The national tide against Democrats swept U.S. Rep. Jim Marshall out of office, but Republican Rep.-elect Austin Scotts political experience gave an extra push.
Thats the analysis of Charles Bullock, the University of Georgias Richard B. Russell chairman in political science. Bullock said other Republicans might have been able to do well this year, but Scott a 14-year veteran of the Georgia House of Representatives was an aggressive fundraiser who didnt make rookie mistakes.
Also helping Scott was the lack of high turnout such as for a presidential election.
Marshall, a Democrat from Macon, drew 57.2 percent of the vote in the last presidential election year, when he faced Republican Rick Goddard in 2008, but he received just 50.5 percent of the vote four years ago, when he faced Mac Collins.
Tuesday, Marshall claimed 47.3 percent of the vote.
The national tide swept (Marshall) away, Bullock said.
If you look at the returns in that district, there has been quite an oscillation from midterm to presidential years. The midterms, he has always been marginal.
The 8th Congressional District covers 21 counties. Compared to 2008s election, Marshall lost between 6 and 20 percentage points in counties across the district.
Compared to 2006s election, Marshall lost as much as 14.5 percentage points in some counties this time but he actually did better this year in some places. Marshalls share of the vote held roughly steady in the districts biggest population centers of Bibb and Houston counties.
But compared with 2006, Marshalls support in critical mid-sized counties was wrecked. Marshall grabbed more support from Butts County, for example, but he lost thousands of voters in Colquitt, Jones, Laurens, Newton and Tift counties.
Laurens County, with a relatively high population, was important. In this election compared to 2006, Marshall lost about the same percentage point of the vote in Dublin and the rest of Laurens County as he did in Ashburn and Turner County where Scott lives. Bullock said Scott ran a smart, aggressive campaign in the right place at the right time.
Part of it was simply the tide this year, he said. Conceivably, some of the other individuals who ran in 06 or 08 might have won this year. It was a very good year to be a Republican.
Bullock said Marshall also ran a solid campaign, doing a good job to distance himself from Nancy Pelosi, the polarizing speaker of the House.
Some of the areas voters had been voting for other Republicans but casting a vote for Marshall as a conservative Democrat, much as they had supported Sam Nunn, Bullock said. That changed.
Even if this had been a good year for Democrats, we could anticipate it would be a fairly close election. And since it was a dread year for Democrats, the tsunami washed over him and he couldnt hold on, Bullock said.
Bullock said Marshall did relatively well. He compared Marshalls closely balanced seat to U.S. Rep. Sanford Bishops much safer seat. Bishop was nearly defeated.
Georgia Republicans are now firmly in control of state government on the eve of redistricting. Bullock said he expects the congressional districts will become more polarized, likely to leave Robins Air Force Base and Houston Countys Republicans with Scott, but in a district that leans more Republican.
To contact writer Mike Stucka, call 744-4251.