In the Republican bastion of Georgia, GOPers occupy every statewide office, hold a super-majority in the Senate and a regular majority in the House.
But as the Supreme Court recognized recently with its Voting Rights Act ruling, things are changing in the Peach State and elsewhere in the South.
Demographic changes, in particular, could put Georgia in play for a Democratic presidential candidate in 2016. They almost certainly will make for a heated governor’s race in 2018.
Despite the hopeful future, the Democratic Party of Georgia is floundering. In the last month, DPG Chairman Mike Berlon resigned his post in the wake of mounting personal legal troubles. To boot, the news followed the party’s most recent fundraising report, which showed them “bordering on insolvency” with $15,000 on hand – down from $30,000 in an earlier filing.
The luxury of facing a party in financial shambles is an important opportunity for the GOP to build a better digital operation and leverage emerging technology now as opposed to playing catch up later.
An opposition in disarray also grants a greater ability to draw a crystal-clear contrast with Democrats and highlight base-expanding conservative messages of optimism, economic growth, and opportunity for an evolving state.
A party in disarray versus a party driving forward an innovative vision of growth in the future. It should be as simple as that for the GOP.
Georgia Republicans will be missing an opportunity if they take the easier path of coasting through 2014, maintaining current majorities, keeping the Senate seat in GOP hands, and worrying about the future when it becomes the present.
Rather, they should take this chance to batten down the hatches before they need battening, and incorporate a long-term vision in the 2014 playbook, lest the Democratic turnaround come sooner rather than later.
For now, at least, it looks like it’ll be the latter. Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed, perhaps the most popular Democrat in the state, was among those calling on Berlon to step aside this spring. He recently found himself in a public dispute with his party’s leadership in the Georgia Senate over whether they should mount an effort aimed at defeating Republican Gov. Nathan Deal, who’s near-unanimously considered a lock for reelection.
Reed argues in favor of focusing on the state’s open Senate seat, going as far as saying that Deal has “done a good job.” Democrats in the state legislative ranks disagree. The outgoing Berlon threw in his two cents as well, a final political salvo against Reed.
Speaking of that Senate seat, Blue Dog Rep. John Barrow’s (D) opting to remain in the House has left Democrats feeling all the more uncertain about prospects for the one seat national operatives viewed as a pickup opportunity, albeit one requiring some serious lightening in a bottle.
The disarray, in turn, leaves a party that should be on the rise instead confronting pitiful fundraising numbers, internal strategy strife gone public, and a bench that likes reminding Georgians how weak it is.
Republicans would do well to capitalize on the unforced errors buying them more time, pushing the party forward with technological innovation and crafting a message with long-term viability.
Brandon Howell is an account director at Hynes Communications and a contributor to the Peach State political blog Georgia Tipsheet.