Human Behavior

There is definitely no logic to human behavior.

It's gonna get ugly

icon_atlanta.jpgBette Davis, as always, said it best: Fasten your seatbelts, it’s going to be a bumpy night!

In this case, it’s going to be a bumpy 27 nights as Atlanta voters head for a Dec. 1 runoff between Mary Norwood, the woman who would be the city’s first white mayor in nearly four decades, and Kasim Reed, a former legislator with strong ties to the current administration at City Hall.

Norwood, who’s been pointing to this campaign ever since she was elected to the city council eight years ago, was flying high in the polls and even had convinced some of the pundits that she might win without a runoff over two credible black candidates, Reed and City Council President Lisa Borders.

In a city whose electorate is still more than 55 percent black, that wasn’t going to happen. Borders faded away toward the end and Reed surged with a late “endorsement” of sorts from outgoing Mayor Shirley Franklin. Norwood ended up with a 45-38 percent lead over Reed, who now looks like he at least has a fighting chance in a runoff battle.

We haven’t seen this kind of black-white confrontation in a mayor’s race for nearly 30 years, but I think we’re about see it full-force between now and Dec. 1.

Norwood has built a strong network of neighborhood supporters. Can her superior field organization sweep her to victory in a low-turnout runoff election? Or can the political machine originally built by Maynard Jackson crank itself up one last time and carry Reed across the finish line? It’s going to be a bumpy ride indeed.

Nationally, the scattered election results gave both parties something they can brag meaninglessly about on the cable chat shows.

In two states that a year ago delivered their electoral votes to President Barack Obama — Virginia and New Jersey — Republican candidates were the winners in races for governor.

Chris Christie, a former U.S. Attorney, edged Democratic Gov. Jon Corzine in New Jersey by a margin of about 100,000 votes.

In Virginia, which went Democratic in the presidential election last year for the first time since 1964, Republican Attorney General Bob McDonnell drew nearly 59 percent of the vote and crushed Democratic nominee Creigh Deeds.

The biggest factor in New Jersey was Corzine’s unpopularity with the state’s residents — he had disapproval numbers reaching into the stratosphere and never could get above the low 40s in the polls.

The presence of a third-party candidate, Chris Daggett, left the New Jersey outcome in doubt going into election day, but Daggett pizzled out at the end and his supporters moved to Christie. Game over.

McDonnell was in command in the Virginia race from the first and was obviously headed to a big win over Deeds.

Deeds won a hard-fought Democratic primary election but tried to veer to the right in the general election, refusing to give any serious support to Democratic healthcare reform proposals and thus discouraging a large portion of the party’s young, progressive voters.

Markos Moulitsas summed it up this way on Daily Kos:

Tonight proved conclusively that we’re not going to turn out just because you have a (D) next to your name, or because Obama tells us to. We’ll turn out if we feel it’s worth our time and effort to vote, and we’ll work hard to make sure others turn out if you inspire us with bold and decisive action.

The choice is yours. Give us a reason to vote for you, or we sit home. And you aren’t going to make up the margins with conservative voters. They already know exactly who they’re voting for, and it ain’t you.

Democrats did a little better in two special elections for congressional seats in New York and California.

The 23rd House district in upstate New York became a battleground for the Republican Party establishment and the GOP’s more conservative elements on the right. Dede Scozzafava was the Republican nominee in this race but many of the GOP’s right-wingers rejected her in favor of Conservative Party nominee Doug Hoffman, who did not even live in the district (that puts him in the same company as Georgia congressmen like John Linder and Saxby Chambliss, who also didn’t live in the House districts they represented).

Newt Gingrich and Republican National Chairman Michael Steele endorsed the more moderate Scozzafava, but conservative figures like Sarah Palin, Tim Pawlenty, Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck enthusiastically backed the more conservative Hoffman. Limbaugh at one point even accused Scozzafava of “bestiality,” saying on his talk radio show, “She has screwed every RINO in the country.”

Scozzafava withdrew from the race over the weekend and endorsed the long-shot Democratic candidate, Bill Owens. Her name remained on the election ballot, however. Owens finished a surprising first with 49.3 percent support on Tuesday, which put him about 5,000 votes ahead of Hoffman. Even though she had withdrawn from the race, Scozzafava still attracted more than 7,000 votes, which was enough to swing the victory to Owens.

While Republicans have now lost a congressional seat they had held for more than 150 years, the success of the conservative wing in ousting Scozzafava from the campaign should embolden conservative challenges to other moderate Republicans in high-profile races.

The Republican who could be hurt the most by this is Florida Gov. Charlie Crist, who is running for a Senate seat. Crist, a moderate, is facing a GOP primary challenge from right-winger Marco Rubio, who is drawing support from Republicans like Jeb Bush.

In California, Democrats were able to retain a congressional seat in the San Francisco area as Lt. Gov. John Garamendi defeated Republican David Harmer by a 53-43 percent margin.

The lesson to be drawn from all this? There are no real lessons. It was another random scattering of off-year elections.

Tags: Atlanta mayor\'s race , Kasim Reed , Mary Norwood , off-year elections

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