Frank Gillispie ­ July 27, 2006

As the accountants and political pundits of the world like to say, let’s crunch some numbers. The question is, can Mark Taylor defeat Sunny Purdue in November?

The first thing to note coming out of the 2006 primary is that Governor Purdue received only 41% of the total votes cast. Democratic candidates out polled the Republicans by a total of 481476 to 418822. If you count all Democratic votes for Taylor and all Republican votes for Purdue, Taylor wins handily.

Now let us look at the vote totals for the 2002 election in which Purdue stunned the nation, and especially the Georgia Democrats. Purdue collected a total of 1,041,677 votes to Roy Barnes’ 937,062. Perdue won with a margin of 104650 votes.

Purdue won because he received the support of two major groups of voters; the teachers, and Southern Heritage. He betrayed both groups. During his tenure as Governor, he has cut state spending on education dramatically. His cuts have forced schools to lay off teachers, and to greatly increase property taxes. He will very probably lose thousands of votes on this issue alone.

But the real goof by the Governor was turning his back on Southern Heritage. People who love the South and its emblems are very angry at the Governor. So angry that many of them will use their votes this fall any way they can to unseat Purdue. Consider this: Ray McBerry received 48,449 votes in the recent primary. If these voters, who supported Purdue in 2002, switch their votes to Taylor, it would amount to a switch of 96898 votes from the ’02 totals.

If that switch had been made in ’02, Purdue’s margin of victory would have shrunk to 7752 votes. This is assuming that McBerry’s votes constitute the entire voting strength of the Southern Heritage movement, which it clearly does not.

Now, the teachers will have little problem switching their votes to Taylor. The Southern Heritage may find such a switch a bitter pill. But they are so angry at Purdue, that many of them may just swallow that pill. What other choices do they have?

They could vote for the Libertarian candidate Gary Hayes. That would be Purdue’s greatest hope, because while he will lose those votes, Taylor will not gain them. Some Heritage votes will likely follow that path. Others may just go fishing. Again Purdue loses votes but Taylor does not gain them.

If Taylor can find a way to convince the Heritage vote to swing his way, he has a real chance to win. That would take a very delicate maneuver on his part. He would have to convince the Heritage vote that he is sensitive to their issues without angering his urban black vote. And that will not be easy to do.

It will not take much. Heritage voters are aware that they will get no real support from Taylor. But they knew that all along. Taylor’s advantage is that he has made no promises. He has told no lies. Southern Heritage voters would prefer someone who made no promises to one who promised then backed down.

Southern Heritage voters are prepared to support Taylor if they are given a chance to do so. A careful approach to Southern Heritage could give him the office. If that happens, then those Southern Flags are likely to bring to an end the political career of yet another Southern Governor.