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Georgia's gubernatorial race could use a little sizzle

May 24, 2010 — This year’s campaign for governor in Georgia is a big race at a crucial time in the state’s modern history. It has drawn some of the state’s major political figures, and they have debated some of its most troubling issues. And yet when you have said all that, you have to admit this race isn’t nearly as entertaining so far as some of the Peach State’s neighbors.

Take, of course, South Carolina. In the latest installment of that ongoing soap opera, Will Folks, a blogger who is one of the string of communications directors with whom Gov. Mark Sanford has parted ways, admitted Monday to something no one has publicly accused him of.

“Several years ago, prior to my marriage, I had an inappropriate physical relationship with Nikki,” he wrote, referring to state Rep. Nikki Haley, whom Folks claims to support in the governor’s race.

Haley has flatly denied Folks’ claim, and Sarah Palin, who has endorsed the conservative Lexington County legislator, has denounced his blog, FITSNews as a “liberal rag,” according to the story in FITSNews, which has been wallowing in itself ever since Folks’ claim hit the internet.

Folks says other media outlets were closing in on the story, and he broke it himself in order to be preemptive. Whether you can believe that or not, Folks’ Monday post is a doozy, and a worthy introduction to the wacky world of personal politics in the Palmetto State.

As unwanted as the story may be for Haley, it brings to light the most dramatic development in that race so far. According to a Rasmussen poll released last week, Haley has risen from single digits to the lead, with 30 percent, in a poll released by Rasmussen last week. That makes the possibility of the South having two conservative, Indian-American governors considerably less remote.

It has nothing to do with resolving South Carolina’s double-digit unemployment problem, but you better believe the Folks story is what will have them talking in the barber shops and lunch spots.

South Carolina’s politicians give their voters lots of material for entertainment. But for making the most of what they’ve got, Alabama is a trail blazer this year. Republican candidate Tim James’ language ad could be on the way to generating as many send-ups as any in this political year. This is one of the wittiest.

For a variety of reasons, Alabama is one of the great fertile swamps of political advertising in the country, which makes this trend toward participatory videography all the more exciting. This striking ad for a candidate for agriculture commissioner quickly spun off a comedy sendup.  

In Florida, the governor’s race has been considerably overshadowed by the Senate race, and it lost a lot of its sizzle Monday when state Sen. Paula Dockery dropped out of the Republican primary.

Georgia, too, could use some sizzle. Not that scandals and gag videos should replace serious debates, like the one four of the Republican candidates engaged in Saturday night in Gwinnett County. But watching that debate, and the slow drift of the polls, there was little sense that a lot of people are plugged in.

If there is any surprise in the way the Georgia race has gone in the past few weeks, it may be the durability of Rep. Nathan Deal, who was in a close race for second with Karen Handel in the last WSB/InsiderAdvantage poll, and finished a strong second in the straw poll after the debate Saturday night.

Given the negative hits Deal has taken over possible conflict of interest in his business dealings, that’s not a bad place to be at this stage. Then again, it illustrates our first point: So far, the news in Georgia hasn’t been juicy enough to do anyone much damage.


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