Continuing economic troubles and widespread opposition to the stimulus bill and health care legislation could be problematic for the Democratic party this year, according to Dr. Charles Bullock, professor of political science at the University of Georgia.
Bullock, the guest speaker at Monday night’s meeting of the Barrow County Republican Party, has been a professor at UGA since 1977 and is the author of numerous books including The New Politics of the Old South and The New Politics.
Given large gains by the Democratic Party in recent elections, Bullock said a swing back to the Republican side is to be expected. However, this year could see results beyond what would be considered a normal shift.
“The economy is still bad and that is one of the major things that voters may or may not understand what is happening but, they know when they’re suffering, their reaction is to bring in a new team,” Bullock said.
With President Obama’s unfavorable ratings reaching very high levels and a large portion of the population convinced that the United States is not on the right course, a voter backlash becomes more likely.
That backlash will likely be at the hands of a very enthusiastic – and likely to vote – Republican electorate.
“The people that are inspired are going to show up and vote,” Bullock said. Recent polls show 59 percent of Republicans are enthusiastic about this election compared to only 35 percent of Democrats.
That could mean good news for Republicans, Bullock says.
Despite an advantage nationally, the Republicans are facing several challenges in Georgia. Infighting among Republican Party members in the legislature has negatively affected public perception of the party plus many potential voters may be influenced by the fact that the Republicans have failed to address several key issues while in control of the house and senate.
“When you become the governing party, then things which don’t go right – things which are not addressed – end up on your plate and you get blamed for them,” Bullock said citing such issues as unemployment, transportation, education, environmental protection and water rights.
Bullock also weighed in on the most important state race on this year’s ballot – the gubernatorial race.
While predicting that Barnes will win the Democratic primary, Bullock said the Republican primary was less clear cut.
Based on most recent polls, Bullock said he expects Karen Handel to make the runoff, but is uncertain who her opponent may be.
The one-time Republican frontrunner, John Oxendine, “looks like he has stepped into an elevator shaft,” Bullock said. While Nathan Deal has made some gains, Bullock said Eric Johnson has moved up drastically in recent days and may end up in the number two slot.
Regardless of who wins, Bullock said it is critical for the Republican Party to unite behind that candidate if they expect to win in November.
Bullock predicts the Democrats will pour the bulk of their resources into the Governor’s race.
“Chances are that Republicans are going to be better funded with these down ticket contests,” Bullock said. “They’ll probably be better funded than Democrats because I suspect the Democrat strategy this year is going to be bet everything on the governorship.”
Bullock said this is a logical step for the Democrats.
“The best way to build or rebuild a party is to be in control of the governorship,” he said.
A Democratic governor would also give the party some say in the 2011 redistricting process, Bullock added.
“If the Democrats do not elect the governor in 2010, they are going to have no input in the drawing of the districts of Georgia for the next decade,” he explained. Bullock said there is practically no chance that Democrats will be able to make serious inroads in the state house or senate leaving the governor’s race as their only chance to influence the process.
“2010 may prove to be a high water mark for the Republican Party,” Bullock said.
The next meeting of the Barrow County Republican Party will be Monday, August 16 at 7:30 p.m.
State Rep. Terry England, Barrow County Board of Education chairman Mark Still and the nominee for State Senate District 47 are scheduled to speak.
The meeting will be held at the Winder Woman’s Club located at 15 West Midland Avenue in Winder and is open to the public.
For more information, visit www.barrowgop.com or join the Barrow County Republican Party on Facebook.