Reed It and Weep: Ralph Loses in Georgia

Gov. Sonny Perdue

Gov. Sonny Perdue's renomination was one of the few things that went according to plan in Tuesday's Georgia primary. hide caption

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Ralph Reed becomes the latest Republican taken down by the Abramoff scandal.

Ralph Reed becomes the latest Republican taken down by the Abramoff scandal. hide caption

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Earl Warren

One of several unsuccessful VP candidates who later ran for president. hide caption

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The Jack Abramoff scandal has claimed another Republican: Ralph Reed.

The former head of the Christian Coalition, Reed, as chairman of the Georgia Republican Party, brought the state GOP from irrelevance to dominance – it now controls the governorship, both U.S. Senate seats, and a majority in the state legislature. Reed wanted a piece of the action for himself. His goal, which was once thought of as a slam dunk: the Republican nomination for lieutenant governor of Georgia.

And he seemed to have everything lined up. Former NYC Mayor Rudy Giuliani, whose views on abortion and gays are not even on the same page as Reed's, came in to campaign for him. Zell Miller, a conservative Democrat who may be the most popular pol in the state, worked tirelessly for him. But it wasn't enough.

Reed was soundly defeated in Tuesday's primary by a conservative state senator, Casey Cagle. Cagle focused on Reed's connection with Abramoff, the convicted lobbyist whose relationship with Reed goes back to when they were both with the College Young Republicans. As a longtime favorite of Christian conservatives, Reed's clean-cut image took a beating when it was revealed that he took millions of dollars from Abramoff to lobby against various gambling initiatives in the South. Reed's goal is one that was shared by many religious conservatives. But when it was revealed that the money came from Abramoff's gambling clients, Indian tribes that felt threatened by competition, Reed was thrown on the defensive and never recovered. Cagle won with 56 percent of the vote.

Reed joins former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay as the most prominent Republicans whose association with Abramoff have adversely affected their political career this year. The list may not be complete.

Equally interesting was the Democratic primary in the 4th Congressional District, where Rep. Cynthia McKinney is seeking re-election. McKinney always seems to be engulfed in some sort of controversy; in March, she was accused of hitting a Capitol Hill police officer with her cell phone when he tried to stop her from bypassing a security check at a House office building. McKinney, who is African-American, blamed "racial profiling" for the incident. But many members of the Congressional Black Caucus were embarrassed by her actions, and she was forced to apologize on the floor of the House.

Four years ago, McKinney was ousted in the Democratic primary not long after she implied that President Bush knew about the 9/11 attacks in advance; she recaptured her seat two years later. Few thought that the March incident would jeopardize her chances for a seventh term. Even her refusal to show up for candidate debates was met with a collective yawn. But when the votes were counted, McKinney had 47 percent of the vote, just 1,458 votes more than her main opponent, former DeKalb County Commissioner Hank Johnson, also African-American, who received 45 percent; a third candidate got 9 percent. With no one receiving a majority, McKinney and Johnson advanced to an Aug. 8 runoff.


Georgia Governor: Lt. Gov. Mark Taylor defeated Secretary of State Cathy Cox for the Democratic nomination and will face Gov. Sonny Perdue (R) in November. Four years ago, Perdue became the first Republican governor of Georgia since Reconstruction.

Alabama: George Wallace Jr., the son of the late Democratic governor of Alabama, was thrashed in his bid for the Republican nomination for lieutenant governor. Previously defeated in campaigns for Congress, Wallace lost the GOP runoff to Luther Strange, a first-time candidate, 55-45 percent.

On to the questions:

Q: Let me say first that I enjoy your column, as well as your Wednesday segment on NPR's Talk of the Nation However, I would like to take issue with your dismissal (June 14 column) of the Iowa poll as meaningless. I agree that the press awarding frontrunner status to John Edwards is premature and, dare I say, silly. The fact that he fared so well in the poll is reflective of his tireless campaigning in the state during the 2004 caucuses, and the fact that he delivered a message that resonates with Iowa voters. While it is way too early to draw conclusions from a poll, Edwards has earned some capital with Iowa voters that may come in handy when Democrats choose a corner of a high-school gym to stand in come January 2008. — Patrick Hultman, Iowa City, Iowa

A: I think we're on the same page here. My point was not so much that I think the poll's results are meaningless as that I think it's foolhardy to anoint "frontrunners" two years in advance of the presidential contest. Clearly, John Edwards is making new friends and renewing old ones in his tireless campaigning in Iowa, and that was reflected in the Des Moines Register poll. But we have a long way to go to see if his efforts will pay off. I recall former Arizona Gov. Bruce Babbitt getting rave reviews a year or so in advance of the 1988 Iowa Democratic caucuses, but Babbitt finished fifth in Iowa (and sixth in New Hampshire) and was shortly an ex-candidate.

Q: Other than John Edwards, Dan Quayle and Walter Mondale, are there any other vice presidents or vice-presidential nominees who ran for president after their ticket lost? — Myles Bugbee, Beaverton, Ore.

A: Let's start with the most famous one. The unsuccessful Democratic nominee for VP in 1920 was Franklin D. Roosevelt. Twelve years later he won the presidency and was re-elected three additional times. Since then, there's been:

Earl Warren (R) – ran with Thomas Dewey in '48; sought GOP nomination in '52;

Ed Muskie (D) – ran with Hubert Humphrey in '68; sought Dem nomination in '72;

Sargent Shriver (D) – ran with George McGovern in '72; sought Dem nomination in '76;

Bob Dole (R) – ran with Gerald Ford in '76; sought GOP nomination in '80, '88 and '96; and

Joe Lieberman (D) – ran with Al Gore in '00; sought Dem nomination in '04.

