At least the Georgia branch of the Republican party ended with a theme of unity. There’s been precious little of that leading up to last weekend’s state convention in Columbus.
The GOP’s leaders in the state have been marked for as much dysfunction as for their positions — governor, lieutenant governor and speaker of the state House. It’s been a testy year and half for Sonny Perdue, Casey Cagle and Glenn Richardson.
Nationally, the Republicans have lost their grip on the Senate and the House and it doesn’t appear if they’ll get either back this fall. They’ve lost three seats in the House in the last few weeks that have been solidly in the Republican column for a generation or more.
And frankly, they have no one to blame but themselves. The party that had billed itself as the fiscally and socially conservative faction found itself freely spending money — the deficit, nonexistent after the Contract With America, is now $400 billion and climbing — and embroiled in moral scandals. After finally wresting control of both houses of Congress after years of Democrat control, the Republicans fumbled it all away.
Pundits from coast to coast and border to border decry the Republicans’ chances of winning back those seats they lost in the 2006 elections — an election that gave us the milquetoast Harry Reid as Senate majority leader and the imperious Nancy Pelosi as speaker of the House.
So, despite the attempt of a few Ron Paul supporters — who has a snowball’s chance in a Valdosta summer of winning the nomination — the Republicans have cast their lot behind presumptive nominee John McCain. Several of the state’s more notable Republican officeholders earlier had supported candidates ranging from Rudy Giuliani to Fred Dalton Thompson to Mike Huckabee to Mitt Romney.
The Georgia delegation to the Republican national convention in St. Paul, Minn., later this summer will cast its ballots for McCain — even though Huckabee won the February primary. In the once “Solid South” — long ago solidly Democrat and in more recent years solidly Republican — Georgia appears to be holding onto its status in a changing wind.
With the dearth of opposition in nearly every General Assembly race this fall, the GOP will continue to hold sway under the Gold Dome. The state’s Republican party had lured many Democrats in the General Assembly to its side of the fence. Perdue himself had once served as the Senate majority leader — as a Democrat.
The next governor also likely will be another Republican, even though Johnny Isakson has declared he will not be a candidate. John Oxendine, the sitting insurance commissioner, has tossed his hat in the ring for a seat that won’t be up for election for 30 months. And you thought the presidential election was dragging on far too long. Cagle and Richardson also are thought to be sizing up their chances for the governor’s mansion.
U.S. Sen. Saxby Chambliss is running for re-election this year, and it doesn’t appear as if any of the Democrats’ candidates are going to mount a strong enough challenge to even make the 64-year-old from Moultrie even break a sweat.
Now, if the Grand Old Party can only get its three most notable leaders in the state to follow suit, perhaps it can return to its roots as the party of individual and fiscal responsibility.