Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Did Georgia Governor Nathan Deal Damage GOP Presidential Chances?

The Georgia Republican convention was held in Macon this past weekend and while the controversy in Georgia does not appear to have national implications, it does. In fact, the controversy that caused some hard feelings here in the Peach State may become a national issue.
Nathan DealImage via Wikipedia
Georgia Governor Nathan Deal

In Georgia, current Governor and former US Representative, Nathan Deal managed to offend a lot of his fellow Republicans by inserting himself squarely into the race for the Georgia Republican Party (GAGOP) Chairman's race. In some states this may be common, but in Georgia - which did not elect a Republican governor until 2002 after 131 consecutive years of Democrat governors - this is not acceptable. The GAGOP had discovered that state governors are not necessary to run a state party.

Governor Deal had already angered many Georgia Republicans when he endorsed Tricia Pridemore during the GAGOP Chairman's race. Incumbent Sue Everhart and third candidate Shawn Hanley were not amused, but those really offended were the party activists who felt that Governor Deal clearly crossed a line. For a sitting governor to attempt to influence the outcome of a party election made many people uncomfortable.

Governor Deal already has a bully pulpit and it looked to many GOP grassroots activists that the governor was attempting to take theirs. More galling, was the implied insult that he - a man who had never shown real interest in the state party - knows more about what is best for the party rather than the thousands of party activists.

On Saturday, when Governor Deal deviated from his address as governor to endorse Mrs. Pridemore from the dais, the boos were no great surprise to anyone but the governor. Eventually, Mrs. Everhart was re-elected and most delegates and alternates were impressed with Mrs. Pridemore and Mr. Hanley. It was a good day for the party, except for the governor.

After a contentious 2010 GOP gubernatorial primary, followed by a more contentious run-off, a contentious state convention could not be a good thing. Three strong candidates for GAGOP Chairman is a sign of the success of the state party. Rancor added when a sitting governor involves himself in that race is a very bad thing. Then there is the question of why Governor Deal suddenly involves himself in party politics. I have yet to hear a reasonable explanation from the Governor or his staff.

And now, President Obama's campaign has declared Georgia in play for the 2012 election. Polls indicate this may be true and the President's people have already added a re-election headquarters and staffed it 18 months prior to the next election. Do I think the Obama campaign has a chance of taking Georgia? No, I don't. Do I relish the idea of facing an incumbent president with a divided state party? Again, I can't say that I do, because we hold elections for a reason. We don't know what will happen.

Why were delegates so upset with their own governor? The sad truth is that what is best for a state party seldom coincides with what is best for an elected official in the long run. A governor with too much influence in the state party structure can cause real harm to the state party.

So, will the Georgia GOP be united in the face of our opponents? We shall see, but the involvement of Governor Deal in no way strengthened the GAGOP and may have created stress fractures that were unnecessary.

There are several victims of this change. One will be the Republican presidential nominee who will be forced to spend more time and money in Georgia than should have been necessary. Others will be local and congressional  GOP candidates who may find it more difficult to raise funds and receive fewer volunteer hours from local Republicans focusing on the presidential race.

All three GAGOP chairman candidates are saying the right things and openly encouraging their supporters to unite and get ready for 2012. I hope this happens, but I wonder if the enthusiasm and focus shown in 2010 will be on display next year. If it isn't it will certainly affect the allocation of GOP funds which will affect how marginal states swing and therefore, the selection of the our next president.
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1 comment:

  1. I hope the GOP unites as well. I think we can, and it's good the Governor's race is in mid term elections for this reason....I think they'll avoid a lot of local bickering and can concentrate on national issues.

    Deal was never a dream candidate for Georgia. In fact, none of the candidates for governor were. It will be nice when honest businessmen like Herman Cain step up to lead at the local and state levels. It will help bolster honest (or more honest) politicians at the Federal level.


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