Team Georgia

Martha Zoller Contributor
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As former speaker of the House Tip O’Neill said, “All politics is local.” In Georgia this weekend, national politics became local when two Georgians — former speaker of the House Newt Gingrich and businessman and Tea Party favorite Herman Cain — came to the Georgia GOP convention to ask for the attendees’ support.

Newt got into the race last week and I have never seen him so passionate. There is something in his voice that is different. He’s doing what he’s been training to do all his life and he likes it. Herman was the darling of the Tea Party and FairTax movements as well as one of the strongest voices coming out of the South Carolina GOP presidential debate a couple of weeks ago.

It wouldn’t be fair to compare the two candidates’ speeches. Gingrich spoke to a seated group of people who paid extra for the opportunity to hear him. Cain spoke to the morning session of the convention of 2,500+ delegates, alternates and guests. Newt was a professor and Herman was a preacher, but the message was the same. Make President Obama a one-term president.

While both men are considered long shots, their odds improved when Mike Huckabee announced on Saturday night that he will not be a candidate for president “this year.”

Has Gingrich been at it too long and missed his moment? I don’t think so. He’s spent his life in politics. As an elected official, he was one of the few who actually delivered on promises made to the electorate. In his career since then, he’s championed ideas and created movements around energy policy, education and health care initiatives. His critics will chastise him for traveling around the country talking education with Al Sharpton as well as appearing in a “global warming” commercial with Nancy Pelosi. However, he also organized the best and most memorable energy slogan in recent times: “Drill here, drill now, pay less.” He’s a man of issues and ideas and can get things done.

The buzz on the floor of the convention among those who don’t support Gingrich was that he’s “unelectable” because of his personal baggage. Others suggested he run Cain’s campaign and still others thought they should run together with Gingrich a “Virginia son” and Cain a “Georgia son.” For me, I’m not concerned about Newt’s baggage. He’s dealt with it in his family and by all accounts he’s a devoted husband, father and grandfather and has “come to Jesus” through Catholicism. I’ve seen it in him and believe it. I believe in redemption. I want someone who can make things happen. Gingrich can do that. But if he can’t get past his personal baggage, he can’t win.

Cain wowed the convention with a fiery speech that got people on their feet. When I asked Newt about Herman on my program last Thursday, he said he wanted Herman to be successful and that they were friends that go way back, but he didn’t want him to be that successful since they are both running for the Republican nomination for president. I didn’t get to ask Cain the same question, but I assume I would have gotten a similar answer.

The buzz about Cain is that he’s unelectable. He’s too much like a preacher and “too regional.” However, he’s a proven businessman, a radio talk show host and a man who has served on many boards throughout his career. He is a self-made man in every sense of the word with no skeletons in his closet. He has lived the American dream from the first dime in his pocket to his speech on Saturday and beyond.

And therein lies the dilemma in Georgia and the nation. We know these men and like them, but many more need to know them if they are going to be successful.

As a Georgian and a conservative, I’m waiting for someone who will wipe away the memory of Jimmy Carter. He was the worst thing to come out of Georgia politics since Jim Crow and at the same time, he’s the gift that keeps on giving, or taking, depending on your perspective. Republicans are excited about the prospect of having two “native sons” competing for the GOP nomination. One staffer for a Congressman said it best, “I’m for Team Georgia. I don’t have to decide right now.”

Martha Zoller is a political analyst and conservative talk show host for WXKT FM 103.7 in Gainesville, Georgia and syndicated on The Georgia News Network. She is one of the Talkers Magazine “Heavy Hundred” Talk Shows in America. She can be seen regularly on cable news. She is the author of “Indivisible: Uniting Values for a Divided America.” Email her at martha@marthazoller.com.