A Different Georgia Race in the 12th CD

Rep. John Barrow (D) has run several tough races in many different east Georgia locations, yet he always seems to find a way to prevail.  But, will this year be different?

Barrow’s trick for attaining political success is to champion several conservative issues, while simultaneously increasing the substantial African-American vote that resides in his 12th District.  The turnout patterns from his Augusta-anchored constituency suggests that the midterm cycle is when he is most vulnerable, so Barrow is again hitting on all cylinders for this election.

Originally a local elected commissioner in Clarke County (Athens), the current congressman successfully unseated one-term Rep. Max Burns (R) in a close race back in 2004.  After a district adjustment opportunity arose and state lawmakers produced a new congressional map in a second redistricting, the Barrow seat was placed in the southeastern part of the state, anchored in Savannah more than 250 miles away from Athens.  Even with the radical district boundary change, then-freshman Rep. Barrow nipped Burns in a re-match, but by an even closer margin than he scored two years earlier.  When 2011 redistricting came and Georgia gained a new seat, the Republican map drawers placed Barrow in the Augusta area, again radically re-drawing his district.  This time the territory common to both his new Augusta anchored seat and the previous Savannah district is just 53 percent.  

As is the case in most elections, and particularly in the midterm year, turnout will tell the tale.  And, there is quite a difference between presidential year and midterm participation rates in this district.  In the presidential year of 2012, the 12th CD ranked seventh of the 14 Georgia CDs.  But, looking to 2010 reveals a 37 percent reduction in voter turnout, dropping it to 13th of what was then 13 Peach State congressional districts.  In order to win in 2014, Barrow must increase the turnout above the 2010 benchmark.

In 2012, the congressman made national political news by featuring an anti-gun control ad in the middle of left’s desire to weaken 2nd Amendment rights.  The ad, seen below, was a clever way of touting his NRA endorsement and proved at least a secondary reason for him winning a 54-46 percent victory over state Rep. Lee Anderson (R), who earlier in the cycle was viewed as being in as strong a position as any Republican challenger in the country.  

Now, he has just released a new ad (top), echoing his 2012 standard.  Like the previous edition that highlighted support from the NRA and ended with the memorable final tag line … “these are my guns now and ain’t nobody going to take them away”. The congressman ends the updated version in a way that equals his previous effort.  While again talking about how his grandfather stopped a lynching with his Smith & Wesson, Barrow ends the new ad saying “I approve this message because like my daddy used to say, you never really need a gun … until you need it bad.”

This year, Barrow’s opponent is construction company owner Rick Allen, who lost to Anderson in the 2012 Republican primary.  Like virtually every Republican running in a red seat, Allen works to tie Barrow to President Obama.  His latest ad is featured below.

Rep. Barrow remains the favorite because he has the ability to connect with his constituency and successfully position himself away from the national Democrats; an unpopular group in southeastern Georgia.  His strategy is the same this time.  Originally considered a probable US Senate candidate, the Congressman backed away when it became clear that he would have to fight a Democratic primary against Michelle Nunn to even qualify for the general election.  For Senate Republicans, it is likely his decision to remain in the House did them a great favor.

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