A recent AP report laid bare the framework Democratic candidates and handlers are branding their “new” approach for making inroads in the South, a region they once dominated but where today their presence is diminishing dramatically.
Senate candidates like Georgia’s Michelle Nunn and Kentucky’s Allison Lundergan Grimes are attempting to hone a focus on local issues, casting Republicans as intransigent while maintaining personal distance from their party and its president.
Though they’re not exactly bullish on their chances, the Dems’ hope is to break into GOP strongholds like Georgia sooner than expected, and perhaps score a gubernatorial upset in a state like Arkansas or South Carolina.
A report from the New York Times focused on the Peach State contest to replace Saxby Chambliss, dubbed Nunn’s chances “slim but tantalizing.”
But the strategy behind these hoped-for pickups isn’t tantalizing, it’s stale. And it isn’t new, either; it’s been tried and failed.
In Georgia, former Rep. Jim Marshall rode center-right rhetoric, locality, and distance from his party to four terms in the House, only to be felled in 2010. Television stations were inundated with commercials touting work on local issues, and the Blue Dog even went far as brandishing his drivers’ license to prove he wasn’t Nancy Pelosi.
That same cycle saw former Georgia Governor Roy Barnes attempt a political comeback and go down in defeat by nearly double digits.
His campaign’s most prominent actions consisted of skipping Obama’s campaign visit to rural locales, touting problem-solving experience on education and budgeting, and toeing a center-right line on national issues in a cycle historically unfavorable to Democrats.
That’s just Georgia, the state most frequently mentioned as launching point for a Democratic resurgence in the Deep South.
Travel far back as 2003, to Mississippi when Haley Barbour challenged then-Governor Ronnie Musgrove.
The incumbent lobbed volley upon volley at his GOP challenger’s time as a lobbyist in Washington, armed with considerably more opposition research than most first-time candidates can muster, while emphasizing his own local ties to Mississippi and experience as the state’s chief executive.
Barbour still won.