So many people keep asking me to handicap next year's governor's race, I feel a need to write something. They've kept insisting the past few weeks, even when I tell them handicapping is nigh impossible until the likely field is far more settled. This is going to be more of a survey and speculation of what's now going on, most behind the scenes.
I'm more familiar with the GOP side but recognize that whatever former Democratic Gov. Roy Barnes decides to do will have a big effect, even across party lines.
Similarly, what GOP Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle ends up doing could shake up races up and down both parties' eventual primary ticket. I'm not convinced that Cagle won't withdraw and not run for anything next year. Consider: He had major surgery he cited as the reason for dropping out of the governor's race. He's so far unopposed in the GOP primary. We really don't know how that arm or his overall health is going.
U.S. Rep. Nathan Deal, who long has wanted to run for governor, had deferred to Cagle and stayed in Washington. Now Cagle's run for re-election creates a sizeable, though unspoken, problem for Deal's campaign.
Think of the hay Deal's opponents in primary and general election can make over candidates for the two top offices coming from the same county. The second spot is the one that would fare worse, and in a general election could hand the post to a Democrat.
Also, with two candidates being from the same county, most local money will be going to Deal. Like it or not, reality is it takes lots of money to run a campaign at this level. Cagle is young enough to wait eight years and still have his record. He could maintain a good profile with a prestigious appointment, which undoubtedly would be for the asking. I can't imagine the Deal campaign not being ecstatic and generous if he withdrew.
Such a withdrawal would have effects in both parties up and down a number of races. Secretary of State Karen Handel might lower her sights a notch. It's less likely, but state Sen. Eric Johnson conceivably also could drop back. When it comes to plunking down the qualifying money, Labor Commissioner John Oxendine could decide it is prudent to stay where he is or even go for Cagle's seat.
Other legislators or even a newcomer could enter a lieutenant governor's race. Attorney General Thurbert Baker or Labor Commissioner Michael Thurmond might switch to that race. I've even heard some speculation one might switch parties in such a move. Party pressure is on GOP congressional incumbents to stay put. The GOP badly needs to regain a number of seats while losing no more.
With so many possible scenarios remaining, no realistic handicapping is possible. Nonetheless, most of those asking me also want to know what I think about Deal's chances and why.
Up front, folks, I'm prejudiced. We've known each other more than 40 years, agreeing most of the time, disagreeing some of the time, but good friends throughout. When asked to describe him briefly, I say he's a highly principled public servant whose integrity is unimpeachable.
He is a proven leader who knows how to get things done. He is the senior member and ranking Republican on the subcommittee dealing with health care. He's got to improve name recognition in South and Middle Georgia. It's a "beauty contest" now, and several supposed candidates at this point have better name recognition.
If there are better overall qualifications out there, I haven't seen them. Nathan is the Real Deal
Ted Oglesby is retired associate and opinion page editor. Reach him at P.O. Box 663, Gainesville, GA 30503.