according to RealClearPolitics.com, McCain leads by double digits in the conservative state, but add in native son Bob Barr, who has been nominated as the Libertarian candidate for president, and you have a virtual tie. Bob Barr, a popular former Republican Georgia congressman, polls at 6%, leaving 7% undecided. Still, that 6% eats away at the McCain lead and could prove to be John McCain’s undoing in Georgia in the general election, siphoning off just enough disaffected Republican voters from McCain for him to lose Georgia and its 15 electoral college votes.
Rasmussen polls showed John McCain with a ten-point lead on June 10 (51% to 41%), a reduced lead compared to the 14-point margin he enjoyed a month before (53% to 39%).
And that isn’t all the bad news for the McCain campaign. It just might get worse.
According to Newsweek magazine, two more aspects of the race may come into play in Georgia and cost McCain the state in November. One of those is Senator Obama’s decision not to take federal matching funds for his campaign, choosing to run solely on individual contributions from his supporters. In addition to the great PR move to not accept donations from political action committees (PACs) and special interest groups or lobbyists, this allows Obama to collect as much money as his supporters wish to give and allows him to spend as much as he wants from his already massive war chest. Georgia will be the recipient of millions of dollars worth of Obama campaign ads (as will 17 other states) geared to show Obama as the more electable candidate.
The second problem facing Senator McCain is the African American vote in Georgia. CNN exit polling of the Georgia Primary had 88% of the black vote going to Senator Obama over Senator Clinton. Andrew Romano of Newsweek magazine reports that the Democratic Party has targeted two important core groups among African Americans: those registered voters who did not vote in the last election (460,000) and the half million unregistered potential voters that the Democratic Party is intent on recruiting for the general election. That’s almost one million voters that did not come into play in 2004. Consider that George Bush defeated John Kerry in 2004 by 550,000 votes and the Democratic strategy becomes only too obvious.
The argument can be made that John McCain might take some of the African American vote. This is highly doubtful. African Americans are predominantly (and traditionally) Democratic voters. CNN exit poll data for both Georgia primaries shows that black voters made up only 2% of the Republican vote as opposed to 51% of the Democratic vote. Again, not welcome news for the McCain camp.
The inclusion of Libertarian Bob Barr and Independent candidate Ralph Nader does not seem to hurt Obama in Georgia, whose electorate base is primarily young, under the age of 45. Obama is also strong among the independent voters, who usually make up much of the undecided vote. On a national level, McCain loses ground to Obama as well when factoring in third party candidates. CNN’s Poll of polls has Senator Obama with a 48% to 40% lead at present. A shocking Los Angeles Times/Bloomberg Poll released on June 23 shows Senator Obama with a 49% to 37% lead nationally over Senator McCain.
McCain staffers claim they are not worried, that they are glad Senator Obama is spending money in a state he won’t win. Senator McCain jokes, “Senator Obama says that I’m running for Bush’s third term. It seems like Barack Obama is running for Jimmy Carter’s second.”
Senator McCain might not wish to be reminded that native son Jimmy Carter also won the state of Georgia with a little help from third party candidate Ross Perot in 1976.
“McCain and Obama Tied in Georgia,” SouthernPoliticalReport.com
Andrew Romano, “Georgia On His Mind,” Newsweek.com
“Election Center 2008,” CNNPolitics.com
“Election Results,” CNN.com
“Georgia: McCain vs. Obama,” RealClearPolitics.com
“General Election: McCain vs. Obama,” RealClearPolitics.com