VILLA RICA, Ga. – Just over a month prior to the general election, most of the buzz in Georgia surrounds two dueling ads from gubernatorial candidates Nathan Deal and Roy Barnes. Both ads feature gray-haired grandfatherly men who fifty years ago would likely be seen sitting on a bench outside the local filling station. The modern versions have the men sitting it a café with red-checked tablecloths.
The first ad was released by the Republican Governors Association on behalf of Nathan Deal. The ad attacks Barnes record as governor on the issues of education and jobs. The ad makes the claims that Georgia was “dead last” on education and “led the nation in job losses.” Politifact.com analyzed the claims in the ad and found that while Georgia was near the bottom when comparing graduation rates and SAT scores for 2002, the end of Barnes’ term as governor, it probably wasn’t dead last. With respect to job losses, there is evidence that Georgia lost almost 80,000 jobs after 9/11, which was more than any other state.
In a separate analysis of Barnes’ answering ad, Politifact notes that Barnes has not kept his promise to run a “civil and polite” campaign. The amiable gentlemen in Barnes’ café call Deal “slippery as a bag of snakes” and “a shady Deal,” while pointing out that things were better when Barnes was governor. Barnes has pounded away on the corruption theme in a series of ads.
The ad fails to mention what is probably obvious to most people: that Georgia’s present economic crisis followed the crash of the national economy in 2008. Similarly, it will be difficult or impossible for Georgia to recover as long as the federal government is following its current destructive economic course. Many of the causes of the recession can be traced to Democratic positions on the federal level such as blocking Fannie Mae reform, enacting tough CAFE standards that weakened automakers, and passing strong pro-union legislation.
A fundamental problem for Barnes is that no one seems to know what he stands for. His campaign website contains mostly vague generalities on what he wants to accomplish as governor. His plan to create jobs seems to focus mostly on government spending on education and transportation. This seems to be a Peach State version of the federal stimulus debacle that has led to trillions of dollars in federal debts while preserving unemployment at a staggering 9.6%. There is no mention of hot-button issues such as abortion or gun control on Barnes’ website. There is also no mention of how he will pay for his spending programs.
In contrast, Nathan Deal’s campaign website has contained a detailed economic plan for months. His plan mirrors the conservative economic policies of Ronald Reagan. Deal’s economic platform is built around tax reform that will make Georgia into a more business friendly state. More business means more jobs.
The decision of the voters will largely depend on whether Barnes’ negative ads can overcome the negative feelings of the voters about President Obama and the Democratic Party. Nathan Deal’s financial scandals have generated negative publicity, but this is somewhat balanced by Deal addressing the issues, such as jobs, that Georgians care about. In the most recent poll, Deal leads Barnes 45-39 with both candidates losing ground. Only five percent of likely voters are still undecided so the result is unlikely to change.