Southern Dem stars in 2014

by Brent Budowsky

While the last Republican governor of Virginia appears headed toward prison, the senior Democratic senator from Virginia is headed toward a landslide reelection and serious consideration for the Democratic ticket in 2016.

While the last Republican governor of Virginia appears headed toward prison, the senior Democratic senator from Virginia is headed toward a landslide reelection and serious consideration for the Democratic ticket in 2016.

The rise of Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.) and the statewide success of Democrats in Virginia are the cutting-edge of the changing face of the political South. Many of the shining stars of the 2014 campaign are Southern Democratic candidates who are within striking range of victory despite the huge undertow of high unpopularity of President Obama. It is a powerful achievement for this new generation of Southern Democrats.

Warner is the prototype Democratic star of 2014. He has been a brilliantly successful entrepreneur, a highly successful governor and a widely respected senator from a state that can now be described as somewhere between deep purple and light blue.

Big things are happening in the South. Warner has good company in the growing constellation of Democratic stars in a South that is increasingly purple and no longer red.

In North Carolina, Democratic Sen. Kay Hagan remains standing tall and poised to defeat an onslaught of conservative money and GOP power from Tar Heel Republicans who have moved far to the right of the state and the South.

In Georgia, Michelle Nunn, who embodies political independence and a spirit of bipartisan governing, has pulled ahead of her GOP opponent, whose image is tarnished by a business career of outsourcing jobs, in several recent polls listed in the must-read poll section at Real Clear Politics.

Nunn could emerge as a big Southern Democratic star in 2014 as well. Her father, former Sen. Sam Nunn, is universally admired throughout the state. Her career, including nonpartisan civic leadership in her community and management of the Points of Light Foundation originated by former President George H.W. Bush, defines her as the problem-solving stateswoman voters seek in public life.

In Kentucky, while Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) appears to be measuring the curtains for his new majority leader office next January, a recent poll from the Louisville Courier Journal shows Democrat Alison Lundergan Grimes within 1 percentage point of McConnell. Another poll from Western Kentucky University shows her within 3 points.

Like a thoroughbred racing in the Kentucky Derby, with the fervent support of the highly popular Clintons against the highly unpopular McConnell, Grimes is coming down the home stretch within striking range of an upset victory, which makes her a Southern Democratic star alongside Warner, Hagan and Nunn.

Despite the triumphalism of Republicans who boast about their plans after what they expect to be a Republican Senate takeover — an overconfidence that is unwise and repellant to voters — the race for Senate control appears headed to a photo finish. The curtains for the majority leader office may not be selected until runoffs in December or January!

In Louisiana, don’t count Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.) out. According to the Real Clear Politics polling summary, the most likely outcome in Louisiana is that Landrieu wins by a plurality of votes in November but will be an underdog during a runoff in December. But Bill Clinton has been campaigning for Landrieu again this week. The New Orleans Times Picayune recently gave her a powerful endorsement praising her power to help Louisiana as chairwoman of the Senate Energy Committee, and reminding voters that every time danger struck the state, as with Hurricane Katrina, Landrieu was there for Louisiana with power and force.

If Senate control is decided by a Louisiana runoff in December, Landrieu will outperform current polls. The white-hot intensity of a runoff, with barnstorming campaigning by Bill and Hillary Clinton while the entire nation watches the Bayou State, will bring a sky-high turnout of Democratic voters, especially blacks.

It is an astounding and spectacular achievement for these Southern Democratic stars to be ahead or within striking range of victory despite the huge unpopularity of Obama.

If Bill Clinton were president today, analysts would be talking about the Democratic surge in the South, and if Hillary Clinton runs in 2016, no state of the changing South will be safe for the GOP.

Brent Budowsky View more

Brent Budowsky
Brent Budowsky served as Legislative Assistant to U.S. Senator Lloyd Bentsen, responsible for commerce and intelligence matters, including one of the core drafters of the CIA Identities Law. Served as Legislative Director to Congressman Bill Alexander, then Chief Deputy Whip, House of Representatives. Currently a member of the International Advisory Council of the Intelligence Summit. Left government in 1990 for marketing and public affairs business including major corporate entertainment and talent management.

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