Candidates Turn Georgia Election into a Referendum on Obama.

The Saxby Chambliss landslide victory in Georgia’s runoff election signals a backlash against Barack Obama before he is sworn in as president. The defeat echoes Bill Clinton’s failed effort to promote a Democrat candidate in a 1992 runoff election, the last Senate election before the GOP landslide in 1994.

Chambliss’ blowout victory over well-funded, and well-promoted Democrat Jim Martin is eye-popping. He won by 16 points with 58% of the vote, which is among the single largest victory margins by a Republican Senator in the 2008 election. Chambliss won among men, women, and independent voters overwhelmingly. He fared 7 points better than his last election in 2002.

It is fair to say that the victory has humiliated the young president-elect, Barack Obama, who pulled out all the stops for Jim Martin. Obama unleashed his well-oiled fundraising machine to help the Democrat candidate in Georgia, made hundreds of thousands of robo-calls, assigned paid staff, and kept open his Georgia campaign offices and phone banks to support the effort.

Displaying a sense of humor about all the commotion, Martin remarked recently, “I have a little bit more help than I did before.”

The result can be seen as nothing other than a slap in the face against the new President. Not only did Obama’s efforts fail, but they seem to have hurt the Democrat candidate who erred in welcoming the support.

Martin attached himself too closely to Barack Obama in campaign ads and literature. He mistakenly turned the Georgia Senate race into a referendum on Obama himself. See the video below and note the pitch on his website:

This race is about helping President-elect Barack Obama get our economy back on track and making the economy work for the middle class again. It’s time for change in Georgia. It’s time for a U.S. Senator who will stand with President-elect Barack Obama, not obstruct progress. It’s time for an America that’s united in our hope for the future, not divided by our differences. It’s time for us to win this race.

America has elected Barack Obama President, and now is the time for us to help him succeed. Saxby Chambliss has promised to do everything he can to stop Barack Obama from succeeding. We face the biggest challenges of the past 60 years – let’s work together to solve them. In the Senate I’ll do what’s best for Georgia, what’s best for this country, and what’s best for the middle class who’ve been ignored the past eight years.

I hope that you’ll vote for change. Thank you.
–Jim Martin

Chambliss embraced the challenge. He too turned his candidacy into a referendum on Obama. The focus of his advertisements were on stopping a president Obama from gaining a filibuster-proof majority, with a subtext that a hard-left political agenda would infringe on our basic liberties. Chambliss won the argument.

Obama insiders began to see the writing on the wall over a week ago as the polls slipped away. They decided to keep Obama away from Georgia physically to minimize the collateral damage to Obama. He wanted to go.

It is too early to know what this means for the 2010 election, but history is on the side of the GOP. The party in power almost always loses Senate seats in mid-term elections. Voters will probably want “change” again. They always do.

In the case of Obama, he appears to be entering office with the lowest approval ratings of any president-elect in history. Chambliss has shown the GOP a winning strategy. Republicans will run against Obama in 2010, as scandals and ineffectiveness begin to plague the new administration as they plague all administrations.

The Georgia landslide shows there is already a strong backlash forming against Obama, and that arbors well for the GOP in the future.

Obama – Martin Campaign Ad (Video)

Photo: Jim Martin