Speaking of Roosevelt, a picture button (in poor condition) of the unsuccessful 1920 ticket — when Ohio Gov. James Cox ran for president and FDR for vice president — went for $25,000 at last week's national convention of the American Political Items Collectors in Kansas City, Mo. Listen here for my breathtaking report on the convention that ran Sunday on NPR's Weekend All Things Considered.

Q: A small correction to your "DeLay's Departure Delayed?" feature in last week's column. You stated that a federal judge in Texas "ruled that DeLay's name must remain on the ballot." This is not quite right. Texas law allows one to withdraw, but except under particular circumstances, a candidate who withdraws cannot be replaced on the ballot. DeLay claimed to have "become ineligible," but Judge Sparks ruled that he had, essentially, withdrawn. DeLay is not being forced to stay on the ballot, but for the Republicans, as of now, it is DeLay or no one. — Bob Smither, Libertarian candidate for Congress (TX 22), Houston, Texas

A: You are correct. As for the GOP appeal, the courts have agreed to speed up the case; it will be submitted to the Fifth Circuit on July 31. As of now, the candidates on the ballot are DeLay, Nick Lampson (D), and yourself.

Q: In your July 12 column about the Tom DeLay ballot matter, you mentioned the case of the Democrats substituting Frank Lautenberg for Bob Torricelli in the New Jersey 2002 Senate race. Didn't the Democrats also get to substitute Walter Mondale at almost the last minute in Minnesota in 2002? The combination of Mondale brought back, with the Lautenberg situation in N.J., and the Carnahan campaign in Missouri, may have added to the perception that the Democrats were tired, which perhaps contributed to their losses. — Mark Richard, Columbus, Ohio

A: Whoa, let's take one issue at a time.

In the Minnesota matter, Sen. Paul Wellstone (D) died in a plane crash 11 days before Election Day. Minnesota law allows the party to substitute a candidate in the event of a death, and the Dems plucked Mondale out of retirement five days later as their nominee; he lost to Republican Norm Coleman.

Missouri law is different, and we saw that in the Oct. 16, 2000, death of Democratic Senate nominee Mel Carnahan, also in a plane crash. Democrats could not replace Carnahan, and so his name stayed on the ballot. With the acting governor saying he would appoint Carnahan's widow to the seat if he won, and with a late sympathetic wave headed in the Dems' direction, Carnahan became the first person in history to win a Senate seat posthumously. His widow, Jean, was appointed to the seat a month later.

I'm not exactly sure what you mean by your comment about the Democrats being tired, "which perhaps contributed to their losses." The Dems won in both Missouri and New Jersey, though they did lose in Minnesota.

By the way, in addition to the Mel Carnahan case, four members of the House, all Democrats, were re-elected after their deaths. California's Clem Miller died in a 1962 plane crash a month before the election. Another plane crash in Alaska in 1972 claimed the lives of Reps. Hale Boggs (LA) and Nick Begich (AK); Boggs, the House majority leader, had been campaigning for Begich. And Patsy Mink (HI) died in September of 2002 after having spent a month in the hospital for treatment of viral pneumonia.

Q: I have a great idea for a new feature in "Political Junkie." Put in a request to all the Senate, House and gubernatorial candidates to send you their campaign buttons. You can then not only illustrate them in your column, but you can feature campaigns that may be off everyone's radar screen. And as a collector, it might be fun to see all the different 2006 campaign buttons that are out there. — Bob Levine, St. Louis, Mo.

A: I like! Last month, the Democrat who is running in the California district being vacated by Rep. Bill Thomas (R) was so disturbed that I failed to mention her name in the primary roundup that she sent in her button to prove that she existed. If your idea takes off, there won't be any unhappy candidates!

Of course, the fact that this would also increase my own personal collection is not what's driving my enthusiasm for your idea.

Candidates/campaign workers, send your 2006 buttons to Political Junkie, 635 Massachusetts Ave., NW, Washington, DC 20001. Incentive: the Web folks at NPR tell me that this column is read by dozens of people each week!!

Missing Link Department: We gave an incorrect link in last week's e-mail to get the July 12 column. This is the correct link. To get on our e-mail list that notifies you when a new "Political Junkie" column is up, click here.

REMINDER: "Political Junkie" is featured every Wednesday on NPR's Talk of the Nation, a live call-in program, at 2:40 p.m. Eastern. This week: Georgia primary results, Bush visits the NAACP, the stem-cell vote in the Senate and its effect on Talent v. McCaskill in Missouri.

Also … check out NPR's interactive election map, highlighting every Senate, gubernatorial and key House race in the country, with early projections.

Podcast Update: Only a few weeks left to listen to NPR's political podcast, "It's All Politics," before Ron Elving and I are indicted for lying about steroids. New edition goes up every Thursday at noon. Check it out.

NO JUNKIE NEXT WEEK: We return on Wednesday, Aug. 3.

This Day in Campaign History: The executive council of the AFL-CIO votes to remain neutral in the race between President Richard Nixon and his Democratic challenger, Sen. George McGovern. It's the first time in its history that the labor federation fails to endorse the Democratic nominee for president (July 19, 1972). Fifty years before to the day, McGovern is born in Avon, S.D. (July 19, 1922).

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