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Will US Senate race swing on endorsements?

Even after Miller’s split support, push is on to get voters to polls

POSTED: August 24, 2014 12:19 a.m.

With Election Day a little more than two months away, endorsements and the weight they carry could begin to have an affect on the fall races.

Most notably, former Georgia Gov. and Sen. Zell Miller on Aug. 14 split his ticket in terms of endorsements, throwing his support behind Democratic Senate candidate Michelle Nunn but also for the re-election of Republican Gov. Nathan Deal.

Whether Miller’s “purple” endorsements have an affect on ballots remains to be seen.

“Clearly, Nunn thinks it’s a big deal,” University of Georgia political science professor Charles Bullock said.

The Democratic nominee has been airing a TV ad showing her with Miller, who calls her “a bridge-builder.”

Nunn faces Republican David Perdue and Libertarian Amanda Swafford of Flowery Branch in the bid to replace retiring two-term U.S. Sen. Saxby Chambliss.

Voter memories play a key role in such endorsements, Bullock said. Transplants from other states may not connect with Miller’s support, as they lived elsewhere and may not be as familiar with him. Younger voters also may not put as much stock in Miller’s endorsement as their parents.

“To the extent that it does have an impact, it would be with older voters,” Bullock said.

So far, polls show no clear favorite between Perdue and Nunn this early in the race.

Josh Morris, Hall County GOP vice chairman of communications, said the main effort of the local Republican offices is fighting a false sense of security in a heavily red region.

“Essentially, it’s going to come down to turnout, and I think everybody knows that,” Morris said. “I think our biggest fight is some conservatives, some Republicans may feel like we’re a safe Republican area. We’re trying to combat that feeling.”

Though Georgia has not sent a Democrat to the U.S. Senate in almost a decade — Miller was the last, and he often sided with Republicans — Bullock said he believes this could be a rebuilding year for the party, with or without a victory in the Senate race.

Sheila Nicholas, Hall County team leader for the Georgia Democratic campaign, echoed Bullock’s comments, saying enthusiasm is higher than ever.

“I think you’re seeing a lot of Democrats coming out of the closet, because they realize this is a year that they can win. Maybe we can’t turn the state blue this year, but we can certainly turn it purple,” she said.

Because of the partisan-ambiguous endorsement, Morris said he believes Miller’s announcement is diluted in its power.

“At the same time, he endorsed Gov. Deal, so he’s kind of riding the fence,” Morris said. “I think that really that kind of downplays both of those endorsements.”

Deal faces Democrat Jason Carter on the fall ballot. Andrew Hunt is the Libertarian candidate.

Both Morris and Nicholas stressed the importance of getting out the vote, impressing the value of each ballot. Nicholas said area Democrats have shown greater zeal, at a level not seen since 2008.

“There is great concern, particularly among women, with respect to the Hobby Lobby decision, and what that means for women,” she said.

On June 30, the Supreme Court ruled in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc. that closely held corporations are not required to provide free contraceptive care to female employees as a violation of religious freedom.


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